On an episode of Seinfeld, he had to deal with a heckler, so he went to her place of employment and heckled her. I loved it.
While certain jobs invite heckling and criticism, not all heckling and criticism are welcome. Just saying.
As a writer, I understand being criticized and reviewed and trashed by strangers. If you don’t have a thick skin, don’t go into any creative field. You will also have to deal with those who are close to you sometimes being your worst critics.
Acquaintances have called me on the phone and spent an hour telling me how much they hated my books. Yes, that happened twice. One explained every sentence that bothered him, and the other explained to me how I should outline my book and create profiles of my characters. Funny thing is neither of them are writers or creative. Then there was the one who came up to me before Shabbat services to tell me how much she hated my book. I asked her if she bought a copy, and she said she borrowed it. I yelled at the woman who lent it to her. If I am going to be criticized, I at least deserve my 73 cent royalty!
In each situation, I just listened and said thank you and hung up, or with the cheapskate, who didn’t buy a copy, walked away and yelled at the book loan officer.
I know all of them felt as if they were doing me a favor, but Mother would always say, “Don’t do me any favors.”
I have friends who are artists and writers, and I have never walked up to or called one of them to criticize his work. I know what it takes to create, so if I really have nothing nice to say, I keep my big mouth shut. As caddy as I can be, I do draw the line with people I know personally.
This does not mean I won’t say something behind their backs, but I am sure to say it to someone who doesn’t know them for obvious reasons. If you know me and have nothing nice to say about my writing, say it behind my back. I don’t need to hear it.
Recently, I was offered a paying writing job, and one person’s reaction was, “It’s more than you get for writing that stupid blog.”
You know how I always repeat what Beverly Sills said about how you will have two to three good friends in life and the rest are acquaintances, and how you need to get rid of all the negative influences, too? Yeah, it’s like that.
None of these people bother me. They are just a bunch of unhappy, ugly, old, bitter, musty smelling queens who have nothing better to do than belittle other people to make them feel better about themselves and their insignificant lives.
I do have one good friend whose only comment was, “The sentences are too long, and I don’t understand them.” Poor thing can only read a coloring book. I forgave him because one should always be kind to the intellectually impaired.
He is pretty, but can he type?
If you are a negative person, you will dwell upon all the criticism. Most waiters only recall every lousy, rude and nasty customer but cannot remember any of the nice ones even though only about five percent are rude. I waited on tables for twenty years, and I can understand this.
Those three people and a couple of assholes on Amazon are the only ones who extensively criticized my books. For the most part, I received good comments – to my face.
However, the people who do bother me are the ones who say, “You know what you should do?”
I always respond, “Oh God, what?”
After my first book was published, a co-worker came up to me and told me I should write a book about the man who designed the sewage system for Baltimore City. He went on and on for an hour about how wonderful this book would be. When he finished, I said, “How fascinating. I have been to Baltimore, and from what I could tell, they don’t have a working sewage system.”
Why on God’s green earth would I write a book about how excrement flows through the Charm City? My first book was about President James Buchanan. How did he go from the White House to shit? Nevermind.
Get this. He never read my book. He just thought he was doing me a favor by suggesting the topic for my next book. I didn’t feel like telling him I had been commissioned to write a book about Harriet Lane, President Buchanan’s niece. That is the weird thing about me. As much as I like to brag, when someone comes up to me and says something that deserves a “put you in your place” comeback, I weigh whether they are worthy of it. Usually, they aren’t.
That was my first experience with someone telling me what I should write. But here is the thing. What if I came to your job and told you what to do? A friend of mine is an artist, and it would never occur to me to tell him, “You know. You should paint a bowl of fruit. There aren’t enough paintings of fruit.” If I did that, I would imagine a paint brush sticking out of my eye in my immediate future.
Among my favorites are acquaintances who have what they think is an extraordinary sexual experience (a common trick if you will) and insist I write an erotic story about it – under one of my three pseudonyms of course. My response, “Yes, I already have a title. ‘Sex – It Isn’t for Everyone.’” Why should I write about how you picked up a guy in the doctor’s waiting room, took him home, had sloppy sex for three and a half minutes and noticed your iPad was missing after he left?
Meanwhile, while I am spending my weekend writing an erotic story about your lame sex life, you are attending another party or brunch where my invitation was lost in the mail. Facebook pictures of all of you holding red plastic cups to follow.
A day doesn’t go by when I am not told I should write about this or that. Even with this stupid blog for which I don’t get paid, I am often told what my next topic should be.
As Mother also said, “Who asked you?”
Bitter, party of one!
If have a topic you want me to discuss, tell anyone but me, but get on my email list or buy my books: www.miltonstern.com.