You know what? It's been a tough couple of months. We finally said goodbye to our sick kitty at the end of April (see previous post), I've been making little headway on my dissertation, my Myrtle cardigan went through the wash and came out with a gaping hole that seems to have unraveled from a dropped stitch...
And the cherry on top of the dog-poop sundae? This weekend saw the return, once again, of some dissatisfied customers who periodically post nasty comments about one of my patterns on Ravelry. Now, I know I'm not perfect, and neither are my patterns--errors, omissions, and just plain bad writing can and will make it through even the most rigorous tech-editing and test-knitting protocols, and this was an early release for me, so my protocols weren't the best then--but I make an effort. And these are people A) whom I did make an honest and strenuous effort to assist, B) most of whose problems I was unable to replicate myself, and C) to whom I not only apologized, repeatedly and sincerely, and gave a full refund of their purchase price, but ALSO offered their choice of a different pattern from my own store, or any pattern from their own Ravelry queue, as a gift, by way of apology for the inconvenience.
A reasonable person might consider our business concluded with that refund. But still, going on two years after their initial complaint to me, a couple of them will periodically log on to Ravelry and post afresh on the pattern page, calling the pattern unworkable and me
unethical, a fraud, an unhelpful person, etc. I delete these comments as soon
as I'm notified about them, which only seems to make them angrier. The content of the comments now has as much to do with the fact that I deleted their previous comments (and am therefore unscrupulous, amoral, and foolishly loath to peacefully accept their well-intended defamation) as it does with the fact that they had trouble knitting the pattern. (I should note, and you'll have to take my word for it, that these are the only comments I've ever deleted from a pattern page.) For what it's worth, I'll respond personally or publicly (depending on the situation) to Ravelry forum posts that are critical in nature. I'll even reach out to someone personally if their project notes indicate that they encountered a problem or error that they didn't convey to me directly, thanking them for the heads-up and letting them know if, for instance, a new version has been released with a corresponding correction. But my very strong feeling is that I'm not morally obliged to allow anyone to defame me in my own (virtual) store, and no unhappy customer is morally obliged to tell all potential purchasers of the pattern know they had issues with it and/or me. Especially after they've gotten their money back! Or, to put it most succinctly:
One reason this phrase has such power is that it speaks to the fundamental vulnerability required of everyone who does something creative. If you publish, perform, work collaboratively or in teams, or otherwise live out loud, you're inevitably going to hear from some haters. Much as I'd like to say I've learned to rise above it like Princess Pony galloping across the rainbow to Glittertown, that vulnerability can be really crippling. The haters speak much louder than the lovers in the ol' interior monologue, even though the lovers almost always outnumber the haters.
Worse yet, the hate of the haters is infectious. A very talented friend recently asked me about starting to publish her own designs, and the first draft of my response to her was a real shit sandwich: Your ideas are great! You should definitely give publishing them a try! People are going to be totally crappy to you, of course, and you'll spend most of your time dealing with inane tech-support questions, especially for the patterns you give away for free, and still other people will pretend the Internet exists solely so they can revive the petty tyrannies of middle school and make fun of you for making your own clothes. But totally, you should put your beautiful and inspired work out there!' It'll be super-fulfilling, except for when it makes you want to die inside! Although I think I managed to make it somewhat more encouraging of her wonderful talent and potential, and much less about my personal experiences and insecurities, I'm ashamed of how much of the latter made it into the final response that I eventually did send her.
So do me a favor, everyone out there: While I take crochet hook in hand and set to mending my messed-up Myrtle, take a minute today to send someone--whether you know them or not--a wholly positive, wholly unsolicited compliment on their creative work. Or write a nice thank-you note to someone. Give a penny instead of taking one (or instead of putting your two cents in, if they're two picky cents). Above all, don't hate! There's already plenty of that going around.