Good writers welcome constructive criticism from readers. Give online readers a comments section and they'll often give you useful feedback, sharing insights about what did and didn't work for them.
You listen, you learn.
Of course, a comments section will also bring out the haters, whose "feedback" consists primarily of snarky zingers. But I'm OK with that. Hey, at least they're reading me! Take the trouble to read my work, and I'll reciprocate by listening to your reaction to it, even if your "critique" amounts to, for instance, these responses to a recent humor piece:
"I puked at the title."
"This is rubbish."
"My eyes almost rolled outta my damn head." And
"I'll never get back the time I wasted reading this."
You hated my work? You want to tell me? Fair enough. Take your best shot, then move on.
Which brings us to the Very Special Haters. I'm thinking of two of you in particular. I find you so annoying that I'm going to take the trouble to address you here. I've changed your names of course. But you know who you are.
Dear Jane: Apparently, you don't care for my writing. Each time I publish a new essay, you turn up in the comments section to tell me so. "It isn't funny!" You gripe. "It's lame. It's pedestrian."
And my all-time favorite criticism of a humor piece: "It isn't important."
And Jane, I totally get it. There are writers whose work I don't like either. For instance, Joyce Carol Oates. Lots of readers adore her spare and elegant prose.
After gamely trying (and failing) to get through a number of her books and essays, I threw in the towel and concluded that Joyce just wasn't my cup of tea.
This is what I do when I see her byline -- I skip right over it! Instead, I read someone whose work I enjoy. (Joyce Wadler! Marion Winik! Gina Barreca!)
Do I need to explain my actions to her? Not really. If Joyce knew that I wasn't reading her, would she change her ways? I'm pretty sure Joyce, with a zillion books in print, and more coming out every week, would just laugh. All the way to the bank.
The band "Chicago" has lots and lots of fans. I loathe their music. Am I wrong? Are they a really good band? Who cares? All I'm saying is that if Chicago were playing in my home town, I wouldn't purchase a ticket, go to the show and sit through it screaming "This sucks!"
Life, Jane, is too damn short to suffer through art that doesn't work for you. You have told me (many times) that you find my essays unsatisfying. Next time you see my byline, do yourself a favor.
Scroll on by. Please! Go read somebody else.
Perhaps Joyce Carol Oates.
And Beth? You, oddly, took the trouble to "Like" my Facebook Page apparently for the sole purpose of kvetching at me about the fact that my essays do not meet your high standards.
Whenever I post a new one, you turn up -- instantly! -- to complain about it.
"Funny?" You scoff. "This isn't funny. This is superficial. Boring. Predictable. I expect better."
Why?? I've never led you to expect anything, Beth, but this.
Why Like "Roz Warren, Writer" so you can tell Roz Warren, Writer that you don't Like her?
It's a mystery to me.
Why waste your time? Why waste mine?
Jane and Beth, I'm sorry to say that what you are doing isn't criticism. It's just carping.
My conclusion? You both appear to have WAY too much time on your hands. It's just wrong to spend the amount of time you do following me around the internet to berate me about my work. You both need to get a life.
And I can help! Jane, meet Beth. Beth, meet your soul mate, Jane. You two have a lot in common. I'd suggest that you get to know each other. You can start by agreeing that this essay is lame, pedestrian and unfunny
This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
(This humor piece first appeared on ZestNow.)