Every so often life pulls the rug out from under you. It might be a health issue (yours or a loved ones), a sudden lay-off from work, or the words or actions of another that cut you to your core. I was impaled by the words of someone I considered a friend. I had not seen this person in more than a decade and was gob-stopped at the heartlessness of her words. At first I felt a combination of emotions - hurt, anger, sadness... and then I did what I had to do to protect myself.
When I asked this person what she thought of my book she said, "I thought it was shallow." I took the word at its meaning and asked her if she'd realized that much of what I wrote was not about me. She mumbled something saying they were just words on a page. Even so far as telling me I had no business writing about some of the things I wrote about. I chose not to defend or explain I just listened. When she was done hacking me up she queried, "now I suppose you are mad at me?" I said, "No. You are entitled to your opinion" She then commented that she believed I had it in me to write something great and asked when my next book was coming out. Those words were empty.
I got off the phone with her and my darling husband asked me what had happened and I told him. He was horrified. He said, "I hope you didn't take that into your spirit. I hope you know that you are a great writer. Please don't let this mess with your head." He knows how the wet-blanketing of others can turn an artist into a crying mess. He's seen this kind of venom fill me self-doubt. I said, "No. I am going to allow 1 hour to feel this combination of emotions and then I'm going to let it go."
In my years of writing this is probably one, if not THE MOST VALUABLE thing I have learned, do not absorb the negativity. When people react that way it says so much more about them than it say about you. Your reaction is also important, don't give away your power by believing in their opinion. Trust you ability and never stop believing in yourself. I have learned to release myself from negativity and negative people. There is a difference between criticism and this type of venom. Poetry is not for everyone. My work is not for everyone. A true friend, or any decent person would have said, "Not really my thing, but good for you for putting yourself out there." Instead she chose to give her all to undermining my confidence.
I am here to tell you she does not have that kind of power. She cannot take from me what I do not choose to give her. In the past such behaviour would have caused me a serious setback, but I am different person now. She can't take away from me that I am a published writer. She can't take away all the amazing reviews I have received. She can't unsell the books I've sold. She cannot take from me the moments I've shared when people have said to me, "I felt like you looked right into my soul and wrote what I was feeling. Thank-you." No she cannot take any of that from me.
Surprisingly I feel grateful for her showing me that I am stronger than my critics. I am also glad she revealed herself for who she really is, and that is really valuable information.
Onward and upward my artist-self is safe because I know how to protect her now. So friends, let the haters hate... they berate what they cannot create!