“When people approach me about my films it is usually to tell me how much they hate them.” – Michael Winterbottom, Born Mar. 29, 1961.
Any time you create anything, there are some people who seem to just want to tear it down because it exists. Because you bothered to try.
I'm talking about haters. And they can get in your head and wreck you if you let them.
But before we talk about the cure for haters, let's talk about whose opinion really matters when it comes to your work.
1. Yours. Not much, but it matters some, because you decide when the work is done and publishable. If you think it's ready, it's ready. In fact, it's probably ready BEFORE you think it is.
2. Your employer/client/customer. They're the main audience, because they're the one that pays you. It's best to sort out what they REALLY want before you start. If they're happy, you get paid.
3. Your intended audience. Who are you writing to? Did you reach them? Did you impact them? Did you move them? That's what you're striving for, after pleasing the person who pays you.
4. Your true fans. The people that generally like your output, and who come back for more. You don't always have to take their advice and criticism to heart, but they are your built-in support system.
Those four are the people whose opinions really matter. Their opinions actually influence the way you work, and you should strive to better serve those people. That is what impacts your joy in your work, your productivity, your audience growth, and your bank account.
Back to the haters. First of all, let the fact that you even HAVE haters be a trophy. For someone to go out of their way to shit on your efforts means that you are making an impact and getting distribution outside your circle.
Second, the opinion of the hater almost tells you that you need to do the exact opposite. Because you want to give the hater what they want – more to hate. They don't want to be pleased. You can't satisfy them by accommodating them.
Instead give them more to hate. They won't stop following or consuming. They may even bring more haters to complain alongside them. Good.
Because consider what it looks like from the outside. If you're inspiring passionate response, you must matter. The nature of the response is irrelevant. The presence of haters can actually FORCE ambivalent people to take a closer look.
So don't fear them. Don't let them drag you down. Use them. Plan for them. Whenever you work, give thought to who might hate it, and endeavor to put it in front of them.
Their opinion doesn't matter – but their response very much does.
And one final note for the sensitive soul – how to protect your little feelings from the savage slams of an artful hater: go back to that group of true fans.
Don't just let fans find you at their leisure. Collect them. Gather them. Put them in groups and on lists. Make sure you're publishing pretty much directly to them and give them a way to interact with you and each other.
They are an insulator. They are a protective shield. They can basically act as a counterpoint to give you perspective on how untrue the hater's opinions are.
And when you do get a hater in the midst of that crowd of true fans, they defend you. And the hater's bile pushes them closer to you than they were before. It's no longer them vs. you. It's them vs. US.
So. Be glad for haters. Use them for what they are good at, and endeavor to make them madder all the time.