I am now judging you for judging my writing. I am also judging your reading habits in the sense that I’ve judged that you judge me. Right?
I recently published a piece on Matador Network about dating and relationships, and the response was overwhelming. Like, mega crazy. The vast majority was incredibly positive, but there were at least two or three comments that niggled away at me until I couldn’t enjoy my weekend in Halifax. Funny how that happens. Funny how 100 people can throw confetti at you and shout, “YOU’RE THE BEST!” but that one person that calls you slut just really, really gets under your skin.
Tip for new writers: When you’ve created a stir and people start leaving inane, unintelligent comments, you’re doing something right. At least, keep repeating that to yourself.
And perhaps I shouldn’t be exploring this topic at all. Perhaps the best response is to just let it all slide and keep writing real shit that appeals to people that are normal. But let’s talk a bit about being a Responsible Reader.
A student of mine at MatadorU recently asked me about being objective in travel writing. It was my conclusion that unless you’re writing for Wikipedia, it’s impossible to be objective. You’re subjective even if you’re writing a guidebook that isn’t a personal narrative, just because YOU choose the details.
That’s why being a Responsible Reader means you have to evaluate everything you read with an open-mind, and the understanding that just because you can’t relate or simply don’t care about what you’re reading doesn’t mean somebody else can’t.
Here’s what I’ve been misjudged for over the years.
1. You write about nightlife and partying; therefore, you’re shallow.
The snobbery that accompanies this one is just…man. Bullet to the brain.
I write about nightlife. I’m a firm believer in the fact that when you experience how the locals do things when the sun goes down, you get a better understanding of where you are. Nightlife is a component of EVERY CITY. How can you brush it under the rug? You meet people. You have conversations. You drink the local beer.
I recently took on a role at Matador Network compiling a book titled 101 Places to Get F*cked Up. It’s partnered with St. Martin’s Press and it’s my first real foray into the world of book publishing, and it’s a huge fucking deal. I was expecting a few negative comments, but the one that irked me the most was someone accusing us of labeling all backpackers as sleazy, drunken bums.
No. That’s the label you’ve affixed. The work we’ve been assembling for this book comes from some of the most talented, intelligent writers I’ve ever worked with.
If you don’t like it, you don’t have to read. It’s called being a Responsible Reader and not shitting on someone else’s work just because of your own high-falutin’ ‘tude, brah.
2. You write about dating and men; therefore, you’re a slut.
If you’ve ever used the word “slut” around me I automatically bump you to the bottom tier of my People Who Are Clueless list, somewhere between Neanderthal and Serial Murderer.
I won’t even get into the “women hate” aspect of that word, but when someone recently left a comment on Facebook saying all I ever wrote about was “hooking up,” I had to go back through my blog posts to see if this were true. All I discovered were a few honest posts about my lack of love life, and I actually ended up feeling disappointed in myself for not being MORE honest. You said you wanted more travel. Tough titty, relationships are a part of travel. And life. And things that are good.
AND IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, DON’T READ IT. JESUS.
3. You’re 26-years old; therefore, you’re too young to understand the world and your opinion is invalid.
This one…oh buddy. This one takes the cake. “Ageism” is a term typically reserved for negative attitudes toward seniors, but it’s been a constant obstacle ever since I started out as a tech writer five years ago.
I am usually one of the youngest – if not THE youngest – writer on any editorial team. I may be the youngest person in the Travel Media Association of Canada. But instead of celebrating these accomplishments, many Responsible Readers label me as inexperienced and “too young.”
In my brief 26 years on this planet, I’ve dealt with several cancerous deaths of beloved family members, the brutal murder of my aunt, the debilitating sicknesses of my mother and brother, numerous heartbreaks, and my own disastrous anxieties and fears.
I didn’t mean to recount my list of sob stories, merely question: DID YOU KNOW THAT? I don’t claim to know everything. I know barely anything, in the grand scheme of things. What you read about from any author is an unbelievably small window into his/her life. How can you possibly know someone based on 1000 words?
4. You’re snarky; therefore, you’re bitter and jaded.
This ties in with #3. I’m a fucking bubble. Have you seen the colours of this website? Really? I’m about as bitter as a carton of fresh milk.
What I am, though, is realistic. And honest. And I am never going to stop being ME.
What did we learn here today? As a Responsible Reader, YOU:
-Must absorb information with an open-mind and the ability to process such information with the knowledge that it may apply to someone else more than it does to you.
-Understand that everything is subjective.
-Be nice and withhold any asshole comments, because writers have feelings and putting them out there is brave enough without you being condescending and ridiculous.