I had my first hate mail a couple of weeks ago. It started well enough with “Dear Pascale, I just read your article about how you asked your grandmother for money.” To my surprise, it quickly went downhill from there. It was quite a long email, interspersed with words in all caps—perhaps to make sure I did not miss this woman’s displeasure? It would have been hard not to with such utterances as “truly shocked” and “shame on you.”
The only shock on my part was that my writing had the power to provoke such animosity! Had I received this letter at the beginning of my writing career, I’m sure it would have had a much more destructive effect. But somehow the main feeling I was left with was bemusement. Having so little free time of my own, I simply could not imagine that someone could have put so much effort into penning this huge letter simply to tell me they hated my essay!
The letter ended with me not being worthy of my grandmother. At least, she was perfectly right on that score. My grandmother was a strong woman, both in body and in spirit, who lived under much harsher conditions than I ever will. She also possessed great common sense, and while always polite, was not easily intimidated. I doubt she would ever have been made to feel ashamed in any way. Taking a leaf from my grandmother’s book, I answered with the following:
Thanks for your comments. Sorry you did not enjoy my essay. Hopefully my future work will connect with you better should you happen to read it.
All the best,
If this person’s goal was to stop me from writing, I’m afraid she did not succeed. I love creating essays. For me, it’s the best form of writing. I get to revisit bits and pieces of my past and connect them to the present in a meaningful way. If an editor happens to like my work enough to offer me payment for its publication, then I have received all the approval I will ever need. No amount of hate mail can change that.
All I can add is, thank you Grand-maman for giving me this double opportunity to bring you back into my life and creating more memories of you in the process.
And should you ever receive your own unprovoked and unasked-for hate mail, PLEASE don’t let others’ small mindedness keep you from doing the work YOU LOVE. There’s a big difference between receiving helpful comments or suggestions for improvements and a belittling, venomous sermon. If the message is not supportive, feel free to ignore it, go enjoy what’s left of your tulips, and KEEP ON WRITING!