I’m the first to admit that my writing is ridiculous, inflammatory, and over-the-top 9 times out of 10. I’ve pissed off countless people, whether the reason for their anger was substantiated or not. It’s difficult knowing when your writing crossed a line and when your readers are just sensitive and tetchy.

College was made for experimental words and controversy—however, the writer better understand their articles or books won’t be rosy with every reader. Despite the backlash and defending your work, each word written in your style and with your convictions is worth it.

Based on my experiences, there a few steps to take when recovering from a writing incident (i.e. direct or virtual confrontation with a reader). It sucks, especially when feelings and friendships are involved, but it’s the risk you take when unbottling emotions and thoughts.

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Mackenzie Patel

Clear up any misunderstandings

Sometimes the offended party simply didn’t understand the message your writing was communicating. A few misplaced words or snarky sentences can give the wrong impression—especially if a reader doesn’t like you to begin with.

I’ve used the line “No, this post wasn’t about you” multiple times, which usually shifts the anger to another party. One time, my guy friend accused me of writing How To Friend-Zone Guys Through Baking about him. It wasn’t about him at all, but he was still salty for no reason.

Apologize but offer your point of view as well

Direct slander (i.e. including specific names and characteristics) isn’t kind, but ugly truths are a tenant of good writing. Stories with a believable villain or “mean girl” are usually grounded in reality. If that person discovers your hypocritical or nasty character is about them, apologize, but don’t change your words.

Last year, I got into trouble with people I wrote some…unsavory things about. I did apologize, but I left my article the same because everything I said was true from my perspective. 

Don’t back down if you’re writing the truth

Deleting an article is admitting defeat, and in this catty era of Twitter and Facebook tagging, that’s not good for a burgeoning writer. As an example, I deleted that controversial article I mentioned above when the shitstorm was brewing—and I regret it.

It was mess of friendships, fraternity drama, and crushes, so I just wanted everything to be the way it was before I published it. I shouldn’t have shared it to Facebook, but I also shouldn't have felt ashamed or in the wrong (especially since it was my truth).

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Mackenzie Patel

Be careful with what you post on social media

If you’re debating on posting an article with allusions—no matter how remote—to people you know, then just don't do it, period. Take it from my mistakes, please, and be content with strangers reading your content. Your work is making an impact on the world; you’re just avoiding any negative fallouts with people you see daily.

Blocking people on Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram isn’t foolproof either. Shared links are weapons and mutual friends are the wildfire that can make your life hell.

Don’t stop writing—on the contrary, write more and get bolder

Dealing with direct criticism is part of the writing profession, but it should embolden you after the dust and blood clears. A wise woman once said “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and this is true for writers as well. Radical ideas—for a book, movie script, or post—are born out of a struggle or controversy, so embrace the new writing material and get to work.

If you’ve already pissed off a few people, what’s a few more? And how much angrier can the original party get? If the writer remains true to their style and isn’t lying, their laptop should remain open. After my HuffPost drama, I followed it with articles such as Why Being A Mild Slut In College Isn't A Bad Thing and Why Sexualizing Classical Music Is A Great Idea. ;’)

Mackenzie Patel

Lolita didn’t become famous because it was about feeding deer or sewing frocks for children. Nabokov had plenty of haters and accusations, but he did he stop writing? Hell no; he followed it with Pale Fire in 1962.

Being a writer is one of the hardest—but most rewarding—jobs, even when your perspective or ideas provoke others. Hike up those writing gloves and find the truth—and the negativity will get easier (and hopefully lessen) with time.