A lot of creatives don’t handle criticism well. That’s very understandable. When you put a lot of time and energy and emotion into something, it can be difficult not to take it personally.
I seem to have the opposite problem: praise does nothing for me.
Recently, my friend Orion started a wordpress, having been inspired by the work on my own; and my friend Saimun expressed interest in doing their own writing streams after seeing mine. Even more recently, a complete stranger came in to my partner Mabus’s chat after I made a tweet asking for people to send them support when they got hateraided, and explicitly called me out as the reason they did so. Queer artist Rabbie Davis has told me that my promotion has helped them pay the rent—everybody go donate to Rabbie Davis by the way. If you do it by the end of this month (September 2021), you can get an icon out of it. Writing streamer CoffeeQuills is currently writing a book based on one of my prompts.
Hachiko, the patron god of this site, has told me—at length even!—what my promotion has done for him and other marginalized streamers. At the time, I was so flabbergasted by this that I initially brushed it off as being a good audience member. After all, if you truly appreciate someone and their content, you’ll tell other people about it so they can help grow their audience. All of my shout outs and clips got filed under “things I’m supposed to do” and therefore were nothing praise-worthy.
The following section contains detailed neglect and abuse done to me by my parents. If you’d prefer to skip that, or just otherwise want to get to the commenting guide, click here.
Growing up, I was praised primarily for being on my best behavior and getting good grades. Two things that were all but required by my parents. Sure, they always framed the latter as “do your best”, but the moment my brothers started getting Cs and Ds—as well as through their mockery of people who didn’t achieve what I did—I learned what “do your best” really meant. The former was just being praised for doing what I was supposed to do, and nobody makes a big deal out of that—unless there’s other people who don’t.
I was also praised for being creative, but never for how I was creative. Just a vague “oh look at our imaginative child” without any real support in developing my imagination and writing. My own mother wouldn’t even read my stories because they weren’t finished. I can see why she’d try this at first to try to motivate me to finish something; but I rarely, if ever, had anything I could show her due to this requirement. And then she’d complain that I never showed her my stories. In addition to mocking the creative process I had to develop on my own.
When I showed my stories to my dad, he’d just say a very generic “that’s good”! Something he could’ve said about anything. Writing comments and copy for multiple people every day, I do understand struggling to come up with something meaningful about the content or content creator in question—especially when you’re fighting character limits on twitter, or brain fog and lack of energy. But if your loved one has taken the time to create something and show it to you, I hope it would behoove you to try to come up with something that at least proves you actually read the thing rather than glossing over it.
I had one person who consistently gave me specific, detailed feedback about my writing; and that person and my mom had a falling out when i was teenager, and i’ve only seen this person in passing since. Good riddance.
And yeah, I had teachers; but what public school teacher really has the time to give each and every student individual attention?
So yeah, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m not surprised that I have a bit of a problem with praise.
The stuff about my childhood was supposed to be an aside. “Well, the only thing I can think of is blah blah blah.” Turns out, I can think of a lot of things.
I’m proud of a lot of my eccentricities. They feel like me. They’re pieces of myself that I want.
This just makes me feel like I’m broken. Most of my traumas, I could heal from if I ever manage to escape my family. I don’t know how to heal from this.
And like I said, I do understand that people don’t always have the time and energy and thoughts to compose specific messages for people—I sure as hell don’t either! My trauma is my own to work through. Logically, understand that vague comments are also compliments even if my emotions don’t agree. Plus, vague comments are better than bot spam! If you use your precious time and energy and thoughts to write a message for me, thank you.
Resume here to skip the biographical section.
So what do you do if you want to show your enthusiasm for someone else’s creative work? Here are the commenting strategies I use.
- Quote the work.
- No, really. Just copy/paste your favorite line(s) and paragraph(s) into the comments section. This lets the author know directly what you found interesting in their work, and also proves that your read it. Whether you leave a bunch of quotes or just one, the author’s going to flip when they see that you enjoyed it enough to quote it back to them.
- Emojis / emoticons, etc.
- Hearts are a classic, low-effort way to show support.
- You can personalize your message by sending them their favorite plants and animals if you can, or by sending them emojis that pertain to the work. If I got a bunch a raccoons in my comments, I’d fucking love it.
- Just make sure that the emojis you’re sending are understood as positive.
- Sure, that skunk might be someone’s favorite animal, or an animal that was relevant to the work, but it could also send the message that you think the work stinks.
- That’s why I recommend hearts first.
- Except the realistic one, that one’s fucking creepy.
- Or the broken or bandaged heart emojis, but I hope that’s obvious.
- Also don’t emoji spam. You don’t want your author (or fellow readers) to have to skip over your comment because their screen readers are saying “blue heart emoji” fifty-thousand times.
- I don’t use a screen reader myself, so I can’t give thorough advice in this area. However, think about how often you like hearing things being repeated out loud offline.
- I’d recommend just sending five emojis total, repeating none of them any more than three times per message.
- This method doesn’t really prove that you read it, but it leads into my next suggestion.
- Duplicate whatever tab you’re reading.
- In the duplicate tab, scroll down to the comments section.
- Copy/paste any lines that make you feel things and compose a reactive message with emojis and/or words.
- Just try to make it clear where the quote stops and the reaction ends, especially when you’re writing out a reaction with just words.
- I would always use a ~, but use whatever character you deem suitable for the task.
- If you end up composing enough reactions that you go over the character limit, and thus need to break your reactions into multiple comments, that’s more comments for the author! More comments is good both for algorithmic purposes and for making the author’s day.
- Read other people’s comments first.
- This is really useful when you don’t know what to say.
- Seeing other people articulate their own thoughts can help you realize what you appreciate about a work.
- Try to restate it in your own words if can. Otherwise, mention whichever person brought it up if you’re quoting them.
- You can also say something along the lines of “other commenters said XYZ, and I agree. Your use of ABC is fabulous!”
- Compliment the author, not the work.
- In this economy, we’re all hustling. However, praising the work and not the worker—and writing involves a lot of time and labor—leads to unhealthy ties between worth and productivity.
- For instance, instead of saying “I love all this imagery”, try to say “I love all the imagery you made for this piece”. Instead of saying “I love this phrasing”, try to say “I love how you phrased this”. Sure, if you say the former, they might understand that you’re implicitly complimenting them, but you never know what they’re dealing with. It doesn’t hurt to be clear.
Additionally, here is a post from AO3 Comment of the Day about commenting etiquette that I probably read back in the day. And this one is specifically about how to politely ask for updates regarding an ongoing or incomplete work. Both of these offer advice that I found helpful and might help you on your own commenting endeavors.
Try practicing these comment strategies here! I know it’s shameless, but if there’s any post that I’m allowed to fish for comments on, it’s this one.