We all want feedback on a post that we worked hard on. We love it when you share something we’ve written (you want to share it more than once?…please go ahead!) and we could cyber hug you when you comment on our social media pages etc. Running a blog is time-consuming and labour-intensive for oh so many reasons that I won’t bore you with (but you can bet any blogger reading this is nodding their head hard in agreement).
Basically, it is a very rare writer who only wants to be read by themselves and their Aunt Pam (or Parminder in my case, hey hey) before their painstakingly crafted words disappear into an abyss.
So when those words evoke a tidal wave of good will, kind wishes and raw emotion from people who totally get what you’re saying, it is truly gratifying and makes it all worth it. But when your words are misinterpreted and attract mean unpleasant remarks and aggressive behaviour (even if it’s only from the minority), it’s very disappointing. Nobody likes being misunderstood or attacked (even if only by the minority).
Well, if I ever realised the power of the written word, it was during what I will forever refer to as THAT week, when all that (and more) happened. I started off THAT week making many people cry after I wrote about my marriage. I managed to end it causing controversy with something I wrote about my adopted country, Malta.
Yep. Go me. And I could not have predicted any of it!
Basically, I came up with The Anniversary Card I Never Thought I’d Write because one of my blogging besties asked me to write a relationship piece, with no warning (when he had ample opportunity to give me more time and no he WON’T be getting a Christmas gift…men!). I was a total stress ball trying to write it because I hate working under pressure and didn’t like the way it was coming out (blah blah) because I didn’t feel it was flowing right (blah blah) and the angle wasn’t right (triple blah). I even messaged him at one point (okay…maybe more than once) moaning about how I was just coming off looking like an ungrateful complaining princess who had no idea how good she had it. Blah blaaaah.
I know. I get it. It’s not like I was aiming for the Pulitzer Prize or anything but I’m a wordy girl and dang it, how much do I hate it when the words just feel wrong? A lot. That’s how much.
On top of that, I cancelled my yoga class plans (#FirstWorldProblems), ignored mounting laundry and neglected my kids to write it, thinking it was being published on his site, only to nearly die of mortification when I realised this deeply personal ‘badly written’ piece was going on my site. (I told you…men…they don’t communicate properly and they give you daft deadlines!) On top of it all, I dropped a plank of wood on my foot trying to unearth our box of wedding albums to find an appropriate picture that I could then format, photoshop etc with just minutes to go before the deadline (and has that man asked me how my foot is? As if…
Nobody called me a moaning Minnie. Nobody lectured me on how good I had it. Nobody judged me. Nobody saw me as husband bashing (thank Heavens).
Quite the opposite…
– I received messages from strangers thanking me for helping them feel less alone in their marriage and saying they cried from start to finish.
– I noticed women on various facebook forums saying they saw their own marriage crystallized before them in words.
– People told me they read the post/emailed it to their partners and it prompted them having a talk about their own future.
– Comments poured in to my website wishing me well and literally everyone related. Go figure!
– My husband read it, said
Ouch…but it’s factual, well written, gutsy and honest…well done babe”
and shared it!! I swear, if the tables were turned, I’m not sure that would have been my response. I fell in love with him a bit more for that. (And yes, he only saw it after it was published.)
– My mum read it…and cried… I felt so bad.
– Bloggers shared it on their social media pages saying they had read it several times.
– Words such as ‘brave’, ‘powerful’ and ‘honest’ flew about with amazing regularity.
You get the picture.To be honest, I wasn’t trying be anything (apart from on time with my blog post). In short, there was an outpouring of emotion (sometimes from ‘surprise quarters’ such as a relative I’d not heard from in years messaging me to applaud me and so on). And as I said, I didn’t expect any of it. A good (heck a downright amazing) side of blogging. a series run by Moderndadpages and Lifewithbabykicks. Now, I have lived in Malta for close to ten years. After talking about the good points of living in Malta on many occasions, I felt it was time to write a piece on the less positive aspects of the country called Dear Malta You’re Breaking My Heart.
I took pains to point out that there is no perfect country in the world and said we’ve never regretted our decision to leave the UK. The article was in no way an attempt to attack Malta or to tell its people what to do from some ‘self-appointed position of expat superiority’ or to claim that my birth country is any better. It was merely a lament on the increasing lack of common courtesy and positive societal values I’m witnessing here. It is because I love Malta that I care enough to write about her, which thankfully was in fact recognised by many local people.
I started writing at 2am, finished at 5am by the time I’d sourced images etc, got four hours’ sleep, got up to link it to the blog series and pop it on my Facebook page/personal wall too (cursing myself because of course I thought of several other points I should have mentioned). Then I went back to bed for a couple of hours.
When I woke up and looked at my Facebook page and site: Oh my word. (Or should that be Oh my words… I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.)
From what I could see, people were mainly agreeing with me left, right and centre but heated debates were breaking out across social media forums and lengthy conversations were taking place on people’s personal walls.
Several friends messaged me to say “Lady, you’re brave”. That word again…I was a bit mystified and wondered what I had done to be called brave.
I can’t possibly repeat on here all the comments from people echoing my sentiment, some of them who have just arrived in Malta, some who have lived here for years, some who left as a result of similar experiences and many of them Maltese born permanent nationals themselves. You can read the comments under the post of course. Suffice to say, I was taken aback at how many chimed in with stories of their own not exactly positive experiences here.
Many Maltese people thanked me for ‘speaking out’ saying that they feel the same frustrations, hoped the negative treatment had not put me off staying and apologised on behalf of their compatriots. Someone made a point about how the people who declare their patriotism the loudest often do nothing to look after the country they are so proud of and harm its reputation instead. Someone else said: empty vessels make the most noise. Great phrase!
Later that day a friend messaged to tell me she’d noticed the post had been shared to a ‘certain community page’. At the risk of incurring any further wrath, I’ll just leave it at that. She said “Get ready Honey”. Hmmmm…what does that mean? I thought. Go fix my hair? Put on a nice dress? Then she said “Shit’s gonna hit the fan”. Ah righto, forget the dress. Full body armour then.
Another blogger noticed a well known online magazine in Malta issued a counter article the same day to balance all those “nasty and bad things we [Maltese] do”. Quelle coincidence…
By now, it was 10pm Friday night and frankly after several late nights on the blog, I needed down time. I switched off the computer and some time later went to bed.
I woke up the next day to a surreal situation.
Now, hand on heart, I still genuinely believe that I was measured and on the ‘calmer’ side of emotional throughout the post. Even though I wrote it for a ‘rant’ series, in truth, I hardly ‘ranted’ and was in fact restrained leaving out quite a few negative points (something that many readers also noticed). Had it been an angry rant, I would not have used ‘breaking my heart’ in the title. I could/would have used something like ‘pissing me off’.
Alas, there were those who somehow missed the point and went on the attack, making such awful narrow-minded comments that they validated my very article with every word they wrote. (This was not lost on others who congratulated the bigots for making my point for me!)
The negative barrage included (amongst other things):
– being harangued on Twitter by someone calling me a bully because I hadn’t published his comments (when I’d simply not seen them yet). It was plain strange how many people didn’t realise I have a house/family to tend to and have to step away from my computer to do that.
– being criticised for authorising peoples’ comments which were seen as attacking Malta (so I should censor?) but then accused of not authorising comments which were attacking me (wait, so I shouldn’t censor?).
I actually authorised every single comment, in the interests of freedom of speech, even when those comments were hostile and mannerless towards me.
– being berated by someone for not publishing their comment and then berated even more once I did publish it and then getting a ‘bonus’ torrent of sarcasm and spite about my mental health, debating skills, strength of character, other blog posts etc! Priceless. The pity was that some of the points this person made about Malta were valid but it was useless even trying to reply to someone who was ill-mannered and clearly hellbent on just picking a fight over e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g including the name of my website!
– being lectured on “my country’s” colonisation of various countries (the irony of which was not lost on me as my country of birth colonised my country of origin so nope, I don’t run around waving a flag about what a great job Britain did there).
– being given a ‘lesson’ on various topics that were totally irrelevant to my post, including Sharia Law (it was like writing about the health risks of junk food only for someone to go off about Mercedes engine part prices).
– being told the experiences I had mentioned are rare occurrences (have these people had a camera following me around the last ten years?).
– being at the receiving end of the gold-standard finger pointing at other countries’ problems (as if that negates the need to do anything about the problems right here).
– and of course, receiving the classic “if you don’t like it leave”, as if this is the cure-all for a country’s problems rather than maturely appreciating there is room for improvement and that it is not shameful to admit this. The comical thing is that several Maltese people said they’ve also been told to go home leaving them wondering where they are meant to go as they thought they were already home!
To date the overwhelming majority of people who have read the post understood my overall intention. Many readers stressed that just because there ARE many good sides to living in Malta, that does not mean the island’s people should be opposed to an improvement of the bad sides and go on the attack when they’re are mentioned.
Most heartwarming of all, 90% of my new followers over the next week were Maltese people. What an encouraging sign! I’m not the UN. I’m just a one woman blog but that is still a sign, however small, that many nationals do recognise what needs to change and don’t behave like petulant children when a non-Maltese person highlights these aspects.
Now, I never expected so many people to publicly identify with what I was saying and actually come to my defense in front of those who clearly did not.
I never expected friends and bloggers to check in to see how I was weathering the storm.
I definitely did not expect so many private messages and so much good will from rational well meaning people saying they felt embarrassed by my treatment at the hands of certain others.
I didn’t think strangers would find me on Twitter to tell me I had done the right thing.
We’re all driven by different things. Some of us are blessed to find something we enjoy doing or at least find something we’re not bad at, whatever that may be! I love putting words together and seeing them turn into something.
I simply wrote two posts from the heart (instead of overthinking them to death which is my usual modus operandi). I never meant to make anyone cry with the first one and I definitely did not set out to offend anyone with the second. I don’t write to annoy people but it is bound to happen at some point and frankly if I spent my entire time worrying to bits about how people might react, I’d never publish a single post.
It’s quite simple really. If you relate to / laugh at / cry over / feel inspired or entertained by something I’ve written, I’m beyond delighted because it means I’m doing something right. THAT’S what lights the fire in my belly. And to be honest, even if I don’t want my words to offend or annoy people, as others bloggers have said, it still means the words aren’t disappearing into that abyss!
Every writer wants that whether they’ve just got a blog they’re growing or they write for a major publication or they are a big time hot shot author.
Thank you for being part of the dialogue, for reading, sharing and commenting because that is what encourages me to keep going. I’m grateful beyond measure for all of it.
Yes even to the trolls!