Things That Made Me Cautious About Blogging

In looking back over my many years of writing blogs, there are moments that stand out. These bits here and there all contributed to me wanting to stop, and to be more guarded when I started up again. I still second-guess how every post I write might be received, and whether it will cause me grief. Here are some select stories about things that made me cautious about blogging.

I tried an expensive brand of gourmet coffee once, and wrote about it. The piece was more about my personal tastes, and I never named the brand. While I gave details about what I didn’t like about it, I actually got hate mail from people over it. They cast aspersions on my palate, and questioned my qualifications to write about coffee. Seriously. It was as simple as “I prefer a medium roast to a dark roast”, but that was important enough for people to write in and tell me I had no idea what I was talking about.

A bookstore I worked at tended to play the same handful of CDs over and over and over. I was working full time, so I’d hear every disk at least twice every day. For days, and weeks, and months. Even if you like an artist, you will get sick of hearing them eventually. I wrote a post about how I’d be happy to never heard a particular singer’s voice ever again. There was context, but the post got spread among the singer’s fans, who descended upon me en masse as if I’d kicked a puppy or something. The mildest of the harassment was the accusation that I had no taste in music which, again, was not the point. Several people wanted to kick my ass on the artist’s behalf.

I wrote a middling review of a novel. It stated that it was an interesting concept and reasonably well executed, but not to my personal tastes. In my mind, that was reasonable, not hostile or hateful, certainly not mean-spirited. The author wrote about it on his blog, with a link. It was not a fun week for me, and I eventually took the post down to end the harassment. While I kind of hate that I was bullied into that, my opinion of a book you’ve probably never heard of by an author you likely no longer remember wasn’t the hill I wanted to die on.

Another author had asked if I wanted to review his book. Upon answering in the positive, he sent me a copy. The review I wrote was just this side of glowing. He sent me a rabidly angry email because he thought the review was too short. I got lectured on how he paid for the review copy and the shipping out of his own pocket, and thus I owed him a greater word count. I took the review down and mailed the book back to him.

There was a series of books that I reviewed that pissed off a publisher. I loved the books, but because it was a series I included a “boilerplate” paragraph that was essentially the same: This is book X in the series, the series is about this and that, the author is this person, it’s published by them and available here. Even though every review was different, and they were all positive, they demanded I take them down for recycling that one bit of copy. I took down every review of every book from that publisher, and never reviewed another book from them ever again.

My favorite of all time, though, was the kid who sent me a death threat over something I wrote. I can’t even remember what it was, but nothing with the gravitas to warrant wanting to end me. What I do recall was that he used his high school email address. It took me a hot minute to find the school’s website, the principal’s email, and to forward it. Two days later I got two emails, one from the principal thanking me and stating that the situation was handled. The other was from the kid, apologetic and contrite, stating that this was the last email he’d send because he’s lost all of his computer privileges at school.


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  1. To a certain extent these are a barometer of success, but it takes a certain sort to let it wash over them like a breaking wave. You’ve been doing this a lot longer than – I think most of your closest orbiting peer group – so part of the volume of your war stories is their… well, volume.

    That said? It seems… tone deaf? For some one like myself to say, “oh, I wish I had enough audience to warrant hate mail,” but two things, I don’t produce enough material good or bad to develop an audience deep enough for their to be pond scum at the bottom, and two, as stated, you do, you have, you will.

    It’s kind of the flip side of gate keeping. Do you really want through that gate if the gate encloses rabid raccoons?

  2. Yeah, I was self-conscious of the potential for it to be tone deaf or self-congratulatory. But I think that in order to build this blog up again and potentially turn it into a community, I need to be honest about what’s going through my head. Even if that makes me come off as a bit of a douchebag.

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