Earlier today, while doing research for the next book, I checked Twitter on my cell phone and found the above message.
It came from somebody named @The_Grid_Kills. It’s a man (no chance it’s a woman) who clearly likes the Oakland Raiders, as well as the anonymity that allows him to insult whoever (and whatever) he wants without consequence. This is, for my money, the worst part about the medium—negative, negative, negative, but without a name or accountability. Drives me crazy.
Wait … wait. I digress. My point wasn’t to rip @The_Grid_Kills, who doesn’t interest me one way or another. It was to make a point about insults, and what works vs. what doesn’t. I’m being 100 percent sincere.
From my vantage, insults about looks don’t work. They just don’t. I’m 42. I have two kids and a smart, thoughtful, beautiful wife. I dress like a homeless guy in flip-flops and I cut my own hair without using a mirror. I am well aware that I’m no Tom Cruise, and I’m totally at peace with that (I don’t think I’m an AIDS-stricken mortician either, but maybe—thanks to advances in modern medicine—AIDS-stricken morticians are quite handsome, and the remark was a compliment). So, truly, appearance insults are no more impactful than a light wind. Equally lame are “You’re so old …” barbs. I don’t get them yet, but—without fail—I will. And they’re dumb, because (if we’re lucky) we all get there. Ripping someone’s age is future self-mutilation.
So what works? How do you get under a writer’s skin? Easy: Insult his writing. Rip it, slam it. Your book sucked. You misspelled 10 words. You had a bunch of facts wrong. Jim Smith’s book was so much better. Those are the things that get to me; that eat me up; that sting.
Those are the things that make me wish I worked as a mortician.