I have been writing for elitefts for almost six years, and in that time, I have written almost 150 articles. I had the pleasure of being trolled by one of the greats for at least 100 of those articles, if not more. As irritating as being trolled can sometimes be, I admit to missing the now infamous Joe Clark. I can’t help but wonder, did something happen to him? Is he OK? Do I really give a shit? So many questions.
A big part of writing a column involves giving an opinion. Of course, the internet has birthed more experts than any of us can count so there are always people hiding in the shadows, waiting for their moment to let you know that you are, in fact, a dumbass. You may think that it becomes a giant eye roll and is a constant irritation to those who write, but instead, it is just something that as a columnist, you kind of come to accept as a necessary evil. I guess the best response that I like to give to people just starting out is that if someone is trolling you, they are interested in what you are saying enough to continue to read what you are writing. It would be nice if everyone loved what we write, but this has little to do with being a good and effective writer. In fact, it could be argued that getting people to emote is also an effective tactic in writing. I prefer this approach, personally, because I find it quite easy to bait people. Call it a strength, I guess, and Momma always told me to go with my strengths.
The above being stated, let me be honest and make clear that when you were trolled by Joe, it was on a different level. I admit that in the earlier days it cut to my core, and I took it very personally — which I am sure was his intent. He was, after all, belittling my skills, my lack of education in the area of writing, and ultimately undermining my confidence as a writer. To be clear, he wouldn’t troll in the traditional way of telling me I’m stupid for having the opinion that I did. Instead, he would use condescension and sarcasm to point out improper work usage (nice try, Joe, I did that one on purpose), grammar mistakes, punctuation, etc.
Because of my lack of any real education in this area, I was bothered when I would see his comments after my articles. Unbeknownst to him (and other people who troll elitefts articles), it is the authors of the articles who approve or delete comments from readers. So, if you do write something shitty, we will certainly have to read it, but it likely will never make it to the comments page. We rule the comments section of elitefts as an oligarchy of sorts; it’s just that the readers aren’t part of that oligarchy. We have no obligation, at all, to pay attention to negative comments.
One day I was so pissed off by something he said (read: butthurt and pouty) that I wanted to find out who this guy was, so I googled his website, name, etc. What I found was even more irritating than I had imagined. The guy probably hasn’t ever lifted a weight in his life. I remember scowling and wrinkling my nose, thinking, “What the hell is this guy reading my articles for?”
As most writers in the bodybuilding industry are aware, the large majority of people who troll are crybaby meatheads who think they deserve your writing gig because they are so much more knowledgeable and/or bigger than you — that’s how people think in this industry most of the time. There is a lot of resentment because they feel you were handed something that they deserved or could be better at than you. Not so with Joe Clark, and it gets better.
This guy is actually quite an established writer and has been for years — just not having anything to do with bodybuilding or lifting weights. I can only surmise that he secretly enjoys bodybuilding or powerlifting (or did at some point in his life) and continues to read up on it, and when he comes across someone like myself who makes errors on occasion with word usage or sentence structure, he jumps all over it to make himself feel good. This is my best guess.
Here is the kicker about Joe, though: He was right. When I finally put my ego aside and could move past his dickhead condescension, he was RIGHT about everything he posted. Understand that being right didn’t make him less of a troll, though, because the issue wasn’t what he was saying but how he was saying it. I struggled to put the ego aside but found myself checking up on his responses and damn it if he wasn’t correct. Understand that it wasn’t that I was making huge mistakes or had horrendous sentence structure or grammar. It was minor things that either I would see and think, “DAMN IT, he got me again” because I immediately would know that I missed it or it would be something that I had no clue about but should have. E.g.: If you are going to write about working out in an industry that works out or does workouts, know the difference between “workout” and “work out.”
I used to have several excuses including but not limited to:
I have no formal education for writing.
WRONG. I was present in 7th and 8th grade when I was taught sentence structure and proper word usage. I just didn’t pay any real attention because I was one of those kids in school that was convinced none of what I was being taught would ever be needed in “real life.”
I may not have a college degree, but I still took writing classes in high school and one in college.
I am not that smart.
This is true.
I do not have a very broad vocabulary.
This one is true, but this one is relative. I have a more advanced vocabulary than most 11-year-olds and yet I have friends (and you know who you are, Stephanie) who use words that I have to google. I do, however, use swear words almost as eloquently as a rapper.
I am writing for the bodybuilding community, not trying to win a Pulitzer over here.
Again, this may be true, but it doesn’t matter who you write for or why; you want to write to the best of your abilities. All of my articles are a representation of how good I am as a writer and that means articles I have written last week and articles I have written 10 years ago. All of them are infinitely living on the interwebs, forever and ever, hallelujah. Even posthumously, we are all likely to be judged at some point by the trail we leave on the internet, so you kinda want it to be good.
What I ended up doing, in the end, is becoming a better writer for having Troll Joe on my nuts for so long. Am I a great writer now? Depends whom you ask. Joe will say I suck. My Mom will say I rock. My kids will say, “Dad writes? What does he write?” However, I know I am a better writer and it is due in part to the criticism I have received over the years with Joe riding in the driver’s seat.
Plus, there is something oddly satisfying about the angle I took with Joe after so many years. On the one hand, it pained me to take his advice and criticism. On the other hand, it must really pain him to not find so many mistakes these days. In fact, because I haven’t heard from him in so long, I am going to sit here and think it has more to do with him being unable to find mistakes in my writing than him losing interest in proofing my articles and being a dick.
That last statement will draw him out if he is still around. Come get it, Joe. I miss you. Xoxo