Guest Blogger: Aimee L. Salter (@AimeeLSalter)
Historically the life of a writer was a solitary voyage. Until a writer made it, the wounds and fears of the writing life were largely navigated alone. Then along came the internet.
Now even the most isolated writers have a community of millions at their fingertips. Where before authors might have been compared to the lonely hiker climbing a mountain, now we’re each tooting our horns in gridlocked traffic, awaiting our turn to crest the superhighway summit of publishing. We’re car pooling. Journeymen. Brothers at the wheel…
Well… sort of. I’ve been grinding gears on the writing superhighway for over three years now. Many, many things have changed in that time. Except one: the habit of writers deciding to bring each other down a peg.
We’ve all been there:
→ In the comments on a blog post lauding the power of readers, the discussion devolves into an Us versus Them of self or traditional publishing;
→ A tweet from a once-successful legacy author, now turned e-book phenomenon, is thrown at the feet of any author decrying the time it’s taking to find an agent;
→“Indie” authors band together to promote and celebrate, but quietly ignore traditional publishing achievements;
→ Publishing professionals name-and-shame an independent on Twitter for “having the wrong answers”.
We’re all writers. We’re all a part of this community and dealing with exactly the same fears and frustrations. So why do we insist on erecting fences and choosing sides?
I say it’s time to eradicate “Us vs. Them”. Next time you find yourself tempted to unleash a writerly rant, or a for your information comment, here’s a challenge for you:
1. Don’t confuse constructive feedback with trolling.
Many of the debates I’ve stumbled across started with a well-intentioned author offering advice. Others then felt they were being criticized and lashed back. Things go downhill from there. So, before deciding you’ve been wounded, try reading comments (or tweets) as if the person were genuinely smiling when they said it. The difference in tone may surprise you.
2. Don’t justify your choices to those who’ve made a different one (and don’t demand that they explain their choice to you).
No one wants to write something they aren’t passionate about. A difference in taste isn’t a crime. Write and let write.
3. Don’t forget that the internet is everywhere.
Sometimes that rant is just the result of a crappy day. But before pressing send or publish, remember that your bad day will live on in perpetuity thanks to caching, printscreens and the memories of your fellow writers. Are you sure this will be important to you in three years?
4. Don’t judge.
You don’t know what goes on behind that computer screen. You haven’t walked in those shoes.You don’t live in that head. If you can’t feel good about someone else’s choice, then agree to disagree.
5. Do encourage writers of every stripe and preference.
This seems to be the biggest obstacle for writers with a voice to other writers. Everyone wants to the lead the way towards their version of the dream. But you know what? Advice on how to write (or publish) and what works (or doesn’t) is already out there for anyone who chooses to look for it. If someone doesn’t want to hear it, that’s okay. Let’s act like we’re on the same team. Because when the excrement hits the air-conditioning, other writers are the only ones who’ll truly understand what you’re going through.
In the end we’re all here for the same reason: We have a story that demands to be told. We all want to find kindred hearts to share that story. So whether we’re seeking an audience of one, or one million, the goal is the same.
Let’s be Authors-in-Arms. Instead of analyzing each other, let’s just be glad there are ears to hear and shoulders to lean on when the hills get steep. Because those ears and shoulders will also be our cheering squad when we reach the top.
That’s the kind of writing community I want to belong to.
Q. What about you? Do you have any ideas for encouraging a supportive online community?
Aimee L. Salter is an as-yet-unpublished writer with dreams of YA hardcovers. Her blog focuses on practical tips for improving any manuscript and encouragement for writers of every shade and stripe. She is represented by Brittany Howard of the Corvisiero Literary Agency. You’ll find her writing community at www.aimeelsalter.com or on twitter (@aimeelsalter).[ Next Post → ] [ ← Previous Post ]