I said a stupid thing to another blogger whom I admire last night. And in the past I've done a similar thing to another blogger whom I also admire. I hurt them both, and I feel bad, and I'm sorry to them both, and I'm trying to fix things so that I don't do this in the future.
So, today is dedicated to me trying to organize my thoughts on how I will proceed with my internet behavior from now on (until my next revision). I didn't get much sleep last night, so today's work might not be very effective, but I want to get this started because it's sitting heavy in my heart. This post is meant to be amorphous and will evolve throughout the day. Feel free to leave comments at any time and help me with your wisdom!
Here's the deal. To begin, I don't really view The Literary Lab as my blog. Well, I sort of do, but I also sort of don't. What do I mean by this? I mean that I feel at liberty to do whatever I think is best here (and I hope Michelle and Scott do too, because I also think of this as their blog). At the same time, I want all of our readers to feel like they can say whatever they want in the comments. What do I mean by "whatever they want"? Yes, that's what I mean. You can, for example, say that you hate me, that you hate my writing, that you think my new book sucks. It may hurt my feelings, but it's still playing by the rules as far as I am concerned. I doubt I would even argue with you if you said any of those things. This is how I see The Literary Lab. *Note added later* Okay, I changed my mind. You can say anything you want about me, but I might delete stuff if you say hurtful things to other people. New rule #6. Commentors here can say whatever they want about me, but they shouldn't say things that personally hurt other people.
BUT, I have made the mistake for at least two people now of thinking that other comment sections play by the same rules. They don't. Why should they? They're just MY rules after all. So, I have gone to other comment sections and said inconsiderate things, not because I was trying to be hurtful, but mostly because I was careless or rushed, and this was wrong of me. Other blogs do not belong to me. I need to respect that.
New rule #1: I will do my best to not go to other people's blogs and say hurtful things to them.
New rule #2: Sometimes I may still say hurtful things on other blogs because I'm being careless in some way, but I will try to be much more conscious of this, and I will apologize if I screw up.
If you've been reading some of my posts over the last few weeks, this may feel contradictory to what I have been saying before. Here's why I think there's contradiction. While I think it's good to be considerate and nurturing to my fellow writers, I'm also very concerned that the current writing culture is making writers feel so scared that they can't even be honest or have personalities. I hate that a writer got internet mobbed for reacting to criticism on her book. Why must thousands of people make her feel bad? I also hate that some writers feel like they can't be critical of any other written work. This feels soulless to me, and it makes me sad. I want writers to be passionate about the art form. I want writers to be passionate about their own work.
So, somehow, I need to figure out a way to be nurturing and supportive of everyone's work on one hand while also nurturing and supporting writers and their courage to be honest and opinionated on the other hand.
New rule #3. I am going to do my best to always be only honest on blogs. I want to only say true things because I think that gives my words power.
New rule #4. While I am going to be honest, I'm NOT going to allow myself to say everything that's on my mind. This makes me a little sad because it feels stifling in the way that I think the culture is trying to stifle writers. I'm going to have to think more about this. How do I talk about a book I don't like, for example? Should I just not mention it? As a writer, I want others to mention what they don't like about my work, though. And I don't think I'm alone. So, I'm conflicted here. Any thoughts from anyone on this please?
New rule #5. (This change has been happening for awhile now, and I'm pleased with the direction that it's going.) I'm not going to treat our readers here as a network or as a group of potential buyers or as people who are here for my use, nor will I expect the reciprocal. What does this mean? I think it means a lot of good things, although not all of it is well-defined. It means, for example, that you can disagree with everything I ever say and it won't hurt your chances of me reading your work. I know myself, and I know that this is true. So, you don't have to feel like you have to behave a certain way to make sure you keep me in your audience. If I like your thoughts and/or your writing, and I know you have work available, I'll try and read it, even if you don't want to read mine. It also means for me that I can help be better at New rule #3, which I think is very important. I won't try to sweet talk you for the purposes of getting you on my side. I won't give you B.S.
New rule #5.5. (This is inspired by Havi Brooks from The Fluent Self, who I discovered yesterday. And, really, much of this blog post is inspired by her and also by F.P Adriani and others.) I am going to try to help put writers (including myself) in touch with their Right People readers. This is something I've been understanding for a while now, but Havi put a name to it, and I think that makes it easier to explain. What do I mean by Right People readers? My Right People readers are the people who like the type of writing I do. It doesn't mean that they have better taste than anyone else. Or worse taste. It just means that our preferences somehow align. For me, those are the people who should be reading my fiction. I want them to know that. I got a really nice email from someone who read most of my new book last night. It was obvious that she was a Right Person for me. If you're not a Right Person reader for me, that's totally okay! The beauty of this idea is that if we both know that, I won't try to get you to spend money and time on something you're not going to enjoy--my book. I don't hate you. I just understand that we are different. That's cool! And if I know your tastes, I might be able to help put you in touch with books that you would like. That would help other writers and other readers. I think if everyone did this it would be spectacular, but in the end, these are my rules, and people can choose to follow them or not.
So, this is where I am at the moment. My heart hurts a little and my brain hurts a little. I'll be coming back. Feel free to help me if you can. I hope by the end of this that I can just have a nice clean set of working rules to guide me.