Aka, don’t pee in the pool
Full discloser about the title: No, there are no diagrams. I embellished for humor sake. I dabbled with the idea of actually naming an author—any random author from Shakespeare to Hemingway—but felt like that would only welcome in the drama I’m trying to say we should all be avoiding. I have a feeling that the title as it is will be upsetting enough to those so insecure they think it’s about them. This title is not directed at anyone but an intention to get you to read the post below. But that is the point in a lot of ways; people will read something and self identify with it even when it’s not directed at them. To be honest, we shouldn’t be identifying with what is directed at us, but that’s a different topic. If you reacted to this title, I’d like you to say hello to your ego. It showed up looking for a fight and it will be hard to let that feeling go.
There is a problem on the Internet, a problem that really is the definition of the Internet. People show up to be right, they show up to be validated, and they are ready to fight about it. It’s like the verse of one of my fav songs by Mindless Self Indulgence, “This Hurts:”
Oh, God I can’t exist
I need someone meaningless
To justify my existence
Fucking you will keep me alive
But it never does
And that’s the way it always was
Lovely ladies, maids of honor
(Fucking you will make me stronger)
This is humanity’s insecurity at its core and what better place to find it but on the Internet? It’s where people try to control and/or destroy someone else to prove their own value. It’s petty, it’s pointless, and it ruins lives. It’s also extremely bad for business which is the point of this post.
I watched the end of an exchange between authors where this recently happened. Fans got involved and one author swore off writing after being verbally pummeled by strangers. It was a lot of meaningless drama. My main thought as I scrolled through Facebook and read how someone was giving up writing over an argument? I will never willingly work with these individuals. It would be too dangerous for my career.
Writing is not just my love, it is how I make a living. It’s how I afford rent, electricity, food. This job is important to my survival. It is how many authors work their ass off to try and make a living. This kind of bullshit can be the kiss of death to a career and who would willing welcome that in? It doesn’t matter how successful, popular, or friendly someone might be if you can imagine for even a moment they might do this to you and cripple your ability to pay your rent. Can that author justify it was the right thing to do for the situation? Run the fuck away. They will hurt others and justify it too.
It’s not professional. It’s not conscious. It’s just the spewing of the human ego as it screams ‘I have value!’ and takes everyone out around it so it can grow stronger. Writing is a business, one that focuses on a lot of networking, cross promoting, and beta reading where authors need to be able to work with each other without fear of the world shaking apart every time someone has a feeling. It’s not another author’s job to moderate/validate your emotions, and disengaging is far safer than creating a situation where fans get involved to validate the pain you feel over words on the Internet. Once fans need to defend or attack for you, it’s beyond the point of no return.
I’ve had author peers jump at the chance to tell one of my reviewers off and all the warning bells flashed in my mind that drama would follow. I don’t need to be defended and there is no reason to attack a person over their opinion. Someone being mean on the Internet can’t hurt me. I’m an adult and people’s opinions of me do not change who I am. I’ve stopped leaving details about the things I’m bitching about on Facebook because I don’t want a repeat of that cringe worthy moment. I am responsible for the words I put out there and if my reviewers are attacked, the good ones might feel hesitant to want to say they liked a book for fear of retaliation. That’s bad business. Alienating your readers is bad in general.
Readers shouldn’t have to pick one author over another. They should never feel pressured to show loyalty to an author, and in doing so, hurt another. Readers don’t just read one author, one genre, one book merely because you wrote it, and to think they do and to feed your ego off of it is detrimental to everyone involved. I know it’s human nature, that at the core we struggle to find ourselves by pushing down others. It doesn’t mean it’s not shitty, juvenile behavior straight from the playground and it shouldn’t be accepted in the workplace.
Oh, authors work from home and on social media? Yeah, it doesn’t mean it’s any different. A peer is a peer, and arguing where everyone can see isn’t professional. If you walked into a restaurant and found two waiters screaming at the top of their lungs, and it got so bad the patrons at different tables started shouting too, would you really want to eat there? Would you really want to go up to one of the waiters and ask for a job with them? If you did, what does that mean about how you view the work you do and the atmosphere you want for your work environment? Do you need to dominate and destroy your peers to feel better about yourself? What does that do for the industry you’re in? When other authors are suffering and the industry is going downhill because of infighting, do you assume you will automatically end up on top in a dying business?
There’s a crude but poignant saying that fits this well. Don’t shit where you eat. In this case, don’t shit where everyone else is trying to run a business; you’re making us look bad and making others uncomfortable. A private conversation where you act out all your pain is perfectly acceptable and no one else need know or care or fear for their careers.
For every person who sees bullshit drama happening between their peers and needs to put their 2 cents in, remember there are plenty of silent people thinking to themselves ‘no way in fuck am I touching that and putting my business at risk.’ It’s rent, it’s food, it’s security and making sure your family is safe. I have watched people in all walks of life self destruct from their own bad behavior while sucking in people to help validate their spiral down. If we’re talking the animal kingdom and survival of the fittest, survival of the friendly, socially conscious but not dependent is what you see in the workplace. Drama = stress and stress = death. Some people feed off their death as they go kicking and screaming while knocking anyone they can reach. Others watch and move on to prosper.
I had someone cut me off while I was changing lanes on the highway. They were behind me on the on ramp, we both moved to the middle lane, and as I moved to the furthest left, they gunned it to get around and ahead of me and nearly pushed me into another car. I had this split moment of ‘do I fight them over my right to be here?’ I chose no, and let them get ahead. They nearly rear ended the car in front of them while beeping like a maniac. Then less than five minutes later I watched the same car sail all the way to the right and pull to the side of the highway and stop. I was on a long journey, 2 hours into I think a 3 hours drive. They stressed themselves out so much they couldn’t make it a few miles while I continued on safely and calmly to my destination.
The conflict wasn’t important to me because I had nothing to prove and I avoided it while that other person was in their car shaking to the point they couldn’t drive. Where do you want to be in life and in your career, freaking out over people’s opinions of you, or enjoying the drive? A pileup on the highway can ruin it for everyone; do you want to be the cause of so much suffering over your very important ego? It’s so freeing to be able to move more and more toward no in answer to that question.
So, why are you the worst author ever?
A quick address of the angry, defensive, insecure egos who might still be swirling over the title.
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.
Do you really think so highly of yourself that you could be ‘the worst?’ Do you think you’re so important that I know who you are and wrote an article for you in this cautionary tale of don’t shit where you eat? I couldn’t even tell you the authors involved in the argument because I follow so many and they’re not really on my radar; I only noticed because they were crying in pain very loudly and I didn’t want to join them. Okay, do you know how many people are on this planet? How about throughout the lifetime of humanity and language? They are all writers as long as they put pencil to paper or share their thoughts. You still think you’re the worst when you can’t even compare to so many unknowns?
Do you honestly think only good writers get to succeed? How many products have you bought where they didn’t reach your expectations or they broke early on? Did any of those phone companies go out of business when their pretty glass screens started breaking in pockets? The top bestsellers list; have you actually read those books? Do you see many of them being put in museums any time soon for huge value to humanity or the universe? If you’re the worst, what makes them the best, because I don’t see it.
So, why could you be the worst author ever? Maybe you think your value as a person comes from what you do for a career. Maybe you think making money is how to judge if you’re succeeding. You might think what you do matters when all writing is expressing thoughts that are saved to be read by others later. When you identify in your thoughts, you can then define those thoughts as good and bad and you too as worthy or not. For some reason, a lot of writers choose not worthy and the ones who choose worthy find themselves defending that stance at the expense of others. They ‘deserve’ to be ahead of the other car and they will push others out of the way to get there. One is able to escape the negativity and bad feelings and it’s not the person who keeps lashing out.
I recommend you put your ego to sleep. No one can be the worst writer ever. Being the worst is a human perception that varies mind to mind. It’s not real, the same way thoughts aren’t real. Every book I write comes from an intangible reality in my brain and it is not more important or concrete than the real world. The only power words have are what we give them—and yeah, as the writer of this post I totally get the irony. I can will, and hope, and think I’m so right with all my words above but they’re just words. Millions on this planet can’t even read this language. It’s not that important, so try to let the feelings go.