Monday, May 27, 2013

Get Your Head Out of Your Ass (& Dip a Toe in the World)

A week ago a horrible tornado ripped through Oklahoma (and others through many other states as well), killing many--including children--and devastating every place it touched. On social media, there was the usual "Guys, it's time to turn off your promotional auto-tweets--it's not appropriate right now."

You know...maybe we shouldn't have promotional auto-tweets to begin with?

That's a rant for another day and not really what this post is about, though. Instead I'd like to point out this: as writers, we live in our head (duh, right?). If we're fortunate enough to be able to work from home, many of us don't interact with people outside of the ones in our heads. It tends to make us isolated and, I think, more likely to forget there IS a world outside of us.

Along comes some tragedy to remind people of that but I think the more isolated we are, the less likely we are to respond in a way that's, well, helpful at best and non-douchey at worst. But we are not isolated--my published writer friends, you have readers. Some might even be full blown fans. Even if they're not talking to you, they're out there. Further, you have colleagues and peers and other industry professionals you interact with.

When you say something tone-deaf or inappropriate, yes, there are actually people who hear you. When that "Short review quote from nobody' [link] #kindle #review #book #sale #bestseller #randomgenre #omgdoesSkylahavetotakeyourhashtagsaway #CUTITOUT" pops up in the middle of thousands of people calling for Red Cross donations and prayers for the families affected, it doesn't matter if you accidentally scheduled it--it makes you look like an insensitive douchecanoe. And, you know, maybe you ARE an insensitive douchecanoe, but maybe you shouldn't be broadcasting that publicly?

Or I distinctly remember during the Boston Marathon--a day that had thousands of people, including one of our members, waiting by the phone for hours, hoping for news about loved ones at the race--people making chipper comments late in the day/evening about what a beautiful day it was and how things were looking up.

I get it. Sometimes we have good days when other people are having bad days.

And sometimes it's best to keep mum on celebrating for a day or two lest you sound like an insensitive twat. Because it's one thing to announce you just got a promotion to your friend who you don't realize just lost her job; it's another entirely to sing and dance and broadcast your good fortune outside of a funeral where there's a sign in full view that says "Dead Children Within". And if you go to that same funeral and shout once an hour about how your book is on Kindle? Someone should punch you in the face.

The internet has brought us that much closer to one another. Being connected to people across the world means it's that much more important to know what's going on in the world. And for published writers, no matter how obscure, it means someone is always listening.

We all have bills to pay and mouths to feed but when the FUCK did self-promo become more important than compassion? When was the last time you were focused on a tragedy, saw someone say "Buy my book on Kindle!", and thought "Wow, yeah, what an appropriate time to go shopping--I'll get that straight away!"?

"But Mama Bitchstress, there's always some tragedy somewhere!"

That is true, however, if you're someone who writes for English-speaking audiences, it's fair to say that you're probably alienating a lot of people who follow you if you act like a twat during tragedies hitting large groups of people in North America, parts of Europe, Australia, etc. So, you know, start there--when your timeline explodes with mention of mass casualties, either RT some links to support or maybe STFU? This isn't rocket science, even for a socially inept bunch like us writers.

Really, the title of this post is the tl;dr of it all:

  • Get your head out of your ass, and at least dip your toe in the vast world around you where your readers and colleagues are. 
  • Realize that you are connected, are involved, just by virtue of being a public person.
  • There are more important things than your self-promotion--like being a fucking decent human being, for starters.

1 comment:

  1. This is so relevant. Worse than the people who genuinely don't consider such things, are the ones who jump in with their armchair political opinions in the midst of it. "Well they need to come up with better ways of predicting tornadoes and the marathon bombing was a government conspiracy blah blah" while people are still searching for their loved ones. Everyone has to have a certain level of detachment to all the bad in the world or we'd go insane. But some people are SO detached, they never consider that real people are involved in these tragedies.


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