I have occasionally seen sentiment that suggests writers should be little church mice.
They should become little peeping cheeping baby birds who shouldn’t ruffle any feathers with talk of politics or religion or publishing or any of that for fear of losing a publishing deal or scaring off an agent or what-have-you. It becomes a game of tiptoe here, tiptoe there.
Don’t shake the bushes. Don’t stand up on the boat.
I call shenanigans on that.
Because that makes you boring. A boring writer is not a writer with a big audience.
Further, I think it makes you bored, as well. And a bored writer is… well, I dunno. Probably an alcoholic. Or a World of Warcraft addict.
Here, then, is a line in the sand. I have drawn it with my big toe.
Over here, this is where adults talk about adult subjects like (wait for it… waaaaait for it)… adults.
Over there, that’s where adults devolve into foul-breathed trolls and Internet douche-swabs.
Live on this side of the line, and you’re okay.
Cross over that side, and that’s where you turn into a raging dick-brain.
We are living in an increasingly connected world thanks to this sticky spider’s web called The Internet. I pluck my dewy thread over here, and you can feel it over there. That is — mostly — a good thing.
We are further living in a world where the audience is becoming as interested in the creator as they are the creator’s creations. This has always been true to a small extent: once you start reading an entire author’s catalog or going through a director’s stable of films, you start to grow curious about the man or woman behind the curtain. But now it’s becoming that new authors are working from their so-called buzzwordy bullshit “platforms,” and the audience is starting out interested in the author as much as the author’s works.
This is in a sense a little ridiculous: we want to be judged by our novels and films and placemats and vanity license plates, not by our online personas. And yet, we are. Reality is reality. No ignoring that.
This leads to that very simple Internet truism: don’t be a dick.
But, the fear of violating that law has lead some people to become fearful of being who they are, and fearful of having interesting or unusual opinions. I think it’s caused some degree of turtling in terms of worrying that what we say will somehow violate our chances of getting published or that it will decimate (in the truest sense of the word) our audience with one ill-made statement or sentiment.
And I think to some degree you have to get shut of that. You should be mindful of the shit you say, obviously. You, like every other adult out there, should have a pair of bouncers at your brain door ready to escort any unruly thoughts before they stumble drunkenly toward your mouth or fingers.
But don’t be afraid to have opinions.
Just offer them with respect and tact. And an interjection of humor and self-deprecation just to confirm that you’re not being some super-serious self-righteous blowhard.
And, when (not if) you inevitably cross the line in the sand from “The adults are talking” to “The dickwipes are howling and keening their gibbering dickery,” then back up, throw up your hands, and offer a fast mea culpa — just like you would do off-line.
Don’t hide from your own personality. Be who you are. Be the most awesome and interesting version of who you are. You are more than the sum total of your likes and dislikes of books and whiskey. You have controversial thoughts, hey, share them — provided you share them with tact, respect, and some ground given to the other side.
Do you have to be careful? Sure, of course. I’ve seen creators (be they writers, game designers, journalists, whoever) spout off and show the world their blow-hardy cranky-pants, and it turns me off. Most of the time I come back from the brink because I know I’ve done the same thing. Others, though, keep on keepin’ on, and they won’t stop beating their audience over the head with their opinions.
See, that’s the trick. It’s not the opinions that bothered me. It was the delivery of that opinion.
Remember: respect, tact, humor, self-deprecation.
And here, at terribleminds: a fuckbucket full of sweet, sweet profanity.
Just don’t be a dick about it.