Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Bloggers Beware

A writer's voice is supposed to be strong, independent and unique, and healthy debate on a blog never hurts. But when more publishers, editors and agents are scouring blogs, always remain professional. You don't want to burn anyone who helps get you a paycheck.

So concludes Sarah Weinman in her Writer's Digest article, "Blogged and Burned."

This makes sense, of course. But it's not always so easy to follow. As Weinman suggests in her article, sometimes even well-intentioned comments aren't read as such online. I try to be professional in all my posts--at this blog and at others'--and still, I, too, have been "burned." Sometimes it seems to me that such treatment is the price one pays not for being "unprofessional," but for expressing an opinion (even if it's an opinion backed by fact), and/or pointing out serious problems with other people's posts.

For example, I haven't always been able to restrain myself from posting when I see someone being bullied online, or when I see another writer saying something I know to be inaccurate. This blog's readers know I've posted here about problems I've seen on one writers' organization blog, too. And sometimes, no matter how carefully we construct our posts, or how much they're supported by fact/evidence, they aren't received as we've intended them to be.

My mother, who does not have an active online life (and seems perfectly happy without one), and who not infrequently tells my sister and me we should stay away from blogs (and discussion boards), has a few major mottos she's impressed on us. One of them is: "Be Nice." If only the writing life--and life on all the blogs/boards I visit--were that simple.


Susan B. said...

Amen, Erika! And does it seem to you that the general level of online nastiness has been increasing? A few years ago, I joined a popular writers' forum (the one where you and I first met). Within a year, it had completely imploded. Few seem to go there anymore.

Most recently, I was reading the comments trails of Miss Snark's crap-o-meter. Granted, she does set the tone, but I was still surprised to see the vitriolic responses to the hooks that writers submitted for evaluation. Such bullying. Such overall nastiness.

My hunch is that if these same people were gathered together in someone's living room there would be more civility. Maybe not.

Thank you, Erika, for remaining pleasant and professional. Those of us who benefit from your experience and your helpfulness do not take it for granted!


Hi, Susan:

Well, I certainly wouldn't say that the nastiness is decreasing, that's for sure!

Thanks so much for your kind comments.

emilydixieson said...

In the South, mothers say that you can "say something nice or nothing at all." At the rare times I feel the need to champion an issue or whathaveyou, I do try to be nice, but I've learned as a Southern woman -- no one respects a push over!



Yes, sometimes my mother varies from "Be Nice" to "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything."

Thanks for the post!

Susan B. said...

You're right, Emily. I'm a transplanted Yankee who has been living in the South for 30 years. It took me a while to recognize that the Southern women I most admired and respected weren't shrinking violets--they were steel magnolias! They were--are--polite and civil.

I think what frosts my cookies so much on blogs and boards is the practice of belittling the poor neophyte who's just trying to learn the craft, and the ad hominem attacks on someone who has asked for a critique of her/his writing.