I’m sure this blog will not be the first to post on this subject, nor will it be the last. Sadly, today’s topic is a perennial problem in the writing world. I want to talk about professionalism among writers. This post was inspired by Monday’s firestorm over at Big Al’s Books and Pals where an author took very public issue with a review she received. What followed in the comments is probably a textbook case of what NOT to do when you receive a bad review.
Words have power.
We wouldn’t be writers if we did not recognize that fact. How else can you explain all of us word nerds? We are power-hungry word junkies. Admit it. You get drunk on your own words. We all do occasionally. Unfortunately, like all other forms of intoxication, this drunkenness has different effects on different people. You have your quiet drunks, your happy-go-lucky-drunks, and then occasionally, you get the other kind. The kind who think being drunk makes them the best singer/lover/fighter/etc. The ones that make you glance at your watch in embarrassment and mutter, “My, look at the time. I really must be heading home now.”
Trust me, you do NOT want to be one of the latter.
When you choose to be a writer, or when being a writer chooses you (and some of you are nodding, I know) you choose to expose yourself. Your words reveal your strengths, faults, and follies. They open you to the praise and ridicule of others. You do these things by choice (which says a little more about the writer psyche than I care to think about right now).
If you want to find work in this industry and build a reputation as a go-to writer, you must recognize that with the choice comes responsibility, both to your prose and to your readers. Be professional. Make your prose the best it can be. Let others proofread your work. Learn your personal grammar pitfalls and strive to correct them. Accept feedback with poise and goodwill. Consider the possibility that even when you don’t like the comments you hear, they may have merit. Remember that most people simply do not have time to criticize you out of spite.
And, perhaps most importantly, remember: Play nice. Even if you have to grit your teeth. The Internet offers no take-backs, and gives no do-overs. Once you have a public meltdown it’s there forever for the world to see, and like that drunken binge I mentioned, there’s always a morning after. This kind of hangover is one that aspirin won’t touch.