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Putting Ourselves Out There

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Twook00, Feb 17, 2014.

  1. Twook00

    Twook00 Sage

    ...And when I say "Out there," imagine I'm sweeping my hand across the horizon, staring wide-eyed into the great beyond as I whisper the words with a kind of religious reverence. "Putting ourselves... out there."

    Because that's what it feels like. When I write a blog post or give an opinion or share a story, putting myself and my work out there can be like stepping out onto a tightrope stretched over the Grand Canyon.

    As a young, inexperienced writer, I worry that I sound like one of those clueless "newbs" who has just hit the scene and suddenly wants to act like a big boy. This is mostly true when interacting with others, sharing blog posts or discussing serious topics. Many times I've held my tongue for fear of looking like a buffoon. Because I really don't want to look like a buffoon.

    And going back to my tightrope analogy, I worry that IF I DO sound buffoonish, that my mistakes will not be forgotten. I'll have fallen off the rope never to return, my name forever etched into the Wall of Buffoonery.

    SHORT VERSION: "Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent." For the most part, this is me. I lurk, admiring the words of others while holding back my own. But I feel like I'm missing out. That maybe I'd be better off risking it, taking my lumps, learning trial by fire style. Not just with writing fiction but with sharing opinions in general. Thoughts?
  2. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    Acting in an unprofessional manner. I believe that is the one thing as a writer that can haunt you and your online activities.
    Twook00 likes this.
  3. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

    Seriously, if you can avoid hitting the big no-no's of authorial opinion of late (trad vs indie debate, how teh womenz are ruining, I mean ruining SFF, why do we need diversity) if you don't have a well thought out opinion...the rest of the stuff I've read by authors (blogs, tweets, posts here) doesn't even phase me--even if I don't happen to agree with that particular viewpoint. (Not to go into the whole SFWA controversy, and hey there's a new one, look at that....but good lord. I watched five minutes of the Olympics last night and checked back in and there was more stuff.)

    I should say that even when I read an opinion about the big debate topics, I don't generally speaking get involved too much because, hey, I've had the internet argument that all I want is to make people into robotic clones and that I'm trying to feminize every man on the planet, etc etc. (That would be a very liberal reading of the insults I've had thrown at me.)

    I think we all saw what happened when Wendig threw out some opinions about indie publishing/gatekeepers/etc without really taking the time to fully develop what he meant. He did so later, after it all blew up and spewed across several online spaces I frequent...but whoo-boy. That is a lesson on what not to do.

    I suppose the short version is: try to be a pleasant, respectful individual with well thought out opinions.
    Twook00 likes this.
  4. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    I'm sort of in the same boat.
    As far as my writing goes I feel like I'm just getting started. I've been here a while though (this is the only writer's forum I visit and the only writer's community I'm a part of) and I feel rather at home here. For better or for worse I'm quite comfortable with expressing myself here.
    When I feel I'm on deep waters, I try to remember to point this out. I mention that I'm "young and inexperienced" (though not young) and that I'm aware I might be wrong but that what I say makes sense to me as I understand things. - Sort of a disclaimer if you will.

    This is really important. Acting unprofessional can get you into all kinds undesirably situation. Look up "ocean marketing" on google and see how it ended up when someone didn't act in a professional manner. That's a few years ago now and it's still used as an example of how unprofessional behavior can lead to bad publicity and how not all publicity is good publicity.

    Being wrong about things is something that happens to everyone (even me). Owning up to it, admitting you were wrong and learning from your mistakes grants you respect. Trying to cover up your shortcomings by attempting to silence or abuse those who point them out is going to get you ridiculed.
    Twook00 likes this.
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    If you want to put your opinions out there, I think you can avoid looking like a buffoon by being humble and respectful. IMHO speak from your personal experience, not what you read or heard. It doesn't always make for good press, but don't speak in terms of absolutes, or lift yourself up as an authority. Do your research and form your opinions and when possible state your sources. People may not agree with you, but at the very least they can see how you formed your opinions based on the interpretation of a source.

    One of my favorite people to hear talk about writing is Neil Gaiman. He speaks from personal experience and though he's confident in himself, he doesn't sound like he's trying to be this authority. He just talks common sense that he's learned along the way.
    Twook00 likes this.
  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Here's a suggestion. Ask questions. More than that, when you ask a question, say where you have already looked, and why you think the question might be worth answering. This lets the other readers know that you aren't just talking off the top of your head. I hate it when someone says something like "I wonder where the word 'jalopy' comes from" when a few minutes of searching would produce either an answer or else a whole new set of interesting questions.

    The notion is that you are inviting people into a conversation, whereas opining tends to make people choose up sides. I learned this long ago from some writer I've long since forgotten, who advised me to ask people about their jobs. Don't tell them about your job, ask them about theirs. People love to tell you about themselves. Little do they know they are providing raw material!

    At any rate, asking questions is rarely perceived as rude. And if you show that you have done some preliminary research, then you won't appear lazy either. Plus, you might be surprised at how much serendipitous knowledge you acquire in the process.

    wordwalker and Twook00 like this.
  7. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    In all the years I've spent on the Internet, I've ended up in more than my fair share of fights, embarrassments, and other drama. I worry that if I ever become a published writer and win myself any public visibility, my past scrapes may come back to haunt me. Someone I've pissed off in the past might highlight our conflict in some tabloid and damage my reputation for good. Such would be the price of fame in our interconnected modern era.

    What's worse is that some of the most painful head-buttings I've gotten myself into have involved people whose opinions I usually agree with. I know I have ranted about this in the past, but even though I identify as pro-feminist and anti-racist, I've still received accusations of racism and sexism from my fellow left-wingers. For instance, on another writers' message board I had a self-proclaimed "African feminist" complain about some character concept art I shared, and upon defending myself I ended up suspended for over a week. I should be on these people's side, so it aches my soul when they alienate me.
    Twook00 likes this.
  8. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    Agreed PenPilot. The only thing I'd add to this is keeping an open mind. Be tolerant of opposing views. Be persuadable. What's the point in debating someone who is beyond persuasion? You're better off smashing your face against a brick wall, it's more malleable.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2014
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  9. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    I try to stay out of discussions that are too divisive, but I do speak up and make my opinion known when I feel strongly about something. As writers, I think our egos can be rather fragile, so it's easy for arguments to get started up, especially on the internet. It's just good to be mindful of listening to other people's opinions and trying to get something from them if possible. Even if you disagree, you can still have meaningful arguments about a topic.

    If you are worried about your opinion being ridiculed or anything like that, it's important to think, "How are people going to react to this?" when you type anything. I don't think you need to be PC at all times, just be aware how something may be misconstrued. I feel a large percent of arguments on the internet especially happen because of miscommunication or misinterpretation. So, yeah, it happens. As a writer, if you put yourself out there, just expect backlash if you're tackling controversial subjects.
    Twook00 likes this.
  10. AnneL

    AnneL Closed Account

    There's a difference between putting fiction out there and putting blog posts/ comments out there. I used to leap headlong into internet arguments and now I avoid them whenever I can, because for me the emotional ickiness that can result is just not worth it. Often if I go away and come back someone else has already made the point I would have. Common courtesy and taking the time to compose a post carefully, instead of tossing off a response will go a long way. You can establish yourself in an online community by offering *solicited* and useful help, and by avoiding "you" statements.

    Throwing out fiction is another matter. Someone will say something negative about it no matter how good it is, because people have such different standards and tastes. And that hurts even when you know it's just a matter of taste. So you really have to harden yourself and, unless you have asked for specific feedback, stay out of it, even if your baby is being shredded to pieces. When authors start talking back to reviewers, hell breaks loose.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2014
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  11. Twook00

    Twook00 Sage

    Thanks, guys. You all made some great points.

    So in a nutshell: Don't be a bunghole to people, or at least not intentionally. Acknowledge mistakes and focus on constructive vs. destructive comments. Be careful around hot topics and always think critically and carefully before posting. Do your research. Communicate c-l-e-a-r-l-y and be patient with people. Be courteous and remember that the internet may forgive, but it does not easily forget.

    Or in a peanut shell: Use your noodle.
    buyjupiter likes this.

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