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This Writing Life: The Internet is Not For Whining

12 May, 2011

I wasn’t going to do a Writing Life post this week (I had one on music planned instead) but a couple of things this morning have prompted me to post this instead. First of all, I opened Twitter. Now, this isn’t a big event in itself, but this morning, every other tweet seemed to be a complaint. Everyone was grumpy, irritable, snarky etc. etc. Starting to wish I hadn’t bothered, I began to follow a few tweeted links, once of which took me to an author complaining about her first convention experience, and how it had been so awful, she’d left early. By the end of the post, she’d tried to pull together a few positive pointers, but it really wasn’t enough after 1000 words of complaining.

So, driven by all this grumpiness, I’m writing this post. New authors are frequently told not to reply to bad reviews or get into flame wars, but I think this point needs to be made too. If you are any kind of creative professional or amateur looking to break into the field – in fact, if you are any kind of professional who uses the internet in relation to your business – here is my plea: the internet is not for whining. I think this is so important that I’m going to say it again.

THE INTERNET IS NOT FOR WHINING.

When you’re posting on Twitter, or Facebook, or on your blog, it can feel very much as if you’re writing for a small circle of friends, the sort of people who will listen to your grumpiness and make sympathetic noises. Assuming as much is a mistake, though. Virtually everything you post online is publicly accessible and you never know who’s going to stumble across it. It could, after all, be that agent or editor you’ve just submitted your work to, or a reader who’s just changed their mind about buying your book.

A bit of public whining may not be as damaging to your reputation as flame warring or deliberately insulting people, but it does make you look unprofessional. The publishing industry is not an easy one to break into, on any side, and anything that makes you look like an idiot could potentially damage your chances. Remember, also, that anything you post online may well be there forever. Terrifying as that thought is for those of us who have been online since our teengage years, it’s still best to resolve not to allow anything else incriminating to spew onto the Internets, and certainly not from the public blog or profile that will be seen as representative of how you are in person (we’ve all worked with someone who whines all day – it’s not something I’m looking to repeat and I’m sure most agents/editors feel the same).

There’s always going to be something that rubs you up the wrong way or just makes you feel a bit shit. When that happens though, tell a friend. Email a crit partner. Write an offline journal (I have one of these, mostly made up of the mundanities of work schedules and word counts, but also featuring a fair amount of complaining that I will never allow another living soul to read). Just, whatever you do, don’t post your whining online. Nothing goes viral on the internet like someone making an arse of themselves. Don’t let that be you.

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2 Comments
  1. 12 May, 2011 2:25 pm

    Wow. Thanks. I probably needed to hear that as much as anyone. It is easy to whine, but you’re right, the internet isn’t for whining. So glad I stumbled on this post this morning.

    I don’t know if write fiction or if you’d be interested, but The Domestic Fringe is hosting Fiction Friday. Last week was our first and nine writers joined us. I’m going to include a link to last weeks, so you can get an idea of what it’s like. We’d love to read your writing. I hope you’ll join us!
    http://wp.me/pllkB-1xl

    Thanks again for the great post! I’m going to Tweet it right now.
    -FringeGirl

    • 13 May, 2011 9:51 am

      I think the ‘no whining’ rule is applicable to anyone, but it’s doubly useful for writers. And I know I have to remind myself of it frequently so I’m guessing many writers are the same!

      Thanks for the Tweet, too. I’ll definitely go have a look at Fiction Friday and see what you’re up to there!

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