There are a lot of writer’s groups out there today, and many writers turn to them daily for support and encouragement from others who have walked the fire with them. Writing is often a lonely and trying profession, probably one of the few where you have to open yourself up to rejection over and over, often for years before you make that first real sale. After that first book is published, you open yourself up in a brand new way to even more people. Surrounding yourself with other writers, even on list, is like stepping into a warm embrace.
At least it should be.
But there are group members out there on any group who seem to take joy from stirring up trouble. If you say something is red, they say blue. Some like to feel superior, so no matter what you say, they know more than you do and no one’s answer but their own can be right. Others seem to thrive on negative energy. They will gladly point out your weaknesses and then take full advantage of them. Others will take insult to anything you say and send an attack missile in.
Ah, I see you are nodding your head. So, you’ve met Ms. ArgueWithAnyone, Ms. SmarterThanYou, and Ms. GiveUpWritingYouAreNotGoodEnough….as well as a few of their little friends.
Wait, before you nod too hard, are you ever guilty of the same things? Maybe without even meaning to or noticing that you are doing it. If ever in doubt, don’t take a chance, file that message away and read it over later before you hit send, or maybe just hit delete.
Why does it matter?
Because group members notice those troublemakers, even those who might do so often but blindly. Every time you send a message you are putting your reputation on the line. If you are a published author, or want to be one, when you send a message to a group you are speaking to your public. Writers are huge readers. I can’t name the number of times I’ve been contacted off list--I’m a group moderator--by members who are fed up with some certain other member’s posts. I get comments like, “I wouldn’t buy a book with her name on the cover if it was the last book in the store and I didn’t own a television or a radio!” I’m not overstating their feelings either. I’ve even heard worse with words I’m not going to add.
So before you forget that people can’t see a teasing smile in an e-mail message, or before you answer in haste or anger or even hurt…think it through. Think of how many people will see that message in that group. Think of how easy it is to forward that black and white print to others, privately, another group, a blog, or a website. Or even the fact that the group’s home page will save it for years for others to look at maybe at a much later date. Once you hurt someone or make them angry, they have a habit of remembering your name and what you said forever, and sharing their opinions of you.
It’s your call. You can send the kind of messages that will have people speaking well of you or you can show people a side of yourself that they might find really ugly.