For the purposes of this post, names have been changed to protect those in question.
(Actually it’s really just to prevent me from becoming a hypocrite by publicly bashing this person in a post in which I talk about all the reasons why you shouldn’t publicly bash a person.)
Recently I have been reading a number of books by a certain author. Let’s call him Bill. Now I’ve read quite a few of Bill’s books, and I’ve absolutely loved every single one. His use of voice (that is, his ability to write in the ‘voice’ of character) is one of the best I’ve ever read, and I find his novels to be close to impossible to put down. I enjoy them so much that I literally get cranky when it’s time to do those annoying thing like go to work or eat or sleep. When I am reading Bill’s books, that’s ALL I want to do.
I was quickly developing an author crush on Bill (which is not even slightly romantic – more like a ‘you’re what I want to become’ kind of crush) when one of my friends responded to one of my many gushing tweets about him with some less than flattering news. In her tweet she said she would never read any of Bill’s books because she didn’t like or respect him due to a blog post he wrote where he was rudely and unnecessarily publicly bashing another person – someone who both myself and my friend adore. (Cough). She linked me to the post and as I read it, I felt my burgeoning author crush on Bill slowly diminish until it was completely gone. At first I tried to find a reason for this seemingly unprovoked hate towards this person, but as far as I could tell, there wasn’t one. Not a good one, anyway. I tried to tell myself that it didn’t really matter that Bill had gone on an angry rant over something pretty lame (in my opinion), and reminded myself that we are all human and sometimes we get annoyed by insignificant things. I, for example, am annoyed by Bill’s post. After reading some hilarious comments about Bill and this particular post, I decided to put it aside and get on with reading his fabulous books.
As I began to read, I found that I struggled to connect with the story. What was once funny and engaging became annoying and boring. I knew that Bill’s nasty post was tainting my opinion of the book, but I couldn’t help it. It just wasn’t the same. And so, sadly, after many failed attempts to get back into the story, I had no choice but to put the book aside and pick something else to read.
Now, I imagine quite a few of you are rolling your eyes about this. Can I seriously start disliking an author just because they insulted someone I like (love, adore, admire) – especially when that someone is a celebrity (and therefore not even someone I know personally)? My answer to that is…Yes. Yes I can. Not intentionally of course, but the fact remains that Bill’s unkind post left a bitter taste in my mouth. Not to mention that his post implied that he thought very little of those who happened to – heaven forbid – actually like this person. Maybe you think I’m silly for taking offense to this, but I did. I don’t particularly want to read or support a person who insults others in this manner. Maybe my annoyance will fade over time, but right now, I’m not interested in reading any more of Bill’s novels.
This, ladies and gentleman, is exactly why I don’t believe in publicly mocking or bashing other authors, celebrities or highly recognisable individuals. Or anyone, really. You never know who you may offend, and how it may affect you later in your career. Maybe I’m particularly sensitive to this because being a teacher I could actually lose my job for offending the wrong the person or writing nasty blog posts about others. All it takes is for one person who knows who I am in real life to make a complaint, and goodbye teaching career. This is also why I don’t have Facebook, but that’s slightly off topic. Of course writing is different to teaching in that you probably can’t be fired for offending someone, but you can lose readers or even hurt your chances of landing an agent if you don’t have one yet. These days agents are all over social media, and I can almost guarantee that if they are interested in signing you they will check out your blog, Twitter, Facebook etc to make sure you aren’t crazy pants, and to see if you are the kind of person they’d like to work with. Imagine if the first thing they read is a hate-fuelled post. I’m not so sure that would be a great first impression.
My point is this: You don’t know who is reading your blog. By writing hate posts, you run the risk of giving out the impression that you are a jerk with low impulse control (Yeah, I said this author seems like a jerk…but in all fairness, he was acting like a jerk.) Of course we all have opinions and I’m not in any way saying that we shouldn’t express them, but there are ways to do that without being downright nasty. I would suggest venting in private with people you trust rather than writing a post for the whole world to see, but that’s just my opinion. Or if you really do want to write about it (and I understand that – free therapy!) perhaps you should consider staying away from being overly judgemental and rude. It’s just a thought.
And if all else fails, maybe you can consider the age-old advice loved by parents and teachers everywhere: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.