Sometimes my blog posts make people disappointed, sad, and angry. Every time this happens, I'm never expecting the fierce response. I think if I always knew how people would take what I say, I would self-censor, and I wonder about that. Because I do think the conversations started are valuable to me, and others tell me valuable to them too. But the fear of offending and hurting might discourage me or others from engaging in touchy subjects. I'm not afraid of disagreeing with people, but I hate hurting people in the process.
Longtime squeetusers may recall some of the fiercest instances on squeetus--for example, when I defended Breaking Dawn in 2008. That was one of the rare instances that we actually had to delete comments and by the dozens. I can take a few hits, but I draw the line at profanity, threats, and bullying other commenters, especially young commenters. In a way I'm glad people are so passionate about books and ideas, but I don't get the hate. Sometimes anger can be productive, but hate just sucks.
(squeetusers, have you noticed how kind commenters are on this blog in general? It makes me happy. When commenters are harsher and less respectful in their disagreement, I've found that they're not regulars but people who have clicked over from someone else reporting about the post. I really want this blog to be a safe place where people can share ideas without fear of being flamed, so thank you.)
I guess when I write a blog entry, I think about it as a rough draft. It's exploration time. It's not a final, polished article. It's me in conversation, saying things I'm thinking about. The danger is that thinking aloud can offend. Which is why, I think, most politicians have practiced answers. I don't want to hurt anyone, and yet I don't want to be bland and opinion-less, scared of risk. Writers are idea people. I think we should wrestle with questions. We should allow ourselves that luxury. We're not politicians, trying to please as many people as we can. We should engage in risky ideas, question things, wrestle with ideas we don't know all the answers to. But should that be confined to a novel, where I have time to edit and polish before anyone sees it, or is a blog still useful? Even if I risk hurting people, is it still positive to have this public thinking-aloud-place? (I ask, as I think aloud in this place.)
When I've written a post that is fairly opinion-y and people disagree with me, or if I tweet something of that ilk, I almost always get replies that say something like, "You've lost this reader for good," or "I used to love your books but I'll never buy another one now." Obviously I don't want to run off readers. I think in most of these cases, something I've said has personally hurt that person, and they are trying to hurt me back in some way. That's a natural response, I think, and I can empathize. And they do succeed. But in general, I wonder, do we/should we only read and like books by people who share all or most of our same opinions?
Personal opinion of the author does affect me sometimes. I read a couple of books by an author (who I will never publicly name, but get a milkshake in me sometime and my jaw loosens), then I met him, and he was so sexist and unkind that I've never recommended his books to anyone since and doubt I'd pick him up again. For several minutes into our conversation I thought he was trying to be funny by being a parody of the chauvinist male writer, because nobody is truly that awful. I was wrong. His personality didn't change the words on the page, but I can't see past it.
But there's another author who is quite mouthy publicly and has said things I vehemently disagree with. But since reading his disagreeable opinions I've continued to read his books and would recommend them. So in some cases the personal affects me and sometimes it doesn't. Maybe it's a scale system? With the first author, his books weren't engaging enough to me to overshadow his unfortunate personality (his editor said to me, "Sorry, I can edit him on paper but not in person!"). But with the second, I liked and clicked enough with his books that I didn't have to think about him as a person as I read. I was able to merge with the story and forget the author.
What are your thoughts? Do you wish authors remained anonymous and you only knew them through the words on the page? (if you're reading an author's blog, then probably not?) Does an author's public persona enhance/diminish your reading? Those of us who are older grew up with books alone, and now social media allows us to feel we know the people behind the books. How has this changed your reading experiences?
And you can register now for my Oct 1 webcast. I'll be doing a live school assembly followed by questions I'll be taking from both the live audience and the virtual audience. Sign up your class to participate for free. I'm really looking forward to this.
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