Thursday, November 10, 2005

Everyone is the hero in their own movie

I've gotten a lot of private emails lately about the way some folks in the mystery community treat other folks. By a lot, I mean about twenty in the past few days.

Some of the people writing are pros. Some have new book deals. Some are unpublished.

All have the same theme---what's with all the negativity?

Being a professional writer means you are a public figure. Like all public figures, people will openly form opinions about you and your work. Some will like you. Some won't.

The President is often the most loved and the most hated person in the country. That's just the way it goes. I'm sure he doesn't take it personally. Neither should writers.

I make it a point not to take cheap shots. I rarely defend myself. If I do defend myself, it is to make a point--it's not to change anyone's mind. There are few certainties in life, but one of them is: "You'll probably never change anyone's mind."

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and all opinions are valid. As the title of this entry says, everyone is the hero in the movie of their life. Everyone feels justified in what they say and do, and everyone is offended when the world doesn't agree with them.

The problem with judging others is that it reeks of insecurity. Throughout your life, there will be many people you don't like. Many will fail to meet up to your standards. Many will screw up. Many will attack you. But how helpful do you think you are being when you call them on it? A wise man told me over breakfast, "If someone cuts you off in traffic, and you honk and give the guy the finger, how much do you really believe your actions will change that person's behavior?"

The answer is: not at all. Insulting someone doesn't ever help the issue. Even if you feel your insult is justified.

The Internet is one of the most amazing inventions of mankind. It allows for instant communication. Unfortunately, there is also a lack of accountability. People can say things that they wouldn't have the guts to say to a person's face. They can post anonymously, or under false names. They can lie. They can troll.

So here are some Internet rules that I try to follow:
  1. Try not to hurt others.
  2. If you feel you must hurt others, be a man and own up to it.
  3. Try not to reply to those who hurt you, because you aren't going to change their mind.
  4. Be the person your kids will be proud of, whether you have kids or not.

I'm not bringing all of this up for any specific reason, and this blog entry isn't aimed at any specific individual.

And to the anonymous guy insulting me on another blog--I have a pretty good idea of who you are, and I just called Ingram and checked the sales of your last book. Ouch. No wonder you're so angry.

(My son wanted me to mention that)


Steve Hockensmith said...

Fine words, and I'd just like to add a bit of my own advice for folks: If you read something online that really, really pisses you off, try with all your might to resist the urge to respond to it THAT SECOND!!! Because odds are two minutes after you post your scathing rejoinder, you'll feel like you overreacted. Five minutes after that, you'll feel like an ass. And twenty minutes after that, you'll read a scathing rejoinder to your scathing rejoinder and you'll have to respond to it THAT SECOND!!! and then you're screwed because that's all you'll be thinking about for the rest of the day.

As with Joe's traffic analogy, take a deep breath and try to let it go. Your karma will love you for it.

This is advice I manage to follow approximately 71 percent of the time.


P.S. -- This isn't meant to say that the folks who complained about the thing they complained about didn't have something to complain about. Deep breath. And that's all I'll say about that.

Anonymous said...

Anonymity is an interesting window into human behavior. Just goes to show you how much our nastier tendencies are reigned in by public disapproval. If we can't be identified, we seem to go hog wild.

Author-Gerald said...

It's so difficult to stop yourself, but Steve's advice is very good. I find that I'm a lot calmer than I used to be, and force myself to wait awhile. I usually create the email / post, but save it as a draft, and go back to it after an hour or so.

Just like to say this is a great blog, and essential reading for any writer!

JA Konrath said...

"Just like to say this is a great blog, and essential reading for any writer!"

I'm waiting an hour before I reply...

Anonymous said...

Joe - don't you think that for the most part, though, the majority of folks in the mystery community treat each other with a great deal of respect and are very welcoming of everyone? The stuff that's going around right now - I don't think it's very representative of what the "community" is really like...kind of a momentary aberration.

(Honking and giving you the finger while typing this...)

Kevin Wignall said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stacey Cochran said...


Yours might well be the best practical advice I've heard yet.

I don't know what it is about me, but I seem to have a wonderful gift of really getting under the skin of some folks.

I've adopted the policy online of, like you mention, Steve, if I feel the urge to say something hostile or defensive, to sleep on it. 99 out of 100 times, I feel differently about it the next day, less angry, etc.

Usually, if I'm feeling anxious or ticked off, to be perfectly honest, there's probably something I've done (whether conscious or unconscious) to put myself into that situation emotionally. A good night's sleep helps to give me a little more objectivity about whatever situation that might be.

Patience goes a long way in this business. In life too, really.

My two cents worth. Nothing more.


Anonymous said...

Good points.

I'd add that what someone does when they're anonymous is a good measure of the person they really are. Do they donate to a worthy cause anonymously? Do they insult others anonymously? Without knowing who they are, in a sense we know who they are.

But I don't think anyone lives up to anyone else's standards. We're all human and fallible. That's the tricky thing about celebrity. All your humanness is on display, the good and the bad.

anne frasier said...

jealousy is interesting. years ago, the deputy publisher of bantam took a bunch of her writers to dinner. one writer kept positioning herself in front of me so there was no way I could talk or even see the publisher. this happened wherever we were: table, hallway, waiting area. this foolish woman would physically place herself between us. at one point, she was lying halfway across the table while still trying to look casual. it was truly laughable. and disturbing that some people think the only way to get ahead is to knock someone else down.

Kevin Wignall said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Olen Steinhauer said...

I guess you're better off than me, Kevin, because I'm riddled with jealousy. If people are getting better Ingram sales ratings, that means they're better artists than I am, or so I've heard. Which inevitably leads me to retreat into my hole and wave my Artist flag and call all bestselling authors sell-outs.


Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

Wow, Joe, your blog is better than watching the soap operas on TV. (Ridge and Taylor are getting boring anyway) But there's real fireworks over here. I'll be back!

Kevin Wignall said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kevin Wignall said...

Actually, Mr Breese, you're quite right, and I dropped into the community of this particular blog without knowing its internal dynamics. Accordingly, I've deleted my comments lest they cause unwarranted offence, and as I take my leave, I wish you all well, both those like Steve and Joe who are already published, and those like yourself who aspire. Good luck.

Jeff said...

There is an old saying, "If I want your opinion I'll give it to you." Of course it's meant to be funny but it's also true in many cases. A tough lesson learned early in life is that everyone won't always agree with us and see things the way we do. As far as others opinions, I say listen to them all, learn from the ones that can be helpful to you, and cast aside the ones offered out of anger, jealousy, or simply a desire to pull you down to make themselves feel better.

JA Konrath said...

I go out of town for a few days and I miss all the good stuff...

JA Konrath said...

I never even got to see Kevin's comments. But using the context clues, I admire his guts. He seems to be one of the good guys.

JA Konrath said...

I admire Kevin for deleting his comments. He also proved me wrong.

In my post, I said that it is almost impossible to get someone to change their mind. From what I've seen, he changed his mind, and his actions show that.

Leaving his comments up would serve no purpose. Deleting them was honorable.