Monday, June 15, 2015

The Guilt of an Online Writer


For just a moment, I want you to go back in time, to the days before the Internet. As a published writer, you laboriously sent query letters to publishers and agents and waited sometimes as long as six weeks – or longer – to hear from those agents and publishers. And you waited. And you waited.

Always, in the back of your mind or sitting in front of you – on paper – was that next book, that next article, or that next screenplay. As you finished one project, or even before you finished your current book, article, or screenplay, you directed your attention to a new one.

You frequented your local library or book store to purchase and read your favorite authors. Occasionally, you might even send a letter to your favorite authors. But never once did you expect those authors to read your material. You probably wouldn’t have even asked. Most writers back then wouldn’t have considered writing, “Enjoyed your work. Now read mine.”

And yet, as we fast forward to today, the message seems to be that if you write online, you must also read everyone who reads you. This task can become daunting and can cause a lot of guilt if we just want to write for a living. The number of people who call themselves writers has proliferated to the point where anyone who posts a comment considers him- or herself to be a writer. If thousands of people comment on your work, must you then comment on each of theirs? And if you don’t comment on theirs, does not commenting constitute a betrayal of sorts? By not commenting on their material, are you jeopardizing your own future?

I think of Stephen King and J. K. Rowling – just two examples of prolific writers who have fans that number in the millions. Can you imagine writing to them in Blog Land? Yeah. “Um, hi, Stephen King, I just read your book and now I want you to read mine” (multiply that comment by at least a million commenters). Who would expect Mr. King or any famous writer, for that matter, to comment on anything an unknown, fledgling writer wrote?

But that’s the problem. We aren’t famous. Nobody knows us - well, except maybe for a select group of other writers who want us to read their blog posts and articles and where the relationship is consensual. Even famous bloggers, like ProBlogger, Darren Rowse, can’t possibly comment on every blogger who posts a comment on his site.

So what do we unknown writers do – we write, we read, we comment – and we feel guilty if we can’t get to everyone who reads and comments on our work. I guess that’s the price we pay for not yet making it to the “Writers Readers Love To Read” level. But we’ve learned one Golden Rule – don’t beg people to read our work! We can, however, plaster our posts all over Facebook and Twitter and hope that somebody finds us amusing, delightful, informative, profound, or any of the other adjectives people use to compliment amazing writers.

For some of my latest posts, I’d like to direct you to the following:







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