Friday, January 9, 2015

The Writing Community

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a focus on youth and young adult ministry. For more about Shan, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

It's my first Friday blog of the new year and the subject of this little chat shall be entitled THE WRITING COMMUNITY.

Listen friends, in the grand scheme of things, readers and writers and bloggers and those actively involved in all-of-the-above make up a very small community. It's a community that is quick to praise and quick to love and quick to friend. I adore the writing world. And I think that's why it's so jarring when a portion of the community turns on one of our own.

This week I had coffee with a writer pal. (Do you have a local writer pal? I hope so!) My pal had caught wind of this incredibly unfortunate event in the community. It started with an author and an idea and, with the help of social media, it snowballed into a vitriolic mudslinging affair that included threats and name calling. Sad. Awful. Terrifying. 

Unacceptable. 

This isn't the first time such a thing has happened within our little world and I know it won't be the last, but it's writers like you guys that give me hope. You're all so fabulous at COMMUNITY. You encourage one another, and you work at your craft, and you know that not everyone has the same stories to tell. You get it.

Here are five things I think we do pretty well here, things I'd love to see more of in the writing community at large.


Thoughtful dialogue. I love that the writing world is full of thinkers, but sometimes technology gets the best of us. You are absolutely entitled to your opinion, but before you type that comment, post that blog, or compose that review, you owe it to the entire community to think it through. Are you adding something beneficial to the conversation or just stirring the pot? Don't just spew. Use your brain.

Consideration. You may not like a book or a writer or a blogger, but it's important to remember that there are real live people on the other end of these computers and you should treat each one with the kind of dignity you hope to receive.

Bravery. Most of the people who write for public consumption have superhero status in my mind. It is terrifying to let others pick apart your work, and yet this community is overflowing with souls willing to give it a go. I applaud that. But there's another kind of bravery we need. The kind that stands up for someone being bullied. The kind that refuses to take part in the tearing down of other writers. So many are quick to pile on when a member of the community has stumbled and it takes a special someone to simply refuse. Be that person.

Benefit of the doubt. Confession, I stole this one from a marriage book. But I think all great relationships need this. And that's what a community is, right? A collection of relationships. Why must we always assume that others had ill-intentions? Why must we be defensive? I'm not asking you to be a door mat and let people walk all over you, but if you can teach yourself to first assume that someone else had the best of intentions when they did this or that, it will change the way you approach every conversation. 

Mentoring. Officially, unofficially, I don't care how it happens, but there is a wealth of knowledge out there locked away in the minds of writers who've been doing this thing a while. Competitiveness can curb sharing in any community and there is certainly a level of that in what we do. But there is something so appealing about an author who freely shares what they know. It makes all of us look good.

What do you guys think? What else could the writing community use a little more of?

37 comments:

  1. I love the writing community. But I do agree that it could use more thoughtful dialogue. There've been times I was browsing a forum or blog comments, trying to hunt down information. I'd get about halfway down the page and the whole thing would have disintegrated into mudslinging (usually of the political kind). It's very discouraging to find a seemly-helpful post, only to find that everyone would rather choose up sides than help out fellow writers.

    But! That's only a small part of the writing world. Most blogs, forums, etc. are excited to help out fellow writers. Hence why I love GTW soooo much. :)

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    1. I wholeheartedly agree :). GTW really is a big help, isn't it?

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    2. You are absolutely right. It's such a small percentage of folks that make it hard on others. Most of the community is a very welcoming place to be.

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  2. Wow. Great post. I agree, it's just heartbreaking when a writer turns on their own. Like a knight betraying his king. Because let's face it, without this community, none of us would be where we are today. It cherishes us, gives us knowledge, wisdom, and hope in the form of accumulated experience and learning. I, for one, am only twelve, not even a teen yet (though I like to think of me as one :)) and I know way more about writing than I would have if the writing community would have not existed. So, yeah, cheers for that. And thanks, too :).

    What could the writing community use more of? I don't know. Really, I don't. Ever since I started by little journey on the paper (or computer) this has been an awesome experience. One interesting topic, us writers are, even though many of us many be introverts, banks of insight into people. We study them all day, with charts and spreadsheets, and plop them in conflicts and situations and see them hobble their way out. We twist their fate, sometimes giving them a tragic end or the denouement of their dreams. So really, look it that way, not much difference between a writer and an anthropologist. Just something to think about, that has been gnawing at my head for a while.

    Again, awesome post.

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    1. Okay. This comment is just, like, perfect. "We twist their fate, sometimes giving them a tragic end or the denouement of their dreams"? Love it!! (I so had to resist the urge to put that in all caps :P)

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    2. You just made my day :D. Have to say, I was in a bit of a poetic mood when I wrote that :).

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    3. *applause.* You, Jonathan, are very good with your words and I think we all would like to steal your brain for a few moments. Perfect comment for the writer community. :)

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    4. You're a smart cookie, Jonathan! We NEED each other.

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    5. Thanks guys! I'm flattered :). And yes, I'll say it again, we NEED each other far more than anything else.

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    6. Whoa, Jonathan! You are a pretty decent writer for being only twelve. I have to admit, I'm somewhat impressed.

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  3. Consideration is the one that jumped out at me, Shan. I'm shocked by the amount of writers who rip into the Twilight saga like they do. As if the story offends them by simply existing.

    When aspiring writers write shredding reviews, I think it reveals jealousy and an unteachable spirit. Maybe you disagree with the value of a book, but it was published for a reason and, in the case of Twilight, it sold a gazillion copies for a reason.

    Of course it's fine to dislike a book or be baffled by it's popularity, but writers do themselves a disservice when they refuse to learn from bestselling stories.

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    1. I so agree with you here, Steph. Good stuff.

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    2. It's a lot of things, isn't it? Bad manners and inexperience included.

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    3. Mm, good point, Stephanie. I know that I'm guilty of Twilight-bashing, usually not in public or on the Internet, but still... Your comment is making me think. :)

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    4. I'm guilty of it too, Rachelle. Not with Twilight but with an author whose books I'm not a fan of. We all make mistakes and say things we wish we hadn't!

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  4. This is a great post, Shannon! The writing community can be amazingly helpful ... and ridiculously cruel at times.

    I think humility is an important aspect - being humble when it comes to your own work and being willing to receive advice and constructive criticism, but also being humble when you're critiquing or reviewing someone else's work. It's knowing that just because you don't particularly like something doesn't mean it's terribly written and should never have been published, especially when there are a host of other readers who do enjoy it!

    There are so many different styles of writing and so many different ways of telling a story, and just because it's not how you would have done it, doesn't mean it's wrong. Not to say there isn't bad writing out there, but I think a good dose of humility helps when you go to review or critique someone else's work ... or receive a less than stellar critique of your own!

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    1. Humility is so important, Gillian! And hard sometimes! LOL

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    2. Such a good thing to be added to the list, Gillian! We could all use a good dose of humility. It would change the conversation entirely.

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  5. Hm.... I won't be answering that question today, but thanks for the post!

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  6. I love the writing community so much, both on here, GTW, and other blogs. I've met a few really nice writers that have encouraged me so much, and without these writers, I don't think I ever would have finished a novel. Thoughtful dialogue is really important, and I think the writing community is generally really good at fostering it. Also, I love that it's so easy to be mentored and mentor others in the community. I've asked so many questions of other bloggers, and other people have asked so many questions of me, and I love that we all do our best to help each other.

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    1. I want to stand and clap! I'm so glad you've found so many wonderful writerly folks online.

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  7. I'd say kindness, which ties in with what most everyone has been saying. The thing is, people today are so quick to hate. People forget that they're attacking another person, who, if they were face-to-face, they might enjoy talking with. We all need to remember that we're all humans with hopes and dreams and To Do lists and families and jobs and stresses and bills to pay and everything else. We should give each other the benefit of the doubt. And if we can't say anything nice, perhaps it's best to be silent (without pointing out that you're being silent.) ;-)

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    1. YES! It's funny, because I actually had one other point and I decided I'd be quite stern enough so I deleted it. But my point was Intentional Silence. There's a case to be made for wisely staying out of fights we don't understand.

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  8. Wonderful post! I needed to see this today. Don't know why, I just think I really did. :)
    We don't see the author, we see the book or the piece of writing or the idea. Why do you have to hate the entire thing and tear into so everyone can see? For example (and I think Mrs. Morrill said it above) Twilight: I don't particularly like Bella. At all. She doesn't change. But I like the supporting cast, I like that vampires became accesible for younger people who don't like the Dracula model, and I love that Stephanie Meyer wrote incredibly lengthy books that are loved by so many people and reach so far.
    We don't have to say bad things. We have to appreciate good things and remember we're all people. GTW is the only blog for writing that I go to because I see so many places with awful comment threads. Be honest but be encouraging.
    We're all writers, right? We need to watch out for each other.

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    1. "Be honest but encouraging!" That is a fabulous motto to have!

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  9. More people who are honest and yet encouraging. People who don't tell you if something is wrong with your writing are setting you up for pain later. Yet being smacked down isn't good either.

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  10. Fantastic post! And fantastic comments, too!
    I absolutely love the online writing community, but kindness and consideration and support... these are what makes a community a community.

    Sometimes in my pursuit of Better Writing I forget that writing, like food, subjective as well as objective. There are standards by which something is by definition sweet or sour, but ultimately there will be flavors I like and flavors I don't, and that doesn't mean that broccoli is a bad food because *I* don't like it or that cake should never be made or eaten because it doesn't have as much nutritional value as carrot stew. (Yet, to stretch this analogy out even further, sometimes there's poison in the food that will make you sick, and it's not always judgmental to say "This is not okay" about an element of a book. If I think a book portrays a really bad thing in a good light, I'm going to object to it doing so. But I'm getting off point here...)

    One time I found an old Grace Livingston Hill book in my mom's bedroom and started to read it. It, and many of her books, follow the model "A girl has [bad circumstance] until a handsome young man comes into her life and rescues her!". The good characters were flatly good to the core, that bad characters were exaggerated and flatly bad, and I knew where the plot was going from Chapter Two, and if critics called modern Christian fiction preachy, well.... At the time I sneered at it and thought about what a good thing it was writing and perceptions of what makes a good romance have changed. Fast forward to last week, and after getting squicked out over the content of a secular YA book, I see my grandma reading a Grace Livingston Hill book and follow suit. Yeah, everyone's a bit one-dimensional, and sure, the plot is predictable, and all the interior monologue about good character and 'he thoughts' and head hopping aren't advisable in today's market, and yet... I like it. Characters do wonderful things on impulse, chivalry isn't dead, and it's all so delightfully cozy. My observations about the writing haven't changed, but I'm afraid I've irrevocably joined the ranks of Grace Livingston Hill fans. Objectively, it's old fashioned, but subjectively, I love it.

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    1. There is something to be said for books that just do it for us, Miri. I love your take on this.

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  11. Something I wish there was more of, other than what you already mentioned, is humility. I have numerous people within the writing community treat me poorly either because of my age or because they found my writing inferior. I've also seen other people treated this way and it confounds me. Sure, many of use might be each others 'possible' competition, but were also the greatest fans and contributors to others in the writing community.

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  12. Just thinking of the other person before your self. It makes all the difference. We should never willingly put another down.

    Looking through the comments, I saw Stephanie said something about bashing Twilight. I must admit I speak against Twilight and Harry Potter, and such books. Never against the author, or the writing style though. Just the plot. I feel that it is demonic, and that Christians should fill their brains with good things. But that's just my opinion. And I dont want to be somebody that puts those people down.

    I do probably need to be more careful though, and remember that the author is another human being :)

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    1. It does make all the difference, Keturah! :)

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