Today I’m going to blog about why it’s a bad idea to blog.
And I’ll try not to write anything controversial.
Which may be a difficult feat for me to pull off because, if you’ve followed my travails, you know that recently I’ve had trouble staying out of hot water. A few months ago, I suspended my own blog because of some unpleasantness. The sad, sordid story, in a nutshell, is this: I wrote a post about a certain author who, upset by a bad Amazon reader review of her book, decided to retaliate against that reader and harassed her on the internet. While I didn’t defend her, I did admit that I completely understood the emotions that might drive an author to behave badly after a nasty review. Hey, we’re human, I wrote. Of course we get angry when our books are attacked, and we fantasize about how we might defend ourselves.
The blogosphere erupted in outrage at my confession. They called for a boycott on my books and accused me of being a washed-up author and the moral equivalent of a crazed stalker. As one angry person pointed out to me, “You are a public person, and you should expect to be attacked when you publicly say such offensive things.”
I retreated into a cave and have not blogged since.
What I’ve learned from this is that, yes, to my amazement, I am indeed a public person, although I never thought of myself that way. It’s hard to think of yourself as a public person when you don’t leave your house for weeks on end. But in truth, every published author is a public person. Our words will be scrutinized. Our opinions will be noted. Attacks on us come with the territory. And writing a blog is like shouting into a big, honking megaphone. While you sip a gin and tonic and type away in your underwear (something I’ve occasionally done, sometimes to my regret), you may feel like you’re having an intimate conversation with your dearest friends. You may feel moved to confess secrets or to rant or whine. But blogs are not intimate conversations. Your words are out there, and I mean out there, and they are being read by certain numbers of Easily Offended People.
Which brings me to the other lesson I learned from my blogging misadventures. There are quite a few Easily Offended People. The problem is, you don’t always know when something you say will be considered offensive. Unfortunately, you only find out after the fact.
Stephen King recently got into trouble when he gave a speech in defense of literacy. If there’s a less offensive topic, I can’t think of it. But during his speech, he wandered a bit off topic and got into trouble with certain Easily Offended People. The end result was that he got slimed on national TV (Fox, of course) as a leftist and a traitor. I happen to know that Steve is a man with a huge heart and he’s a big supporter of the troops, and he felt pretty darn beat-up after this incident. I bet he wasn’t too eager to accept any other speaking gig, even if it were on a topic as uncontroversial as, say, the cuteness of kitty cats. He too probably felt like ducking into a cave.
Another friend of mine is an internationally known singer/songwriter who’s so well known that if I were to name one of his songs, 99 percent of you could probably start singing it. We sometimes get together to talk about finances, fame, and the creative process. “I can talk to you,” he said. “You understand the issues and we can be honest with each other.” But he can’t be open with the public. The more famous he got, the more reclusive he became. Over time, he too retreated into a cave. He’s a brilliant businessman, a superb songwriter, and he knows the music business like no one else. But he doesn’t see the point of publicly sharing his opinions, however valuable they may be to others. It just isn’t worth the possible backlash. “Protect yourself” is his motto. People either want a piece of you, or they just want to find a reason to trash you.
Needless to say, he doesn’t blog.
Ironically enough, the more “public” a person is, the more reclusive they usually become. They end up as cave dwellers who whisper only to other cave dwellers. They may trade secrets and insights with each other, but only with each other. They try to stay out of earshot of Easily Offended People but damn, there are so many of them trying to listen in and make their lives miserable.
It’s taken me a long time to emerge from my own cave. Since my own bad blog experience, I’ve been turning down all speaking engagements and avoiding all conferences. I even grew leery of dropping into out-of-town bookstores, for fear that I’d say something or do something to offend someone. Instead I hung out with my donkeys (who are never offended by anything) and I worked on my manuscript. I rediscovered the joy of being the solitary writer, focused only on the work and not on the noise and hoopla and the occasional mean-spiritedness that goes along with the business.
With this post, I’ve anxiously dipped my toe back in the blogging waters. I’m curious to find out if I’ve managed to offend anyone with this post. And if I have, I swear the topic of my next blog will be limited entirely to the cuteness of kitty cats.