Thou Shalt Not Snark
(This Rule was triggered by a production meeting I attended in Los Angeles where the other two writers on a project were nipping at each other like a pair of chihuahuas.)
Isaac Asimov said in The Foundation Trilogy: “Violence…is the last resort of the incompetent.” I believe this applies to physical and verbal attacks equally.
Since I started writing professionally back in 1986, I’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry. Not so many in the readers and what they want, but still a few. There is, however, one constant, and it’s the one thing that bugs me—and this one really bothers the crap out of me:
The snarking I see between authors not only in one of the several hundred private forums I participate in but even in public settings. Sometimes the attacks are very personal and I can’t help but wonder if these two people just plain hate each other for some reason. If so, perhaps the best solution would be 12 rounds with a three-knockdown rule and no saving by the bell.
But often the snarking is because one of the writers feels that the other (or others) is somehow picking on them. Usually it’s over something trivial like, “I love MS Word [insert version]” and someone else says, “If you don’t use MS Word [insert a different version] then you’re not doing it right!” In this case, both sides need to take a step back and see if they aren’t overreacting a bit.
Bet they are.
Frankly, most of these arguments are because one or the other side is envious (or even full-on jealous) of the other. In more than a few cases, the two sides feel that way about each other. The exact dynamics are, of course, variable and detailed.
But there are two simple facts that apply in all cases…
(1) Both sides need to look at their behavior, act like adults, and stop the nonsense.
(2) The readers (in the public forums) and the other authors (in the private areas) find no end of amusement in the childish behavior of the combatants.
It’s easy to stop…
Unless one person says something like, “And you, Betty-Lou, are a terrible author because you use a lot of split infinitives…”, then do NOT assume the poster is talking about you.
In other words, you are NOT the center of the universe and all creation doesn’t revolve around you.
More to the point, and perhaps more politically correct (not my strong suit), is to actually understand, believe, and apply the concept that everyone finds their own way in this world. Don’t just pay lip service to the idea…you see that a lot, too.
You and the other person will be much happier this way.
In our trivial MS Word example, wouldn’t it be easier for the second person to accept that the first writer does things differently and just move on? By the same token, author #1 needs to understand that what works for them isn’t universal and never can be. There is no need for any disagreement at all.
Unless you either: (A) Are envious (jealous?) of the other person, or (B) Enjoy having a victim mentality hanging out to show the world.
In many cases, the attackee will simply ignore the attacker, and you would think the attacker would just quietly stop the nonsense. Sadly, with authors, that rarely happens because the ego of the attacker will force them to continue to act poorly.
Oh, and remember the bit about the readers and other authors finding it all amusing? Well, also remember that publishers, producers, directors, and a slew of other professionals are likely reading along, too. At some point, the readers and professionals will get tired of the snarking and write one or both of you off as being incompetent kooks.
Problem is neither of you will know it has happened until it’s too late to save your sales.
(Oh, in case you’re wondering, the two writers were arguing because one thought the other was attacking his professionalism because he said, “Wow…all this red ink makes my eyes cross after a while.” And it was the producer who put the red ink on the draft script.)
Wow, are there writers who actually do this? If they’re fourteen I’ll understand, but the rest of us should know how to act like adults.
Sadly, there are still many such children in our ranks.
While I have only my own experience and empirical evidence, it seems that much of the contention comes in the form of disagreement between self (and similar) published versus traditionally published authors who just aren’t happy unless everyone in the world is just like them.
The nonsense can run absolutely amok!!