Monday, May 3, 2010

Writer's Remorse

My mom bought a car recently.

She was just supposed to be looking, but we all know how that goes. She had never bought a car before, either-- my dad always used to buy them for the family, and she's been driving the same car for thirteen years now. 209,000 miles on it, but it was starting to fall apart.

She found a car she really liked at one place, but then we went to another dealer anyway, (because she was just supposed to be looking), and the first car they showed her wiggled its way from "Hey, that's pretty nice" to "Okay, I'll take it."

When I left to meet my fiance for dinner, she was getting ready to sign the papers.

After we were done with dinner a few hours later, I gave her a call to see how everything went, and at first I was worried something had gone wrong with the deal because she didn't sound happy when she picked up the phone.

"Did you get the car?"

"Yeah, I got it."

"You don't sound very happy."

"I know . . . I'm having a hard time getting excited about it because of the money, and because I hated leaving my old car there."

And this, I completely understand. See, every single time I've bought a car (all three times so far), I have instantly and immediately felt some sort of panic right after. Perhaps it's the money you're spending-- is it worth it? Did you get a good deal?

Or perhaps it's the commitment-- depending on the terms (I always buy), it could be five or six years before it's really yours. Or if you're buying it with someone-- what if something goes wrong?

Or perhaps it's the what-ifs-- what if I found something else I liked more, for cheaper, somewhere else? (To be fair, most of the what-ifs can be tempered by doing your research).

It was the same way when we bought our house a year ago, but that was tempered by the fact that I work in real estate, and I knew it was the best time to buy.

And I, too, have felt bad about getting rid of an old car to make way for a new one.

The remorse always goes away in a week or two, tops. And my mom has never been through it before for a car, so I can understand that it's a powerful feeling for her. I know in the long run though, a new car is the right choice.

So, what does this have to do with writing? Excellent question-- I'm glad you asked. As writers, we don't have the opportunity to feel much remorse. In fact, we have the ultimate situation for certainty-- we get to ponder every word, every minute instance in our work, until we're satisfied. If something doesn't work, it's a matter of selecting and deleting.

Now, I've never been published in the traditional sense. So I'm not certain if there's remorse that comes along with having something of yours in print, with your name on it. But, I do know that the internet is a powerful and mystical place, one that can sometimes be dangerous for writers.

And here, especially if you're trying to get published, here is the MOST IMPORTANT PLACE to have your game face on. It's fine to be on Twitter, and Facebook, and Blogger all day, saying whatever comes to mind, as long as you remember that anything anyone posts on the internet, ever, is there-- forever. Even if you delete your remarks and account, the friendly folks at Google archive the entire internet on a regular basis and have been doing so for quite some time. There's a good chance that if an agent or an editor or even someday a reader googles your name, they can find everything you've ever written online.

Remember that trying to be published-- and being published-- is a business endeavor. It feels personal, because it's artistic. But it really is a business. Don't show up to the interview in your PJ's with Saturday-night bedhead and especially don't forget to brush your teeth. No one likes skanky morning breath in the interview.

And I can certainly understand the temptation to spew vitriol online. Sometimes, we just want to vent. We're human; we feel emotion. Rejection is always frustrating and personal, no matter how professional you are. And I honestly don't think I need to talk anyone reading this down from the ledge, but it merits saying anyway. I won't post a link because I really don't want to start somethin', but there was an incident recently on a blog where an author called out several well-known agents for rejecting her. And by called out, I mean called some very nice people some absolutely horrendous names because they had chosen not to represent her. After the backlash, she deleted the post because she "didn't want the drama." The comments everywhere on her blog were full of supportive, anonymous commenters. I have my suspicions.

Unfortunately, I don't think that writer uses her real name on her blog, so she probably won't see any real life consequences. But I don't know for certain, and I certainly don't have any respect for her blog.

My point today? Everything you say and do here is recorded, somewhere. Treat the internet like it's a private conversation that everyone can hear, and be professional. The consequences-- and remorse-- from here may never go away.


Matthew Delman said...

Couldn't have said it better myself.

fairyhedgehog said...

I've been building up what I think is a very friendly presence online for years now - and none of it will be any good if I ever got anything published!

I didn't use my real name, because I wanted to keep my hobbies separate from my professional life as a counsellor. Oh dear.

L. T. Host said...

Fairyhedgehog-- you have a good point; and an important one. Anonymity is available on the internet, and that's not a choice we usually get in real life.

I still advocate being careful, though, because if someone really wants to find you, even if you've been anonymous, they can and will-- I've seen it happen.

Also like I said, it's not like I think anyone actually reading this needs the advice. It's a pity that's how it goes... the people who need to hear it won't ever read it.

fairyhedgehog said...

The trouble is, I like my fairyhedgehog persona and I can't use it in real life because I took the name from a Terry Pratchett book in the first place! Never mind.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

L.T. wonderful post, as usual!

And fairyhedgehog brings up an interesting point about name recognition. For authors, their name is their brand, and all that blogging, tweeting, whatever goes into that tally for or against your brand.

I've blogged under my name (except for throwing Bane for a loop by adding in my middle name!), mostly because I was pretty sure I could conduct myself well, having had practice in other areas.

I would love to see an post on author branding sometime, if anyone is interested in writing one! :)

L. T. Host said...

Susan-- Totally. My name is mostly my own (though it won't be after October) but I still intend to write under it. I've spent time building my brand, as it were.

And thanks for the suggestion-- we'll definitely share what we can on author branding!

Stephanie Thornton said...

Ohhh... I feel remorse when I cut scenes sometimes. I love them, but they have to go. And it's sad. But then, like the old car, I feel better pretty soon after.

dolorah said...

I use my real name on-line for several reasons. Foremost being I want to be known for who I am.

With that said, I know the persona I project probably isn't ME perfected, but someone I wouldn't mind admitting to if I ever had my 15 minutes of fame.

Rejection is just a part of the process; and Agents and Publishers have their role in the writer's life. When I started my own blog, and began commenting on other blogs, I knew my words could one day come back to haunt me.

Professionals aside, why associate with a community you don't respect?

Everyone gets impulsive, has strong opinions, but to bash someone you may want a professional relationship with in the future (bloggers are prospective professionals in my book) just seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face. My Dad taught me that one. Cliche sometimes works best.

This was a very thoughtful post LT. An excellent reminder we should all be conscientous in the personalities we want to be associated with.


Davin Malasarn said...

Great post! Several years ago, I did end up getting something published online (one of my first published stories) that I was completely embarrassed about shortly after. That taught me the lesson you're talking about here. I'm much less anxious to get something published. I do feel now that I'd rather wait to produce something I'm proud of than to publish the first thing that I can get accepted.

L. T. Host said...

Stephanie-- yeah, I still usually save that stuff, haha. It's gone but not forever that way. Plus, maybe I can use bits and pieces of it later. But it's always hard to take it out.

Donna-- my feelings exactly. Though in the case of the particular writer I mentioned in the post, it seems there are quite a few people out there who view agents as a necessary evil in publishing; keeping them from their goal. That's not the case at all. Agents are there to help, and they know the industry. But some writers would rather attack them then accept that their work may not be up to par.

Your online persona is just fine, in my opinion. Something you can be proud of.

Davin-- that would be an interesting side effect of remorse, haha: patience.

In all seriousness though, I think that's the root reason I avoid attempting to publish anything but my blogs and my novels, at least under this name. I have some anonymous copy writing out there somewhere, but it doesn't come back to me, so I don't really have any emotion tied to it.

Anonymous said...

Sure, I know that Google archives everything (it's how I get around the work firewall to read older blog posts), but if agents look me up, I'm hoping they'll get a good chuckle from the trail I've left around the blogosphere and twitterverse. And if they don't like my brand of humor? Well... I don't care.

(Ooh! I have an attitude today! I'm not even drinking, either. Yet.)

What'll sell my work isn't my demeanor online (though I try to keep it appropriate... or at least humorously inappropriate), but my writing. They're not even going to look me up online unless I've written something worthwhile. Always, the writing comes first.

Speaking of which, why did I waste so much time on Twitter today? Huh.

L. T. Host said...

Simon-- it's not so much that you can't have a sense of humor, it's more that if you called a prominent agent a b&^$@ on your blog, chances are she would not represent you. And neither would other agents who found that entry, because who wants to work with an author that volatile?

I agree on the writing. Part of this particular author's premise was that they post their rejections for the world to see, along with alleged requests for partials and fulls. Which means allegedly, their writing is good enough for agents to be interested in pursuing them further. Which might involve googling. Etc.

Also, it's not just before you have an agent. Once you have an agent, they will look at your platform to make sure when an editor looks for you, you haven't done anything that will smear your rep before they even start.

Sorry for the tangent, I just saw your comment as an excuse to clarify what I said in the post, haha.

And I've been wasting quite a lot of time on Twitter today myself, so I can't really help you there. :)