Don’t Light Yourself on Fire

It’s a bad idea and you will get hurt. The end.

Just kidding I wouldn’t do that to you.

After finding my way to Writer Twitter (TM) a little over a year ago, it has paid off in dividends. I’ve taken risks. I’ve improved my craft. I brainstorm ideas with other wise and brilliant minds. Being social allows me to vent my frustrations and have a dozen other people commiserate. I’m always learning about the business of writing and publishing and marketing. Honestly? It’s fun. 

I like connecting with other authors because writing is a solitary experience. I can only develop and understand my characters and my plot on my own. I have to put in the work and the time and then have my little gem of a character decide to do something awesome, like steal a police car and force me to get him out of that situation. And non-writers, love ya, but you just don’t understand what that means. But my writer friends do. I see you nodding over there.

But there’s a downside to this. An ugly side. A breathtakingly careless and embarrassing side. It comes in the form of the kind of person who thinks they’re far more important than they are, who douse themselves in gasoline and light themselves on fire in a public forum, then clutch their pearls when the community rejects them entirely.

Like the packs of ants floating around in the floodwaters in Houston after the hurricane, people with similar interests and values can gang up on someone on social media. It’s easier on Twitter, with a looser, more engagement-based platform that demands conversation. The fire brand isn’t an innocent getting attacked by the hoards on Twitter. These are the arsonists who burn the building down and wonder why the fire department would show up to ruin all their joy.

I don’t want these people to get any more attention than they already do, so I’ll call them Fettuccine, The, and Mister Misandry. A few folks who thought volleying a horrible idea, then hulk-smashing it into the ground was going to get them insta-fame. From being smug about trademarking a common word and threatening litigation against other writers, to insisting a bad joke was being received unfairly, to a messy manifesto about how mean the publishing industry is to men, I’ve watched in both horror and fascination as they sailed past the point of surrender to doubling, tripling, and quadrupling down and burning whatever career they had to ashes. They won’t apologize. They don’t think they have to. How dare anyone question them. Those mean internet people.

Someone once told me social media is a shrine to ourselves. It’s what we want people to see, the good angles and the filters and well thought out pithy comment. We thrive on likes and comments and attention. Makes us feel good. But sometimes we forget this is our digital neighborhood, and sometimes you got to take the trash to the curb. Standing out for the wrong reasons is not a bold stance against “haters.” It’s sad. And embarrassing. And I feel sorry for you.

A little shame and humility go a long way. There’s no reason to be boxed out of a community that celebrates writing and creativity by your own making. In the end, it’s not about sales, or algorithms, or being so outrageous everyone sees you like a car accident they can’t stop watching. It’s about you.

Fettuccine, The, and Mister Misandry, I’m sorry you felt this was the only way you could feel seen in a world where you have to compete and strive to get a fragment of attention. I wish you had more people in your orbit who came with a fire extinguisher and saved you from yourselves. So much in life can’t be done alone, and this is no exception.

Be a good steward of your talent, help give other people a boost, and please, please, please, for the love of god don’t make a one and a half hour YouTube video about the meanies and haters. The internet never forgets. And its users keep receipts.


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