I’ve been following the post over at Dear Author called What It Means to Be a Fan. I’ve read all the comments, many of which are thoughtful and well-considered. But I’m really not interested in the minute gradiations that separate fan from fangirl from fangrrrl to rabid fangirl and so on. It’s the comments more than the post itself that gave me food for thought. So rather than post a long rambling comment over there, I’m going to do it here. (I know, right? Cue the trumpets.)
Anyhow, Azteclady posted this: “You know, I think I’m more likely to become a fangrrrrrl of a writer who can, himself*, separate his* writing from his* identity as a person.”
That’s what I’m going to talk about today. I’m pretty sure I’ve touched on this before, but some things bear repeating. Some authors appear incapable of distinguishing criticism of their written words from personal attack. But I can’t stress enough how wrong that is. A book is not a person; it doesn’t have feelings to hurt. The author does. Duh, right?
But I’ve been surprised at how many authors take comments about their work very personally. I seldom come right out and say something is wrong — I’m a big one for live and let live — but look, this is asshattedness in the first degree. Just because someone doesn’t like something you wrote, that doesn’t mean they don’t like you. It doesn’t mean they’re making a value judgment about your intellect, hygiene, personal appearance, lifestyle or anything else.
Now sometimes readers do cross the line, and start making fun of somebody’s Glamour Shots author photo, the way her husband looks, her old-fashioned hairdo, or her weight. Those are personal attacks. No doubt about it. Unfortunately, as authors with something to sell, we have to show restraint in public and just let shit like that go.
But as long as the reader / reviewer is talking about the book, it’s not a personal attack. I don’t care how much you love the freakin’ thing, if it’s the story of your heart, or you overcame some fierce disability to finish / publish it. Does. Not. Matter.
And you know what? I just don’t have any sympathy for authors who complain readers are mean. How come? you might ask. Well, it’s like this — without those readers, we wouldn’t have jobs. Their money has enabled us to realize our lifelong dream of being published. No, we don’t have to kiss ass or agree with everything they say. Absolutely not. But we do owe it to ourselves to behave in a polite, professional manner.
Now I don’t know if all readers differentiate between being a fan of a certain book and a fan of an author. I’m sure for some people, it’s pretty much interchangeable. I know I have a tendency to want to believe that the person who wrote words that rocked my socks is also the coolest human on the planet. Thing is, if we start with positive expectation — our readers expect us to be smart, kind human beings — why not try to live up to it?
Yes, we’re all human, and nobody’s perfect, but it seems like a waste of time and effort to invest in this us vs them mentality. After all, aren’t we all in it for the books? People brought together by a common love for the written word can’t be so far apart, can they?
I welcome your thoughts on the matter.