I began this blog because my daughter told me to. She was redesigning my website (some of you may remember the Medea site that came before the current one) and she said, “You need new content and a blog is a good way to get that.” I said, “I don’t know anything about blogs,” and she said, “You’ll learn.” Then I found out that blogs were a chance to say anything I wanted and I was hooked. For awhile, everything was lovely, and then I posted something a lot of people didn’t like. I can’t remember what it was now, but it was the first time somebody said to me, “You know, you should stop blogging, it’s going to hurt your career.” I said, “How is that possible?” and she said, “If they don’t like what you say on your blog, they’ll stop buying your books.” That was incomprehensible to me then, and it’s still puzzling to me now. P.G. Wodehouse did broadcasts for the Nazis, but I’m not giving up Bertie and Jeeves. Georgette Heyer made disparaging comments about her readers but they’ll get my copy of The Grand Sophy when they pry my cold, dead, chocolate-stained fingers from around it. Robert Frost was one of the biggest bastards who ever lived, but “Two Tramps at Mudtime” is still the most beautiful evocation of work and love that I’ve ever read. I don’t want to have lunch with these people, I just want their words. So I shrugged off my friend’s comment and went on blogging.
Then I tripped again, this time because I was thoughtless (this happens a lot). One of my friends got a ludicrous letter from a reader and I posted it with her first name on it. That was flat out wrong of me, and I did apologize and take the name off the blog but basically, I screwed up. First lesson: Never blog when you’re really angry but not admitting it to yourself. Practical application: Wait twenty-four hours before you post something you’ve written.
Then while I was being careful on Argh–well, careful for me–I lost my temper on somebody else’s blog and became The Author Who Is Pro-Plagiarism (because that was more fun for people to get upset about than The Author Who Thinks This Is Being Handled Badly and People Should Stop Author-Bashing Until They Know the Facts). This annoyed some people so much that they’re still mad at me; some of them cornered Bob at Thrillerfest to tell them just how awful I am, as if he didn’t know the black depths of my heart already. And of course, they’re never going to read me again. (Actually my fave comment about the whole mess was on another blog: a reader said she was never going to read me again and then followed it up by saying she’d never read me before either. I kept thinking of the old “Doctor, will I be able to play the piano after my broken arm heals?”/”Of course”/”Funny, I couldn’t play it before” joke, but that’s probably just more evidence of how depraved I am.) After that, I quit the romance blogosphere. There was no point in explaining that I had never said plagiarism was all right since nobody would listen anyway. My words were there if anybody wanted to go back and see what I really said. Life is short and mine is good and that whole mess was just toxic for everybody. Moving on . . .
Then somebody e-mailed me and said, “They’re after X now.” X is a friend of mine. She writes superb books and she had a terrific blog and beyond that, she’s just good people. So I went to see if she needed somebody to hold her coat, and it turned out that she hadn’t caused the kerfluffle, she’d commented on it with a joke and people created a new kerflufle because they were appalled that she’d joke about anything so serious and she must be a horrible person if she thought that was funny and they were, yes, never going to read her books again. So my pal quit blogging, not because she was intimidated by the threats–this is one tough lady–but because life was too short and she didn’t need to blog, it had just been her way of giving back to the writing community. Of course, after that some people said she was wimpy for not staying around so they could kick her again, evidently missing the point that sticking around to get insulted by a bunch of people with no sense of humor had no upside for her.
Which made me think: Who are these people and why are they so upset? I’m not talking about people who disagree with her; people did that without getting personal. In fact, it was the people who thoughtfully disagreed with me on that rabid-reader-criticism post that made me cool my jets and realized I’d gone over the line. I’m talking about the people who said she was malicious, the people who posted they were so disappointed in her, the people who were downright abusive in their reactions. The people who will never read her again, in fact. I’ve been thinking about this for quite awhile, and I think blogging may be at the bottom of all the rage. If you read a lot of an author’s books, you begin to feel that you know him or her (Jane Austen and I would be BFFs, I’m sure of it), but there’s still some distance there. But when an author starts to blog, the distance disappears. She’s putting her thoughts out there, she’s not acting as a character or an authorial voice, she’s saying, “Look, here’s the dog I just adopted” or “Here’s how I write my books,” so she becomes an internet pal, somebody her blog readers know. I think there’s a sense of comradeship there, especially if the author responds in the comments (or as Mollie always says, “WILL YOU STOP COMMENTING ON YOUR OWN BLOG PLEASE”). Which means when the blogger says something that conflicts with the blog reader’s idea of who that author is, there’s real disappointment. Hence all the “I’m so disappointed in you” flack I got from the people who decided I was pro-plagiarism and my pal got from all the people who thought that her joke wasn’t funny. They thought we were better than that.
I think most people just file the disappointment away under Things I Know About That Author without going after her as someone unclean who must be eradicated from publishing blogs or books. But there are some whose disappointment is so great, whose sense of betrayal is so strong, that they stoop to name-calling and vituperation and cornering innocent writing partners at conferences and telling him that he’s guilty by association. These people, I would argue, need to take a step back. I feel strongly that anybody who evaluates the rest of the people in the world by how closely their attitudes and statements agree with her worldview is in danger of structuring a life much like the Alberto Gonzales Justice Department. We don’t learn from the people who agree with us, we learn from the people who make us say, “Wait a minute,” and that learning goes both ways. I learn a lot from the critics who intelligently analyze my books and find them wanting; I’ve also learned a lot from the people who have thoughfully and calmly disagreed with me on this blog. Haven’t learned a thing from the shriekers and condemners, though. And the only thing my pal learned was that blogging was just too expensive a hobby in the balance of her life. I think a lot of people miss her blog; I doubt that she does.
So as my life shifts (and it’s shifting a lot right now), this blog is one of the things I’m looking at because I’m not sure how valuable it is anymore to me or to you, definitely not sure if it’s valuable enough to put up with the hassles. (This is not an attempt to get “No, you’re so PRETTY” comments, by the way. I know I’m darling. The ego is in fine shape here.) I like Bob’s plan of blogging every Tuesday, it gives some shape to the blog, but what if I don’t have anything to say on Tuesday? I like doing the “Twelve Days Of” focused writing series and the blog keeps me honest on those, but I don’t see how they’re valuable to other people. (The Twelve Days of Cleaning My Office, however, I’m very proud of, not only for the offices that got cleaned from inspiration, but for all the people who looked at their offices and felt immensely better.) I’ve thought about writing about the things I’m researching now–alternate fictional structures, amusement parks, the tarot, collaboration, romantic comedy–or reviewing movies and books or anything else that has purpose and possible value for a reader, but I always end up posting rambles about road trips or pictures of the dogs. I seem to have lost my blogging POV which means that Argh is sinking into the Not Really Very Interesting category. Which probably explains why nobody’s told me she’s disappointed in me lately which is another reason to stop blogging: If I’m not doing anything interesting enough for people to disagree with me, why should I waste the virtual ink?
Thus the double-edged sword: If your blogging pleases everybody, you’re probably not adding much to the world. If your blogging pisses people off, they rant about you to everybody who will listen, damaging your rep. It really comes down to how much time, energy, and ego you’re willing to put into something that takes away from your writing time and disrupts your peace of mind, to how much pleasure and usefulness you and the blog readers gain from the effort. Right now, I don’t see me adding much to the world with Argh. So I either need to revamp this blog so it has some shape and content, or retire it for awhile until I get some direction for it.
I’m thinking, I’m thinking.