WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
These are difficult times. We’re all experiencing them. So tempers are high, our patience is razor thin, and we’re more apt to fire off irritated or even nasty emails a lot quicker than perhaps we normally would.
That’s my stab at saying, I’m doing my best to keep a healthy attitude about some of the emails I’ve received lately. And I’m sitting on my hands to stay above the fray and not snip back and nip some snipers.
Let me share with you some of these received lately that are most telling about where we are collectively.
First came one from a writer who was ticked off that my articles were coming through with weird characters on a group list who likes reading the articles, has learned a lot from them, but now considers them “almost more trouble to read than they’re worth.”
When first notified of this weird character challenge, I changed and uploaded the articles in pdf format. That nixed the problem. But then came the complaint from a writer who was ticked off that I hadn’t gone back and redone all of the articles in my library in pdf format.
On the receiving end of this, my first response was, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” But it was apparent that this writer was not kidding, so I simply thanked the writer for the note and explained that I’ve been doing these articles for nearly two decades. If I went back and reformatted them all, I’d be out of time on doing anything new for a long, long time. And since I write books for a living, that means I’d get awfully hungry–and pretty much be homeless, too. So unless a volunteer, or several of them, stepped forward to convert the old articles, I’m afraid that was asking for more than I can do.
Now I’m sitting here, and the more I think on it, the more I’m shaking my head.
About ten or so years ago, I started Aids4Writers, a program where I share what I know and attempt to help others by answering questions, sharing my notes on lectures and workshops, and that type of thing. These others include authors, agents, editors, and other industry professionals. I don’t know it all–never did, never will–so often to answer questions, I have to seek answers, which requires an additional investment of my time.
I considered that a worthy investment. Doing good for goodness’ sake was the goal. And it was to last one year. This was part of my annual self-improvement program, you see. At the end of the year, those in it asked me to continue and so I have. Often, I spend the lion’s share of my workday answering questions for others. That’s my choice and not significant to anyone else, but considering it is my life I’m talking about, it is significant to me. Aids4Writers became Writers Zone–a name change out of respect for a subscriber.
Anyway, I write these articles, post them, sharing what I can. I’ve learned a lot doing them, so it’s been a win/win situation. When the crazy characters started inserting, I switched to the pdf files, which takes longer for me to prepare, but it was worth the extra time because it did solve the challenge.
Now, I do not charge fees for these articles. I share what I can because I can. That’s the sum of the program. No one is required to read them, though many universities and colleges and some high schools have used them in course studies. Other authors have used them to teach at their writer’s groups, critique group meetings and/or organizational meetings. Many have reprinted, many have asked and received permission to build workshops around the articles.
In other words, the articles are there at no cost to anyone but me for those who want them. And those who don’t care to read them, or find it too troublesome to do so are free not to read them. No one is exerting force.
Which raises the question in my mind of why anyone would or should feel compelled to smack on an insult for offering the articles. Read or don’t read them. But smacking with a personal insult for not offering them for free in the way you feel they should be offered to make life most convenient for you? That’s just odd. (It’s admittedly interesting, too. This sense of owing and entitlement where none exists. Why is that? I don’t know, but I’m going to study on the matter for purposes of characterization. It’s worth exploring.)
If the challenge stopped there, frankly, I’d ignore it. Times are tough, people are sensitive, and some are stressed to the max. But it doesn’t stop there. I got the emails regarding the crazy characters, then changed to pdfs so there weren’t any, and then got emails from those who dislike the pdfs.
Then there are the objections to my policy of not allowing others to snip portions of the articles and repost them elsewhere without permission–a policy I enacted as a direct result of having portions of my articles taken out of context. We’ve all been taken out of context now and then and know the challenges it can cause.
And then there are those who email upset because they can’t copy and/or print the articles–which I had to do to keep them off porn and spam sites with whom I do not want to be associated. (Students from middle school through college as well as adults use these articles. And of course, I don’t want to be associated with those types of sites.)
Then are the emails from those who are upset and/or angry because I no longer post an article a day, as I did for many years. (There’s that sense of entitlement again. See? It is interesting, isn’t it?)
In other words, it appears that some people are or have been upset about an awful lot of things that another person does for them as a good-will gesture. It appears–that’s key to recall for a second.
Another recent blasting received–and I don’t use the term blasting lightly–was an accusatory note that the Writers’ Zone program was simply a scheme crafted to sell my books.
Now, friends, let me tell you how hard I laughed on that one. I still chuckle every time I think of it. It is insulting, yes, but it also shows that the writer who wrote it is on totally unfamiliar ground at doing something for goodness’ sake. Writing articles–no matter how long you do it–does not sell novels. I hear from tons of people all the time who have been faithful readers of my articles for many years and still have never read a single one of my books.
So anyone considering that Writers’ Zone program to help writers, or the Edna Sampson Persistence Award, or the Edna Sampson Award of Excellence–all of which I started, sponsor or co-sponsor and have for years–is anything more than me reaching out to help other writers is wrong. Wrong and woefully out of touch.
Writers’ Zone is me keeping a promise to myself to share what I can. It was a promise borne of frustration. When I started writing, I knew no other writers and would spend days looking up the simplest answers. When my annual self-improvement time came around, I thought okay, share. Keep someone else from spending days frustrated. And so I did. And have.
The Edna Sampson Persistence Award was borne of a personal understanding of how hard a writer must work to become published. It took me six years. I know how hard it is to stay disciplined when the only person in the world who cares if you write is you. Edna was my mother. She loved books, loved writers. And she encouraged. I wanted to extend a hand to those enduring that hard time. To encourage others to persist and not give up on their dream.
The Edna Sampson Award of Excellence is co-sponsored by three authors: Elizabeth Sinclair, Cheryl Norman and me. Why? Because we wanted to in a competition setting honor new authors for striving to produce high quality work. These are unpublished authors who have completed a work. We want to encourage them by sharing our opinion and letting them know that in the competing works, their work excelled.
Helping others and fostering their dreams has been the root of the entire cluster of programs. Pretty nefarious motives, eh? 🙂
Over the years, I’ve been asked, “Why do you waste your time with all this? Why do you do it? What do you get?”
Where do all these suspicious natures come from? There are tons of people who do good for goodness’ sake around. Tons of them! Yet with some suspicion remains. So let me bust a few myths.
Comment/Question: “You do this to sell books.”
Answer: If I did, I’d have quit the programs and writing articles a very long time ago. People who read articles don’t necessarily read my books. That is a fact. Some do read my books, but unless they mention it to me, I have no idea who does or doesn’t. The bottom line is this is not a quid pro quo situation. You do for the sake of doing. Those who want/need it, get it. It’s that simple.
Comment/Question: “Why do you waste your time with all this? Why do you do it?”
I don’t waste time, so obviously if I considered these programs a waste of time, I wouldn’t do them. I consider it a wise investment–investing in others is a privilege, a good thing. We all need someone to believe in us. Someone to mentor and take an interest and help foster our dreams. I can do that, and I consider it worthy thing to do.
The payback isn’t material, but that doesn’t mean it’s without value. Some invest and feel used when others don’t buy their books and support them after having given support. I understand that, but I don’t share that feeling. I look at authors I’ve mentored enjoying successful careers, writing books infused with purpose, and I feel joy. That’s a blessing.
I start my day every day of my life praying to be a blessing to someone that day. How could I not do this? Not share? Not offer what I can–which at times is woefully inadequate, but at times is enough?
Question/Comment: “What do you get?
It isn’t fortune or fame, that’s for sure. But it is satisfaction in having stated a goal I consider worthy and purposeful, working toward it, sticking with it, and at times seeing some good come from it.
Maybe that seems like it’s too little to some, but it’s been more than enough for me.
Being brutally honest, I admit that at times–like when I get snippy emails and complaints or nasty notes, I do wonder why I put myself through it. I could write another book a year in the time I invest. And I’m not talking about notes informing me of a problem; none of this is about those kind of notes. I’m talking about nasty, testy notes. Those are irksome for a minute or two. But truthfully, I have to say that the irritant wears off fast. Why? How?
Because I also get other notes. At times tons of them. These notes say thanks for helping me hold on, for being there through this or that challenge, for just offering the most simple support on something totally unrelated to writing but deeply related to life. And I know that the cranky stuff is just an expression of frustration–which might or might not be related to me or my articles, but mine is a safe place to unload some stress.
Since I get my fair share of stress, too, what I would ask is that before that cranky, nasty email to me is ready to go and its author hits “Send,” just pause a second and ask if it’s a “dump some stress” note. If it is, then for pity’s sake say so in the subject header.
It’ll give me a head’s up to read it right away–and to read it with a different mindset. One that’s focused on seeing if there’s anything that can be done to help. That, after all, is at the heart of doing something for goodness’ sake.
And I don’t mind saying it’d be an added perk on this receiver’s end to be spared shaking my head and muttering, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Those closest around me would appreciate that. They’re not accustomed to me muttering and it rattles them. 🙂
Most importantly, remember that while we’re in tough times, times won’t always be tough. This season, too, shall pass.
P.S. Apologies for the absence of a pdf today. I have the angels coming and just don’t have the spare time to convert!