So, I read a thread on Twitter the other day from author C.L. Polk. It discussed the delicate balance of readers interacting with the authors they admire; about how a reader saying, “I can’t wait for your next book,” could actually have negative consequences. Sorta like the same consequences a reader can inflict when they begin to guilt trip an author through social media, especially when they say things like, “Why aren’t you writing!?” in a comment after an author tweets about their latest enter-any-other-aspect-about-life-that-isn’t-writing here.
It’s a point of view I’ve never really considered.
Not the guilt tripping one.
The “I can’t wait for your next book” one.
I’ve been pretty lucky to interact with quite a few of my favorite authors. I met a few at WorldCon a couple of years ago. Especially ever since I started my book review blog, I’ve definitely interacted with authors online more, usually on Twitter. Some really awesome conversations have come out of that. I won’t lie: I get pretty starstruck whenever I’m able to talk to an author who I admire, virtually or otherwise. I’ve said some pretty embarrassing things before, as one is apt to do, when talking with an idol. (Gosh, you can imagine if I’d had the opportunity to meet Tolkien? I’m pretty sure he’d have to learn another language, just to try and understand my fangirling ((not that learning another one would be an issue for him, but you get where I’m coming from))).
That said, I never considered how me talking with an author and saying something like, “I loved your book! I can’t wait for the next one!” might not be seen as encouraging, like my intentions are.
It could actually be just as guilt tripping as someone who blatantly calls out an author for not spending every moment of their life writing, but instead, actually having a life, as well.
I put myself in the role of the author, thinking of Polk’s examples and discussion in her thread. Here I am, having written a book that some people enjoy. Sometimes, they reach out to me and tell me so. But instead of getting elated that they are excited for the next book, I instead feel guilty. Because I haven’t been having a great writing week. Or the deadline is looming and I’m probably going to miss it. Or I’ve been spending a lot of time playing X new favorite video game instead of going over my word count goals for the week. Or I’ve been spending more time with my family than usual, instead of writing. Or I’ve suffering heavily through imposter syndrome. Suddenly, I feel this enormous pressure to not only live up to these new expectations, but also this fear that I’m going to disappoint my readers, because not only do they like my work, but they are waiting for more. Right now.
Thinking of it this way, even though I’m nowhere near close to being published, I can totally see myself doing this; reacting this way.
I think it’s really easy to not think of authors as people but instead see them as celebrities, putting them on pedestals where we idolize their creative prowess, and thus forgetting that they have needs, lives and wants beyond writing the next book we’re waiting for. And they should. They’re people. They’re human. They deserve to have lives, too, and not be guilt tripped as such. And to not be afraid to talk about those other aspects on social media, lest their readers moan about how the sequel isn’t out yet.
I do admit, however, that, depending on the day and my mood, hearing a reader tell me they are excited for my next book to come out would be a huge mood lifter. Perhaps I just read a negative review and it’s encouraging to know someone out there still wants to read more of my work. Or that comment was just the kick in the pants I needed to stop wasting time on Twitter and instead get back to writing.
I can see it both ways, now. Before, I’d never considered how that could be negative and harmful comment, despite the purest intentions. It’s something I’m going to be more conscious of, even though I have no idea how these authors online are feeling at any given moment, so I’m not sure how my comments are going to be received. But I don’t think it hurts to try and be more conscientious, and reminded that just because I intend a comment one way, doesn’t mean it’s always going to be receive in the same manner.