Wednesday, August 13, 2008

On Crusie's "The Double-Edged Blog"

(Yikes, two posts back-to-back! Is the world ending?)

I just read Jenny Crusie's latest entry on Argh Ink, "The Double-Edged Blog." Jenny's a best-selling author of women's fiction, known for her great sense of humor. She blogs about her works-in-progress, the businesses of writing and publishing, and life in general. She's found that while her blog gives her a chance to express herself freely on topics beyond her writing, it also results in the occasional flame-war from readers who don't like her opinions. She analogizes blogging to a double-edged sword:

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. ...

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 [Mayer, Crusie's co-author on a couple of books] at Thrillerfest to tell him 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.)

I always enjoy Jenny's blog entries, whether or not I share her point-of-view on certain issues. I'm baffled by the people who incite flame-wars because someone has an opinion that differs from theirs. Or, even worse, those who begin online campaigns against a particular writer because they don't like his/her point of view.

Jennie's blog entry is well worth reading, especially for anyone who's had a similar blog-experience. Several of the comments following it are thought-provoking, too.

As Jenny says:

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.


Lana Gramlich said...

Good point. I think some people just have to kvetch, y'know?

Steve Malley said...

It's like being in your car. Some folks, personal space around them makes them feel like they have no impact or consequence, so they behave like children.

In a car, that's not *so* bad. For some, it might even be some kind of therapeutic release to scream into the windshield at other drivers.

The internet, though, that's different. Those wild venting tirades reach others instantly-- and they last, and last and last.

Shauna Roberts said...

I'm with Lana. Some people just seem to enjoy going off half-cocked and making trouble for others.

And some people have hidden agendas. I remember writing an article once—I think it had to do with the American Heart Association's guidelines for healthy eating or something similarly bland—that prompted a virulent letter to the editor attacking me. So I Googled the letter writer and discovered she was president of an association of cattle producers. No wonder she didn't want people eating more fish and less beef. Similarly, some of the responses to Sidney Williams' recent post on his unpleasant trip on Continental Airlines read as if they came from Continental employees hiding their association with the airlines.

cs harris said...

I have to admit, I'm very, very careful when it comes to the topics I choose to blog about. Jenny is a big enough name she can afford to be outspoken and lose a few readers.