Monday, April 26, 2010

What Should You Expose Yourself To?

In case you missed it, this happened over the weekend. [Edited to add: the blog author has, apparently, taken down the offensive post since Sunday, when I wrote this.] A vitriolic response to rejections that led to some pretty nasty name calling of agents who actively try to help instead of hurt new writers. A response that went somewhat viral, thanks in part to the Absolute Write forum calling the writer out. It's a train wreck. I hesitate to point it out, because I don't want her to gain any more fame infamy, but she's not the point of the post, just the source.

What surprised me in reading the comments, though, is that in amongst the intelligent comments of other writers pointing out that the author was shooting herself in the foot professionally and was, frankly, wrong in her assessment of the agents in question, there were a few who seemed to view this hate-filled rant as something positive. They commiserated with the author. They weren't just sympathetic to her feelings...they agreed with her. That response baffled me. Heck, she has around 75 followers who read and comment on her blog dedicated solely to rejection. Sure, the publishing industry is, at times, frustrating and even depressing. But to sling mud at agents who are specifically intent on helping new authors?

Then I happened to stumble upon Seth Godin's blog. One post in particular really moved me to comment about the whole situation:

Expose yourself...

With so many options in media, interaction and venues, you now get to choose what you expose yourself to.

Expose yourself to art, and you'll come to appreciate it and aspire to make it.

...Expose yourself to anger and you might get angry too.

Expose yourself to people making smart decisions and you'll probably learn how to do it as well.

...It's a choice if you want it to be.

It's that last line that really sings: "It's a choice if you want it to be." Because it is. You can choose to follow someone like the author of the vitriolic blog and expose yourself to rejection, despondence, and hopelessness. And you will, in all probability, end up bitter, angry, and vitriolic yourself.

Or you could choose to expose yourself to hope. To agents who care about new authors and try to make them better. To agents who point out your mistakes so you learn to not do them again. To websites that help you be professional. To published authors who always put a positive spin on writing or aspiring authors who seize life's opportunities or aspiring publishing professionals who are always professional or writers who use their blogs to do good for other writers.

You can look at publishing as impossible, a wasted dream, a soul-killing rejection machine.

You can look at publishing as a chance, an opportunity, a challenge.

It is a choice if you want it to be.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
-- Thomas Edison

So, what do YOU expose yourself to? What are your top sources for information, inspiration, and industry?


Danyelle L. said...

Wow! I think sometimes we forget that the Internet isn't a personal thing. I love that idea that we have a choice what we expose ourselves to. We choose what we feel and how we act on it.

I choose to visit places that are uplifting. Not the cotton candy everything is wonderful and nothing ever bad happens kind of places, but places that make me think, that teach me, that lift me to be a little better than I was before. Life is too short for anything else.

Unknown said...

One of my favorite quotes is by Wayne Dyer "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." I absolutely believe that your world reflects the way you view it.

I don't know much about this specific issue, as I was totally enjoying myself at my first big conference this weekend (where I had wonderful interactions with agents, btw), but I suspect this person is very frustrated and may have other issues going on. I hope they find some peace and move past the negativity. Danyelle's right that life is too short.

Karen Strong said...

Wow, I saw that earlier and hoped it was a hoax but it seems that it isn't. I think a hug and a shot of tequila would have taken her off the ledge. Or not.

I don't like drama so when I read blogs that are negative or whining, I never return. I love to visit places that inspire me, give me useful information, or leave me in a better mood when I finish reading.

Life (and writing) is hard enough. Ha.

Anonymous said...

I had seen that blog a few days ago and it astounded me. Really. Singling out the agents who spent their free time and efforts to help aspiring writers when they didn't need too... it's simply appalling.

This is a great post. I agree. Your attitudes can be greatly affected by how you think about things and what you surround yourself with. Why not surround yourself with positive things?

India Drummond said...

I didn't see the original post (it's gone now, it seems), so I can't comment on this particular situation, but I've seen this type of thing happen from time to time. Sometimes in small ways, others it's huge and public and embarrassing.

But yeah, I've stopped following blogs where writers are negative, but also blogs where agents are unprofessional.

Sometimes we don't have enough of a grip on ourselves to realise that our emotions are a choice, but at least we can usually see that our actions are.

Mel Chesley said...

Yes the link is gone. I cannot get to it anywhere. However, at this point I don't want to.

Writers can agree with this person all they want, but if they do, they're shooting themselves in the foot right along with her. Just pass the gun down the line.

We do have a choice and how we react to things is very, very important. Also very easy to lose sight of. I don't think she'll ever get published and hope she's got some sort of back-up plan. She's gonna need it.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

This is a great post, with lots of resources (I love resources!) and you're so right. What we expose our minds and hearts to is definitely important. Wisdom comes in all shapes and sizes, and we have a choice of what we learn from. "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."
And there's also the thought that we need to be careful what sort of energy we're sending out into the world. We could do serious damage to innocent readers, simply by putting a negative spin on their day. Their next post might be a little negative, and then their readers' posts might be negative, and suddenly, the negativity is all over the internet! But what if we use it the opposite way? Then... joy! :)

Lexi said...

I took a look at the blog you refer to. The author says she joined Authonomy, and: I will tell you, I haven't gotten one negative response from this website. Everyone keeps telling me how much they love [my book].

This made me smile wryly. The poor soul hasn't twigged that these days on Authonomy, virtually all comments are gushing, a simple ploy to persuade the gullible to read/back the commenter's book in return.

She should check out the comments left on other people's books.

Christina Farley said...

What a great post. I think it's important to realize that with our blog posts and comments, we are portraying ourselves to the world who we are and what is important to us.

You are so right. What our mind dwells on, we become!

S.A. Larsenッ said...

I expose myself to what's positive and will nourish and motivate me to move forward and grow, not just in my writing but in life in general.

In everything we have a choice, even our attitudes. And that could change everything itself. ";-)

Jemi Fraser said...

Yikes! I'm so glad I missed this whole thing. Life is too short and too precious to spend any of it spreading hate and nonsense. I've found the vast majority of people in the writing community to be incredibly helpful, kind and supportive.

Love the quotes! :)

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Well said.

storyqueen said...

Great post!

You are right, my friend, on all counts.

And the Thomas Edison quote is the best.


Marcia said...

Holy toledo. That other matter what she took down, it wasn't enough. If she wants a career she's got to take down the whole thing NOW. As if enough damage hasn't already been done. I mean, she doesn't think maybe the new people she's subbing to, if her book interests them even a little, are reading...never mind. back to your post.

Yes, what we expose ourselves to is SO important. Unfortunately, a poisonous web presence hurts not only yourself, but those easily tempted to join you in bitterness. Even were the web a safe place for this kind of venting (you can't vent using the technology, people!), even if she vented as privately as possible, the underlying attitude would sink her. Sad.

Kelly Polark said...

You have such awesome posts that make me think, Beth. I can't believe I only recently found your blog in the last few months!
I do believe that if you think positively, more positive things will happen (along with hard work of course). This rejectionist is just bringing negativity upon herself and all who read it.
I loved the link "Expose Yourself". So true.

Shannon said...

Excellent post.

For me, my Internet relationships are no different than real life relationships. It's never a good idea to allow toxic people into your life.

Speaking of the positive, I'm sorry for not following your blog sooner - I thought I was following.

PJ Hoover said...

*thanks Beth*

Even amid all the rejection spam of that blog, you made my day :)

I heard somewhere once that we should always work like we live in a fishbowl and are being watched and the quality of our work will improve. Ditto the rest of our lives. If we consider that everything is public and work within that domain, then it improves the quality of our attitude.

B. Miller said...

What a great post! I continually surround myself with positivity and encouragement through the wonderful blogging community! It's definitely a choice, though. I know how easy it is to give in to negativity and I do my best to stay away from it as much as I can!

Thanks for this entry! You said a lot of things I've been thinking lately.

Bish Denham said...

Oh a most excellent post! I choose to surround myself with as much positive stuff as I can because I know I can get misanthopic and that way leads to the La Brea Tar Pits. I've been stuck there, once, and I don't want to get stuck there every again. I have to look for hope, seek it out, or I would get too depressed.


Yat-Yee said...

I've learned the hard way that associating with anyone whose outlook tends toward the bitter, the negative, the angry, the self-styled martyr will take even the best in life and turn it nasty.

Thanks for your hope-filled attitude.

Alix said...

Wonderful post and wonderful quotes. When you're feeling bad you sometimes want to have a moan with other people but it's so much better to go and read something positive and uplifting and to find a way to turn a bad situation around.

As many others have said life is just too short.

Shannon Morgan said...

I try to surround myself (when I want company) with positive, constructive people. I don't like being around people who thrive on drama (especially if they create their own) or gossip. What wastes of energy those activities are!

lotusgirl said...

Great post. I'm glad you point out that we control how we react to rejection. I've been rejected. Does it help me at all to attack the agents who rejected me? No. The best thing for me to do is attack my work and ask what I can do to improve it. That's what I've been working on, and it has helped. Hopefully soon I'll find an agent who can get passionate about it, but for now rewriting is the thing.

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

Truly inspirational post, Beth. I love this. I have no idea what this blog is that you're referring to, but I'm glad I haven't stumbled across it. Rejections are hard enough without having others fuel anger on top of sadness. But rejection is a part of this business--every business. I think the hardest thing about rejection in publishing is that it feels so personal. We pour our hearts and souls into our writing--yet like any business, wanting is not getting, but DOING might give you a chance. Complaining? It only ever backfires. Complaining publically? Gads, that's just madness, and pretty dang ugly.

So glad I saw your post today. Well said.

Unknown said...

I can imagine that the journey to publication is a frustrating process. What am I saying - I know it is. I got to witness the sadness on my mom's face every time she got another letter rejecting the work she had put her heart and soul into.

The only thing that I imagine would be more frustrating would be having that door slammed in your face forever. That is essentially what that woman did (found a cached copy of the post in question). It may have stunk getting told no a few times, but hearing the crash and burn of your writing career as the smoke burns your eyes? That's got to be worse. Why would you do that to yourself?

I fully agree that what you expose yourself to has an impact on the person you can become. I don't watch angry, violent movies anymore because they don't make me feel happy. I have a hard time watching horror films because they make me scared. The same thing goes for books. I don't want those emotions so I keep myself away from them. I also have distanced myself from personal influences that just seem to ooze drama from every pour. I can't help but think that if I could surround myself with happiness, light, and kittens all day, I would feel that in my heart.

Robin L said...

I browse the internet with the mantra Protect the work firmly running through my head. I steer clear of anything with too much negativity or drama (the blog mentioned in your post today would absolutely qualify!) or makes me doubt my own work, or makes me feel somehow "less"or as if I am not part of a very exclusive clique.

I adore sites that talk about books in a way we can learn from without tearing down (your recent discussion on love triangles being an excellent example!) or discusses craft or all around human-ness.

As I recently talked about over on Shrinking Violets, I have just radically reconsidered and rethought all the blogs and websites I was visiting. I think as we move through different stages of our careers, we will need different things from the internet and protect the work will also take on different meanings.

And I'm beginning to think that all blogging platforms need to include a warning in big, block letters when people first sign up to blog: Editors and Agents DO check the web to see what sort of person you are. :-}

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I so love that quote! Exposing yourself is exactly that - a risk, a chance, and why would you want to let the poison in? I need all the uplift I can get. I'm drawn like a moth to people who are successful, positive, warm and encouraging. Because that's who I want to be.

Plus they're just more fun.

Carolyn V. said...

Beth, I think I saw that post (from that angry author) before many were commenting on it. I was a little taken back. It's true, we need to watch what we say in the internet. You never know who may be reading.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Yay! What a wonderful post and a wonderful message, Beth! I choose to expose myself only to positive information. The world has enough ugly in it all by itself. I refuse to seek it out or absorb it willingly. :-)

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Positive thinking! This is a great post, Beth. Thank you!

Karen Lange said...

Appreciate this, thank you.

Ann Marie Wraight said...

Absolutely agree with you 100% Beth!!! Superbly argued.

Life is pretty difficuly all on its own. I choose to expose myself only to positive influences in my life now. I rarely watch TV anymore and most of my social life is done via email, internet and so on. I have even distanced myself from one or two so-called friends who only wanted to put me down.

I also expose myself to my husband - but only at night and I DO have a wedding ring after all...!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I had no idea about the blog. I do try to read positive blogs and help other starting bloggers and aspiring authors by reading and commenting on their blogs. I agree totally with you. We have a choice on what we read and say on the Internet.
I already spend too much time on blogs given that I work so I don't want to spend it on negativity.

Unknown said...

Absolutely fabulous post. "You are what you eat" was an expression I heard a lot growing up and I think it applies here: "You are what you read, listen to, and choose to react to". I read that poor, deluded author's attack on agents (and personally naming them? OMG!!) and was horrified by it.

It's all about the glass being half full.

Tyhitia Green said...

Wow. I expose myself to great established authors, debut authors, fellow writers, agents, publishers, writing groups/sites. When I read negative things from aspiring or etablished writers, I don't comment and move on. Misery loves company.

Thanks for sharing this, Beth.

Miriam Forster said...

Sometimes I go to sites like that to laugh. (yes, I am evil) But I don't stay long, or go often for precisely the reason you stated. It gets too depressing.

Mostly I just wonder, is this going to make them a better writer? Does dwelling on the negitive sides of publishing and rejections going to help them WRITE? Probably not.

And that's my criteria. If it takes energy away from my writing, it doesn't stay around long. :)

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

Great post! I completely agree. And I just wanted to say congrats! I just read your interview on Miss Snark's site. Thanks for sharing your story!

Now...just rub off some of that success on me! =)

Christina Lee said...

GOOD stuff, Beth! I saw that post and wonder (hope) that she learned a valuable LIFE lesson.

Theresa Milstein said...

I heard about this on this post:

It's such a shame when people lash out at the people who are trying to help them. If our manuscripts aren't ready, they aren't ready. If our queries our sub-par or it's not a right fit, or whatever, we're going to receive rejections.

Anonymous said...

I choose postive.
I choose uplifting.
I choose to believe in the best of people.

That is my choice and even when the world calls me naive for it, I will continue to choose it. Even one small light pierces darkness.

Angelique said...

I love this. It applies to everything really, not just online experience. I have (had) a friend I had to let go because she was filled with so much negativity it started affecting my own outlook and perceptions.
I choose to surround myself with love, positivity, and kindness...

Myrna Foster said...

I love that quote by Edison. This is a fantastic post and discussion, Beth. Thank you for providing positive experiences on your blog.

BTW - I enjoyed your interview with Authoress.

Keri Mikulski said...

So true.. With the Internet, there are so many chances for negativity. But, it's a choice. :) Love this post, Beth. Kudos.