Noun \prə-ˈfesh-nə-ˌli-zəm, -ˈfe-shə-nə-ˌli-\
the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well
If you spend any time at all online you may have noticed that it seems like everyday it's something else—negativity, questionable social media posts, accusations, jealousy, entitlement. If it's not one thing it's the other, and somewhere along the way the professionalism was lost. Let’s take a few minutes to reflect on what this word actually means, shall we?
Do you have the necessary skills to successfully write a book? It's about so much more than just typing out thousands of words. If you are a writer—or have tried to be a writer—you know this.
For some, writing a book is as easy as turning on his or her computer. The words just seem to flow from their fingertips. For others, it's a process and a struggle to put words on paper, but the need to tell a story is more important than the sleepless nights and carpal tunnel syndrome so they press on. No one is perfect and I have known bestselling authors who’ve received the highest of accolades, who still attend writing workshops, and classes, and accept harsh criticism with grace.
Social media is a fantastic form of communication. It’s a great way for authors to promote their books and an even better way for readers to be able to access their favorite authors. But somehow the focus on the actual books has been diluted down to sad, pathetic version of a high school popularity contest. A cutthroat game of I-can-write-faster-than-you and do-whatever-you-have-to-do-to-sell-books. Which includes but is not limited to: buying reviews, constantly knocking other authors, blatant plagiarism, blackmail, and a sense of self-entitlement that is boggling to the mind.
Writing is my passion. I have to do it—plain and simple. Are my skills perfect? Absolutely not. But I work everyday to better myself—to become as polished and professional as I can because I want to be a career writer. I'm not trying to get rich quick or become the next EL James. Would it be nice? Umm...yeah. But there is a better chance of Ryan Gosling showing up on my doorstep with a bouquet of flowers and confessing his undying love for me.
Anyone willing to stoop to a level that involves scrapping their morals and shoving all ethical sensibility aside begs the question: if it's not about the books, why are you doing it?
If your main goal as an author is to earn a quick buck, or for the notoriety, or just because everyone else is doing it—all terrible reasons—then please step away from the computer. Sadly those three reasons are flooding the market with lackluster attempts at what some of us have worked really hard for. We've spent years developing relationships, honing our skills, and putting our best foot forward so we can be taken seriously as authors. A few bad apples unfortunately do spoil the bunch for a lot of readers. If authors and bloggers are constantly dredging up hate and ugliness or antagonizing and downright harassing anyone and everyone who dares to not love their book or a book they love, readers will eventually step away from this community. Many already have.
My social media tip for the day is this: Stop trying to be everyone's best friend or worst enemy and start focusing on sharpening the skills that you need to be successful as a writer. Stop and think before you post that scathing commentary or knee-jerk reaction that will likely suck the life out of you in a drama-filled online battle of epic proportions. That energy could be used for a far greater good. Attending a workshop on writing or marketing or blogging, perhaps.
Good judgment is a lot like common sense. You either have it or you don't. More and more it's becoming abundantly clear that some, unfortunately, do not. And this is across the board. Authors, bloggers, and readers have demonstrated some exceptionally bad judgment when it comes to online behavior. If you find yourself having to constantly defend you actions, posts, and reasons for why you did or didn't do something, maybe your judgment needs an overhaul. Bullying, stalking, and downright nastiness are taking focus away from the things that truly matter. Integrity, hard work, and, most importantly...wait for it...THE BOOKS!
Maybe the Wi-Fi waves jolting through the atmosphere or the copious amounts of caffeine consumed by writers have officially rendered consciences useless. There has to be some logical reason that people aren't listening to those little voices in their head that say “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
Don't get me wrong, there are many times that I read or hear about an incident in the book community and want to vocalize my opinion, but before I go off half-cocked tweeting my opinion to the world, I take a breath and think about what exactly that would do for my brand. My career. Do I really want to be remembered for the pissy comment I left on Facebook or do I want to be remembered for my work? If you're a writer, who takes your career seriously, the answer should be obvious.
Remember these? You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Treat others as you would like to be treated.
It's sad that these sentiments have to be reiterated to grown ups on a daily basis. Social media is flooded with can't we all just get along's and in with the positivity posts daily in an attempt to combat the constant animosity. The truth of the matter is...some people are just not nice or polite or humble. For whatever reason, it's just not in their nature and that's okay. It takes all kinds of people to make the world go ‘round. The problem with ugly behavior and negativity is that it spreads like a wildfire on a windy day.
Like Nike said, just do it. Soul-sucking enemy having a super successful week? Delete. Plagiarizing wannabe just hit NYT with a ninety-nine cent release making you want to tear out your hair? Delete.
I was taught early on that if you don't like someone stay away from them and Thumper drove home a similar message about keeping your mouth shut if you have nothing nice to say. If every time a person were mad or pissed off or feeling bad they just took a deep breath and instead focused their energy on being thankful for what they do have, maybe the negativity would start to wane. Just a thought. And if we used those good old-fashioned values our mamas taught us, for instance, saying PLEASE, THANK YOU, and YOU'RE WELCOME, the online world would be a much better place to be. Practice humility and being humble even if it doesn’t come naturally. We are solely responsible for the public's perception of us when it comes to what we put out into the virtual universe. Unless your account is hacked, that’s YOU sitting behind that computer using YOUR little fingers to type out those words. I’m all for freedom of speech, but I also have lived long enough to know that if you act like a jackass, you should be prepared to be treated like one.
I once read about someone inviting Mother Teresa to an anti-war rally and she politely declined the invitation. She said, “I will never attend an anti-war rally; if you have a peace promoting rally, invite me.”
Smart lady that Mother Teresa. Wouldn’t we all be able to breathe a little easier online if we promoted what we loved instead of bashing what we hated?
You wrote a book?
Join the club. So did about a million other people. No one owes you anything. No one has to read your book. And if they do read it, they don't have to like it. That's what's great about the free world that we live in—readers can like and not like whatever their little hearts desire. If your skin isn't thick enough to handle it then move along. All a writer can do is send out their work with a hope and prayer that it will resonate with readers on some level. There is no way to force readers to buy/read/promote your books so stop trying and focus on writing something that they won't be able to stop reading/thinking/gushing about.
And, just because you donated a book to the Betty Jo Blog's Nine Million Likes Giveaway she doesn't have to give you a good review if she doesn't like your latest title. Hell, she doesn't even have to say thank you for the donation if she doesn't want to, but hopefully she does because that would be the professional thing to do.
Elizabeth Lee is an author, wife, and mother who lives in the Midwestern United States. She is also a strong advocate for common sense and professionalism both online and off. She can be found online at www.elizabethleewrites.com.