I could have titled this entry a lot of different things. Why I Shouldn’t Be Allowed Online Alone or Alienating Writers, Readers, and the WORLD in 140 Characters or LESS! Both spring to mind. But in the end, it really is about context. And, how I handle it (or anything else) is really about perspective.
Earlier today, while I was sitting in my car waiting for one of my kids, I was messaging a friend on Twitter. We were talking about a lot of things, but one of the main topics (of this conversation and maaaaany others) was how neurotic and basically crazy I am. That ALL writers are. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t WRITE. Who would volunteer to have a bunch of characters stomping through their head all day and night, waking them from deep sleep or making them pull over on the side of the road to make notes? Poking our brains at two in the morning. “Did you put that notepad next to your bed? NO? That was foolish. Boot up the laptop. Might as well put some coffee on, because it’s going to be THAT night! You’re welcome! :D” You’d have to be a little crazy to love that. And, I do. I think most writers do. And, not just writers. I’m that kind of reader too. I stay up late, skip meals, ignore phone calls just so I can READ. We don’t just want to enjoy the books we read, we want to LOVE THEM. We want to be absorbed, we want to laugh and cry and feel all the joy and wonder that comes from walking in some character’s shoes for a while. Readers are just like writers in that respect. We are wonderful, gloriously crazy creatures. We are obsessive. We are dedicated. And we are eccentric. We love what we love, we hate what hate—or, better! We sometimes love what we hate, too—and we love to tell the world about it.
SO, anyway… When my friend, a fellow author, was worried that she was coming off as crazy and obsessed with someone in the publishing world she was working with, I told her that her questions/concerns weren’t too crazy and that she should see some of the authors on the message boards because they’re… eccentric. Now, I’m paraphrasing because I have NO IDEA the exact wording. Why? Because I realized SECONDS later that I didn’t send that as a PM, noooooo. NO. That was public! Because I’m just that awesome. Now, if our entire conversation had been public—with or without my realizing it—I wouldn’t have worried a BIT. Everything we talked about was true, a little self-deprecating, a little funny to anyone who’s been there, and—here’s the important part—in context, it was all positive. She was stressed and I made a flippant joke to make her feel better.
Once I realized what I’d done, with my heart pounding so hard it vibrated my seat, I managed to delete the tweet. Despite my shaking hands and the bile rising in my throat.
Context is a big deal. HUGE. It’s a make-or-break thing. 140 characters might not seem like much, but with a little context—or lack thereof, in this case—they can be pretty damning.
But that leads me to perspective. As I was sitting in my car, wishing I had an emergency Xanax rolling around, I was talking to a different friend. She listened and gave all the appropriate “oh nooooo” responses. Then I clicked on a link about something in the news. (Aside: Just me or is the world particularly shitty lately?) Then perspective sank in. I’d messed up—publically, no less—in a pretty bad way, one that could come off as a little dickish. But… I’m not being shot at. I’m not being bombed. I’m not in danger because of my orientation or the color of my skin. My children are fed and healthy and safe. They’re not dead in a street, or a desert, or the trunk of someone’s car. When I look at my life, everything I have to be thankful for, everything I wish I could change about the world, all the hurt and pain... I’ve got it pretty good.
I may be the online version of a klutz who stumbles headlong into a wall while simultaneously flipping a bowl of boiling soup into someone’s crotch, but I’m doing pretty good otherwise. Sorry if you got splashed with my soup fumble, though.
…I guess that’s not the best example. Hot soup to the crotch doesn’t really improve with context.
So, I will forge ahead and stop sweating over every typo or, ya know, public-instead-of-private message, and keep trying to get it right with social media. God help me.
NOW, to keep this blog from becoming the place where I list my sins and mortifying moments, here’s a (very!) little teaser for something I’ve been picking at. I hope to finish it and post it this month. I also hope you’ll be distracted enough by it not to realize what a blundering ass I am. Or at the very least, forgive me for being a blundering ass. >_<