I've been thinking a lot about sympathy lately, about being kind to people. Treating others kindly is something that makes me happy as a writer. Celebrating with those who meet success, having a heart-to-heart with someone who's walking a tough writing road, and helping newer writers—these are all things that make my own writing journey more fulfilling.
So, I'll be honest, it concerns me when I see people being treated harshly. I'm sure you can think of at least one instance that falls into this category, and it just doesn't give me warm fuzzies. It scares me, even, how easy it is to fall into crowd mentality on the internet. It's so easy to spread a link, to talk about someone you don't know in a poor light (aka: gossip), to leave anonymous, unfair reviews, etc.
I am not above any of this—I have certainly participated here and there, but in the long run I've realized that it makes me feel horrible and sad. Not at all happy. The writing world has its politics, and I've found the less I get involved in them the more productive I am. It's so easy to get sucked in, and I don't think we realize at times how ooky it makes us feel. Some describe these events as "watching a train wreck," as in you can't take your eyes off it. My question: If you're watching that so closely, how are you going to concentrate on your writing?
Maybe I'm just not that great at multi-tasking thoughts. I'm a bit of an obsessor (hello, understatement), so it's either thinking about my story or thinking about something that makes me sad or angry or frustrated. I will take my story, please.
There's been a lot of talk online lately about being nice, but it seems like we sometimes forget that kindness not only is due to the bestseller or the traditionally published or the agent or the editor (aka: the people who can technically advance your career). Personally, I believe kindness is also due to the beginners, the self-published, those in the query trenches, and those who are still learning how to manage this unruly thing we call the publishing industry.
Which is all of us, isn't it?
I've made so many mistakes. My first query was the embodiment of what not to do. I literally did not understand what editing meant for a long time—and I minored in it in college! I've said things I regret. Done things that make me blush or laugh at how naive I was. And I am eternally grateful not to the people who laughed at me, but to the people who took me by the hand and taught me. They helped me understand that sympathy and patience cure much more than mocking. True lessons are given with love.
So I encourage everyone to look outside themselves and see where or who they can help. Giving, helping, sharing, and sympathizing has made me a much happier writer.