A few links for the end of the week

Dealing with readers who don’t get it

Face palm Decades ago, Harlan Ellison did a public reading of short story of his that was slated to be published in a major magazine. The reaction of the audience was very favourable. They all liked it. All of them, except for one young man.

Said young man pointed out that the story sounded a lot like the myth of Prometheus and that Ellison shouldn’t have copied it. Ellison tried to explain that 1) he was familiar with the myth in question, and 2) the story was a pastiche of that myth. But the young man persisted and, eventually, caused Ellison a bit of grief with his editor at the magazine.

It’s obvious that young man just didn’t get it.

As writers, we all run into readers like that from time to time.

Readers who don’t understand an allusion. Readers over whose head a turn of phrase flies. Readers who take some things a bit too literally. Ones who don’t understand the purpose of a pastiche or an homage. Readers who pick every little nit while missing the main thrust of a story or an article.

At the risk of offending some people, I’ll be brutally honest: I find readers like that to be a bit annoying. Sometimes, more than a bit. I, and you, can’t do anything about them.

But how can writers deal with readers who don’t get it? Ignore them. Actor and writer Wil Wheaton had this to say about his critics:

I determined that the people who were really, really cruel really are a statistically insignificant number of people. And I know, just over the years from people who’ve e-mailed me at my web site and people who I’ve talked to since I started going to Star Trek conventions again in the last five years, that there are so many more people who really enjoyed everything about the show, including my performance, including the character.

Focus on the people who enjoy your work. Think about why they enjoy it. Focus on the feedback from the good critics, folks who point out the good and bad points of your writing in constructive ways.

Worrying about and trying to cater to a small percentage of people who don’t get what you’re doing is a waste of time and energy. Time and energy that’s better spent on writing and becoming a better writer. Nothing else should matter.

Thoughts? As always, your comments are welcome.

Photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via Photoree

Blog posts, now a touch of Creative Commons

Creative Commons logo All of the posts in this space are now licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Why am I doing this? My other blogs are already under a Creative Commons license, so I figured it was time that this blog followed suit. It’s a chance for me to share my kung fu even more widely.

So just what is a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License? It allows you to use the posts in this space in any way you see fit — in their current form, as part of a remix or mashup, or as the basis of something else.

Let’s say that you do want to use one of my posts. Remember 1) to give me credit, and 2) refrain from using the content for commercial purposes. I’m a bit more flexible on the second point. If you do want to mention or quote parts of a post in a book then feel free to do so. If you want to use one or more posts in their entirety in a book or similar work, please contact me to discuss commercial licensing.

Tool fetishism and the writer

Old typewriter Once upon a time, writing was easy. All you needed was a typewriter and a ream of paper. The biggest decision you had to make was the type of machine — manual or electric — and what brand.

These days, that choices are a lot more varied. And sometimes harder to make. Do you use a desktop word processor, or a web-based tool like Google Drive? Do you use a text editor, a dedicated Markdown editor, or a collaborative writing tool? And what to use on your tablet or smartphone?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of tool fetishism — spending time trying all the tools that are out there, in the vain hope that you’ll find the perfect tool for your writing.

Guess what? The perfect tool doesn’t exist. You can jump on every bandwagon, grab at every tool. But in the end, you’re spending more time finding and trying tools than you are writing.

The tool isn’t important. It’s not the technology, it’s you. The tool doesn’t do the writing. You do. It’s a matter of your ideas. The way that you fit the words and sentences and paragraphs together. The tools only help turn all of that into something tangible.

I’m willing to bet that you’ve done a lot of your best work with the tools that you’ve been using for a long time. Sure, those tools might be a bit dated. They might lack some fancy features. They might not work offline or on a mobile device.

Stick with the writing tools that you have. Don’t be afraid to explore new ones every so often, but don’t make that an obsession. Indulging in tool fetishism can be fun, but it takes time and energy away from something important: your writing.

Thoughts? As always, your comments are welcome.

Photo credit: Fire Monkey Fish via Photoree

A few links for the end of the week