Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Gravy Train

I have a problem.
I'm going to put this out there and fully admit that the problem here is mine, so let's kick it off with:
Tommy has a problem with writers who complain a lot about the biz online.

And I mean, complain about the writing biz, in a public space, where your readers are listening. You want to hash it out with fellow writers, that's what every field does. I fire up a video call with my friend in Josh Stallings in California to catch up, aim our phones and laptop cameras at our pets, and occasionally grouse about the difficulties we've been having. He's one of my mentors, and when I picked up his first Mo McGuire novel, Beautiful, Naked, and Dead, I realized that there were writers out there doing what I wanted to do, so it was okay to do it. I had already read Don Winslow, Josh Bazell, and Hilary Davidson, but they were distant figures at the time. I'd met Josh at Bouchercon, we'd shot shit online, he was real. I have since met Josh and Hilary and they are very real and fine, professional writers who do what every writer dreams of--they write books no one else could, and get them published.

Mr Winslow does that too, and while we've chatted online, I have yet to have the pleasure. Josh Stallings and I are now great friends (that Bazell guy is a doctor, and you have to watch them. They are always looking to steal your organs or experiment on your corpse) and we hash out problems on our calls. And you know what, it's a blessing. It keeps me from ranting online.

Because what do I think when I see someone who has achieved greater success ranting about how terrible their career is? To me, it feels like they are insulting their readers. Who is following you on social media? Most of the time it's other writers, honestly, but hopefully you have some fans who like your books or your stories, if you've been published. And while yes, I have sympathy, this just isn't the place. It smacks of, "Hey yeah, I'm glad you like my book, but maybe if you bought 20 for your friends, I could have the career I dream about." And I know, that's not what writers mean when they kvetch about low sales, or not hitting it big even though they have a book out by a major press every year, but what are you accomplishing by doing this?

And on twitter, you're not allowed to criticize anyone. How dare you suggest that I not expose my every emotion? Hey, you want to do that, go right ahead. But when you're in high school and rave that "you have no friends" ... to your friends, how are they supposed to feel?

Same with, "I don't sell enough books!"

"Um, I bought your book. I told everyone how much I liked it. I reviewed it, too. Guess I'm not doing any good..."

And yes, you're right, I don't have to listen when someone goes off. And usually I don't. And I don't think many other people do, either. And I'm not guiltless here. Back in the day, I was Mister Subtweet. (And I'm sure some are so vain that they'll think this post is about them, but it isn't, really.)  And I was wrong, and I learned. This isn't directed at any one writer. I've seen writers from all genres do it. It's their right to do it, and maybe it makes some readers feel closer, like they're getting the utmost honesty, so I could be completely off base here. I won't apologize, any more than those writers should apologize.

But for me, I'm grateful for the readers I do have, and that's what I prefer to radiate instead of misery. As long as I'm able to write what I do, and people are excited to see a new story or book from me, I promise to be happy. And you can throw this link in my face like a cocktail at the grand writers' ball, if I break that promise. It would be nice to be able to eat a few meals in exchange for those stories. If you can make a living off what you love, you are riding the gravy train with biscuit wheels. It may be tough, but that's the work part.

Have a biscuit dipped in gravy. They're delicious.

You can complain about the biscuits when the cook ain't listening.