Author Vulnerability

In response to the latest author blow-up (RWA-related), Nora Roberts made a post. There were two things she said in there that I wanted to share here because I agree with them and she says them better than I could myself:

Writer…is a word without gender, a word without color or race, a word without sexual orientation, without creed.

This first point is essential to me. Anyone can be a writer. Anyone can choose to tell their stories and if they do so then they are my peer, no matter what they choose to write or who they are.

(I can choose not to read them. Or not to agree with them. Or not to interact with them. I can even choose to call them out for what they write. But my personal opinion doesn’t make them less of a writer and it doesn’t make them less than any other writer. There is no group of writers that is less worthy than any other. You write, you are a writer.)

She also said,

Let me add, as a personal note, that over the course of my life, the course of my career …I may have–most likely have–said or done or written something that was offensive, racist, homophobic. Without intent–but intent doesn’t mean a damn to those hurt. So I’ll apologize without qualification.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how writing, especially fiction writing, is a career where we as individuals publicly express ourselves more than in almost any other career. Our job involves writing hundreds of thousands of words and putting them out into the world for others to consume.

Doing so puts our unquestioned beliefs and biases on display for the world to see. In the stories we choose to tell and the characters we choose to focus on, we show ourselves.

It’s a vulnerable place to be. For all writers. Because none of us are perfect.

I will say for myself personally that I have never written a word of fiction (there might be an email or two I’ve sent) where my intent was to cause harm to another.

But I know I haven’t been perfect. And looking back now I can see that there are words I’ve written that could hurt some readers. Words or tropes I used at the time that I didn’t know were hurtful when I used them.

I try to listen and learn so I can do better the next time.

But I also know I will never be 100% perfect on these things. Because of who I am and what I don’t know or the themes I focus on as a writer (which mean I neglect others) I will never be a safe space for all readers.

I don’t think any writer is.

That doesn’t mean I won’t listen and try to be better. It just means I won’t always succeed. (Or sometimes may choose to disagree. There is no way I can agree with 100% of people in this world. My goal though is to avoid unintended harm, words that mean nothing to me but do to someone else.)

The good news for today’s reader is that there are so many authors out there publishing great work (maybe self-publishing, maybe trade publishing) that you can find those authors who resonate for you. Who love what you love. Who value what you value. Who tell the stories you want to hear.

They are out there. Find them. Support them. Lift them up, because that is how you will get more of the stories you want from them.

They are being vulnerable by writing their stories, let them know that you value what they created in whatever way you can.