Writing outside my lane

Image from Unsplash.

So I did something sneaky. In this year’s New Years Resolution post, I only listed ONE action item:

I hereby resolve to use my planner.

When it comes to the planner, so far so good. The “sneaky” part comes from what I didn’t say, the one or two other ideas I didn’t share.

For instance, I vowed to take a writing class, something I’d have to commit to and that I’d learn from. I kept that resolution secret, a little something just between me and my laptop because I didn’t have a firm plan at New Years. In early January, however, I stumbled over something good.

I found Writing the Other: Deep Dive into Diverse Characters, which is a month-long class given by Nisi Shawl, Tempest Bradford, and Piper J. Drake.

The foundation for this course is the book Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl. (I’ve linked to Amazon but it’s available from B&N and the publisher as well.) The course teaches character development through a framework that strives to avoid stereotypes and offensive characterizations when working with characters of different gender, race, &/or orientation.

Here’s a bit from the course description:

Representation is fundamental to writing great fiction. Creating characters that reflect of the diversity of the world we all live in is important for all writers and creators of fictional narratives. But writers often find it difficult to represent people whose gender, sexual orientation, racial heritage, or other aspect of identity is very different from their own. This can lead to fear of getting it wrong–horribly, offensively wrong–and, in the face of that, some think it’s better to not even try.

But representation is too important to ignore. And it is possible to write characters who represent the “Other” sensitively and convincingly. This four week course will provide authors  with a solid foundation in how to craft characters from any background, no matter how different they are from you.

I’m sharing all of this both because I’ve learned a lot so far and because growing my skill at writing outside my own experience is a crucial part of my development. I’ve published nine novels/novellas with gay or queer protagonists, so I’m working outside my lane all the damned time. I need to make sure I’m not stepping on people’s toes – or damaging their sense of self – when I do.

We’re only halfway through the class, and so far I have a couple of take-homes. First, I think some – possibly younger – people are a lot more comfortable with labels than I am. In the course introduction, we were asked to share how we fit the dominant paradigm and where we differed from it.

All my intro said was “I am the dominant paradigm.”

I’m a cis-het white woman with no chronic health or emotional issues. I’m neurotypical and I’ve never I experimented with alternative lifestyles or genders. Compared with most of the other intros, mine was SHORT.

Having the language to identify yourself as queer or neurodivergent and the comfort level to share ongoing mental health challenges is a truly beautiful change in our culture. I grew up with a much more limited vocabulary:

You were straight or (whispers) gay, a boy or a girl, and if you felt bad you went to a therapist but you damned well didn’t talk about it.

My theory – based on observation alone – is that it’s a generational thing, but I could be wrong. Either way, I count it as progress.

The other take-home from the course has to do with the how of it. How does an author avoid creating hurtful characters?

Do your homework.
Ask yourself honestly if you’re the best person to write this story.
Diversity is important, but I’d be very careful of writing a PoC character where the story was about their experience as a PoC. You’re not here to save anyone.
Get to know people who belong to the group you’re drawing from.
Read and research, looking specifically for works created by group members, not by others writing “authoritatively” about them.

Hire a sensitivity reader.
Although it’s not one person’s job to speak for the many, a good sensitivity reader can help you avoid the most obvious pitfalls.

Respond to feedback with an apology and a promise to change.
Because you’ll make mistakes. I sure as hell have. In one of her comments, Tempest said their goal is harm reduction, and that’s about all I can hope for.

Taking this course has slowed down my word-count, but it’s time well spent. I choose to write outside my lane for a complex mix of reasons, but since I’ve made this choice, I want to do the very best job I can.

I don’t want people hurt by the stories that come from my heart.

Here’s another link to the Writing the Other website. In addition to the Deep Dive course, they have a number of different offerings that I encourage you to check out.

Best Hate-to-Love Romances

I’m a sucker for romance. There’s nothing I love more than a good love story, where a swoon-worthy gentleman does everything he can to win the hand of his special lady/gentleman. And the only thing that makes all that better is when the two love interests start out as bitter, bitter enemies. It’s a trope, but I love it–especially when it includes banter, misunderstood intentions, and loads of sexual tension.

So, this is my paean to all the handsome fictional boyfriends out there who also start out the protagonist’s antagonist. We love to hate to love you!

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett, from Pride & Prejudice

I think I am safe in saying Darcy and Elizabeth epitomize the hate-to-love romance genre. I mean, it’s in the title! Elizabeth can’t stand Darcy from the get-go, and with pretty good reason–or so we think. It’s not long before their opinions of each other begin to shift, but not before we’re treated to some really delightful shade on Elizabeth’s part.

Rating: From “not handsome enough to tempt me” to “you must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you” in only 33 chapters.

Damianos and Laurent, from the Captive Prince Trilogy

When Prince Damianos of Akielos has his throne usurped, he’s sold into slavery to the crown prince of Vere, his sworn enemy. Fortunately (and occasionally unfortunately) for everyone concerned, Laurent is beautiful, cruel, and fiendishly intelligent. And he’s not about to let Damen forget where he came from–or what they both stand for.

Rating: three books’ worth of devious, delicious mind games and beautiful boys

Vikram and Gauri, from A Crown of Wishes

Exiled princess Gauri and foundling prince Vikram team up reluctantly to win a supernatural contest and unite their kingdoms. But they really can’t stand each other. Until an ordeal including magic apples, serpent kings, and poisoned courtesans forces them to stop arguing for like two seconds and work together…

Rating: “You spend an awful amount of time looking at my
lips.”
“That’s only because I’m horrified at the sheer idiocy of the words
leaping out of them.” 

Alex and Henry, from Red, White, and Royal Blue

Alex is the first son of the United States. Henry is an English prince. Really, need I say more?

Rating: tack room assignations and late-night ice-cream

Jude and Cardan, The Cruel Prince

Wow, I’m only just realizing how many princes are making it onto this list. Sorry not sorry.

Jude is a mortal girl living in Faerie after her parents were brutally murdered. Cardan is the wicked, handsome, wastrel prince who’s like 6th in line to the throne. He torments her endlessly. She plots her revenge. And revenge is best served…hot and bloody?

Rating: she’ll only kiss him with a knife held to her throat…or is it his throat?

Sunder and Mirage, from Amber & Dusk

Shameless plug! When Mirage arrives at the Amber Court, she doesn’t know who to trust, but she has a pretty good idea who not to trust–the haughty lord with knives in his fingertips and deceit in his soul. But it’s not long before their fates are hopelessly entangled…

Rating: I’m biased because I wrote it to be everything I wanted in an enemies-to-lovers romance!

Do you have a favorite hate-to-love romance? Let me know in the comment section below!

The (Literal) Cost of Publishing

Image purchased from Adobe Stock.

One thing writers are cautioned not to talk about is money. As religion and politics used to be (and likely still are by some), it has long been considered gouache to talk about salary or expenses. The traditional industry even has code phrases so they can talk about the size of deal without revealing actual numbers. This was a breakdown from 2016, so numbers may have changed a bit:

  • Nice deal = $1 to $49,000
  • Very nice deal = $50K to $99K
  • Good deal = $100K to $250
  • Significant deal = $250K to $499K
  • Major deal = $500K and up

But I think this reticence to talk about money should change. In a world where it is getting more and more expensive to publish and market a book (especially for self-publishers) and fewer authors are able to make a full-time living with their writing, we need to know what others are spending (and making) so that we know what is reasonable and what is not. Even traditionally published authors have to pay for all or at least some of their marketing, depending on what their house decides to do for them.

I’ll give you an example from my own life as to why not talking about money can be harmful. I TOTALLY overpaid for layout for my first four books. I used a company (that shall remain nameless) recommended by a friend. I paid $1,000/book for the layout, not knowing this wasn’t a normal price until another friend said she only paid $100/book for her layout with a different company. This is what happens when you don’t know what you don’t know. (And my friend who recommended the first layout company likely didn’t know she was overpaying, either.)

Real Numbers
So what is reasonable? Based on my research and experience (your mileage may vary):

  • Professional Editing – $500-$1,000+ (Depends on length of book, depth of editing and who you use)
  • Proofreading – $3-$4/page (per Writer’s Market)
  • Cover Design – $100-$500 (some people have the skills to do their own; I do not. You can reduce the cost with some designers if you provide the stock photography.)
  • Formatting – $200-$1,000+ (You can also learn to do this yourself; I don’t personally want to.)
  • IBSN – $125 for one or if you buy in bulk $295/10 (US only – in many other countries they are free)
  • Copyright/Library of Congress – $35, plus postage book to mail the book.
  • Proofs/author copies – Depends on length of book ($3-$6).
  • Marketing – You can totally control this and this is where I messed up. I spent WAY too much.

As of January 1, I’ve been a published author for four years. In that time I’ve sold tens of thousands of books (I stopped counting at some point because it’s all manual), hit the USA Today bestseller list and have won more than 40 awards. But you know what? I’m also massively in debt because of it – to the point of looking into debt consolidation. And unfortunately, I don’t think I’m alone. (Granted, I also know self-published authors who made seven-figures last year, so experiences can and do vary widely.)

But the stigma behind not being an immediate financial success is why I’m talking about it. You are not a failure if this has happened to you – my friend Jordan, who taught a class on cash flow at the Novelist’s Inc. conference last year, taught me that. You just didn’t manage your money as well as you should have. And you can get yourself out of the hole.

Damage Control
My first step was to purposefully not publish anything last year. That might seem counter-intuitive because the more books you have out there, the greater the chances you will make money, but it also costs a fair amount if done professionally. This year will likely be the same. (Although I am trying to get a few traditional deals, so that is part of it too.)

Step two was to eliminate unnecessary expenses. It’s amazing how many services I had automatically charging my credit cards every month. I’m keeping my stock photos though. I think those are a valuable recurring expense, at least for me.

Step three was to slow down conference travel. (The only one I’m going to this year is comped.) It is great for networking, learning and sometimes for selling books, but it adds up REALLY fast.

Step four is to focus on writing, but not just books: articles that pay, ghostwriting, speaking, etc. There’s more than one way to pay off debt.

Other lessons I have learned the hard way:

  • It is not a good idea to finance your self-publishing on credit cards. I thought I had way more self-control than I did and now I’m up to my eyeballs. Plus, interest really sneaks up on you. (Granted, about half of that was personal debt I had before I started publishing.)
  • Don’t overspend on swag. When I was new, swag (postcards, bookmarks, pens, etc.) was the big thing. You were told you HAD to have it for conventions. It doesn’t hurt to have one thing, or even one thing per book, that people can take away with them, but you don’t need to load yourself down or purchase large quantities. Four years later and I still have boxes of swag I likely will never use.
  • Don’t bother paying to be featured in library or bookstore catalogs, in magazines, or at trade shows. There is one indie author group that pushes a lot of these and from my experience, the ROi is minimal.
  • Same goes for purchasing ads in magazines. I only did that once, and it was more out of vanity than anything, but it’s not worth it.
  • Be very careful about which contests you enter and how much you pay for them. I’ve been pretty lucky in this regard (I do my research), but I see author friends all the time talking about ones I’m pretty sure just took their money and called them a finalist/winner but gave them nothing in return other than bragging rights.
  • Budget your spending, especially on ads. I totally didn’t do this and look where I ended up. This will become more and more important in the future, as experts are predicting that Facebook ads will become a must. (If I can find the article I saw that in, I will link to it, but it is eluding me at the moment.)
  • Be careful when creating audio books. Yes, audio is hot, but audio books are about a $2,000-$3,000 investment, depending on what your narrator charges and how long your book is. Are you going to make that money back? I have on some of my books, but not on others. You just don’t know. (And PLEASE don’t narrate your own unless you are a trained actor or broadcaster. There really is an art to a good audio book and a bad/average narrator can ruin it.)
  • Excuses you don’t want to use on yourself – believe me, I’ve done all of these:
    • It’s tax-deductible (maybe, but the end value of that depends on how much you make and spend, plus tax code in any given year – it’s still an expense.)
    • Oh it’s only this once/this one thing (sure it is).
    • It will pay off in the end (will it really?).
    • I want to prove I can do it as an indie author (lamest excuse ever).

Now, I don’t want this to scare anyone or to keep you from trying new things. Publishing (especially self-publishing), is all about taking chances and taking advantage of opportunities that come your way. You just really need to look at what you are investing and what you are going to get back, as well as what the bills are in the other parts of your life and what your other income is. This may sound obvious, but it is REALLY easy to get caught up in the new, shiny and sexy when you publish, especially when you are new and trying really hard to stand out from the crowd.

The age-old advice of saving up for your anticipated expenses is very wise in this situation. Sometimes traditionally published authors are advised to invest a portion (or all) of their advances into their marketing. If you save first (which I did not do), you are kind of doing the same thing and avoiding hundreds of dollars a month in interest payments. Publish your heart out, just be smart about it.

I’d love to hear from a traditionally published author about what they’ve done and spent on their marketing because that is a side of things I am totally blind to. 

Silence Hurts

As a rule, I stay out of the comments. You know, the chunks of opinion that follow most on-line articles, left by concerned and thoughtful citizens.

Or by trolls.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference.

Over the last month, I’ve generalized that “no comments” standard to the active forums on the RWA website. (RWA = Romance Writers of America, one of the largest writer’s organizations in the country.)

See, exactly one month ago today, on 12/23/19, RWA censured & suspended author Courtney Milan, charging her with ethics violations and suspending her membership for a year. They also banned her from ever again holding a leadership position in the organization.

Now, some backstory…

Courtney has a long history with RWA. She’s a past board member, and at the time the ethics complaints against her were filed, she was the head of the ethics committee. She also received an award at last year’s national conference for the work she’d done promoting diversity in the organization.

She also has a huge social media following, and if the RWA board thought they could drop their little bombshell and sneak away for the holidays without anyone noticing, they were…um…wrong.

To say the shit hit the fan might be one of the biggest understatements of all time.

The board said that Courtney had violated RWAs standards by calling out a 20 year old book as a “fucking racist mess”. They said her critique caused the other author to lose a book contract, which simplifies things a great deal and is also simply wrong.

For a hit-by-hit look at how this last month has gone down, Claire Ryan has put together a timeline that is absolutely worth the read. For a nuanced look at why this has all happened, Kelly Faircloth’s article at Jezebel is a good source.

The underlying issue is racism, something RWA has been wrestling with for the last several years. (In April of 2018 I blogged about the #ritasowhite kerfufle involving the RITA Awards, RWA’s version of the Oscars. At the time, no black authors had ever won a RITA.) The RWA Board that took over in September ’19 was the most diverse in the organization’s history, which a lot of us took as a good sign. Progress made. Go us.

We couldn’t have been more wrong.

Which brings me back to the forums. They’re a mechanism for discussion, a private place where RWA members can exchange views. Things can get pretty heated, and whether intentional or not, a number of my RWA colleagues have let their racist flags fly.

It’s a testament to my own privilege that I was able to say, “nope, not looking” when I started to hear how awful some of the comments were.

It’s also a testament to my privilege that I can say “yeah, don’t need ’em” and plan to let my membership lapse.

I’ve spent the last two years as treasurer for the Rainbow Romance Writers chapter of RWA, an on-line chapter that supports writers of diverse romance in learning their craft and in having a place to network. Our membership is predominately white, and while the board wanted to give queer authors of color a safe place, I’m not sure how close we came to accomplishing that goal.

Wrestling with my own internalized racism is difficult, whether in the context of a wider organization or in my daily life. I could have followed those forum conversations and added my voice to the chorus of people who were willing to take a stand and call out those who were being shitty.

Instead, I’m writing a blog post. Again. Encouraging you all to look for books by diverse authors to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. To speak out.

I’m listening.

(Here’s a link to the WOC Romance website book list to get you started.)

Writing with Anxiety

It has taken me over twenty five hours to finally write this post. The beginning of 2020 has been quite stressful for my household, especially after we thought this month, this new year, was going to be the start of a better year. We were confident that we were going to start this year feeling good, more secure, like the ground under our feet was going to stop shifting. Turns out, we were wrong. I think everything is going to be okay, but this past week has been particularly hard for us. Lots of surprises we weren’t prepared for and we had to make some difficult adjustments to make things work. Plans had to change. Things aren’t starting off how we wanted.

So yesterday, when I sat down to write this post, things hadn’t yet resolved themselves and I was actually shaking with anxiety. My body felt like I was vibrating. I was sitting through my own personal earthquake and the ground wouldn’t settle.

Monday I’d started the day off feeling pretty secure. Those surprises hadn’t hit yet. So I was feeling pretty good about getting back to the novel I’d started during NaNo. I’d taken the holidays off and given myself time to think about the book and where it was going. I’d written to the end of the outline I’d had done and knew I couldn’t move forward until I finished the outline or, at least, gotten a few more chapters outlined. I finished reading the first 50k words and felt a lot better about how the book was shaping up, realizing it wasn’t as meandering and stretched out as I thought. Tuesdays morning I outlined two chapters.

I know two chapters doesn’t sound like a lot, but I outline in long form, by hand.

See? That takes a toll on my hands nowadays. I don’t know how I used to outline five chapters in a day without my hand killing me. But anyway. I was really happy with my new progress. I thought, hell, if I can outline two chapters a day, in five days I’ll have ten chapters ready to write!

Then new surprises exploded in our email and what we thought was going to be a calm month turned into panic and uncertainty. My stomach knotted up and I couldn’t focus on work anymore. I’d have to be okay with those two chapters while I tried to deal with new issues. My anxiety was so bad that I couldn’t really focus on anything. I couldn’t calm down. I looked calm. Oh, I can look calm like the best of them. But inside? My heart is palpating. My breath isn’t smooth. My arms feel like they’re shaking. It’s like I’m really fucking cold and can’t stop shivering. But you wouldn’t know it to look at me. I can go through the motions like a champ.

I knew things wouldn’t be settled until late morning Wednesday. And, until that happened, my anxiety brain would not calm down. Anxiety is like having nervous cat living inside you. You can try to calm it, give it warmth, sustenance, a place to curl up and relax, but any small movement, any unfamiliar noise, and you set it off and its claws are in the curtains and it is spitting and hissing without warning.

I had work to do though, work I couldn’t ignore. I had a client in the morning and I needed to get this post written. Having someone face-to-face was helpful because I had to deal with them and couldn’t dwell, waiting for news that the ground wasn’t moving anymore. But as soon as they were gone, I was left in the quiet and that cat was shaking and growling low.

Write my post. That’ll help. But no. I sat at my desk and stared, my arms still trembling and feeling like I was sitting in a freezer. Just waiting for a phone call that would tell me if things were gonna be semi okay and not just all out terrible. We were hoping the month was going to be good and now I was praying for semi okay.

I couldn’t write my post. I couldn’t think of anything to say. I actually wanted to post about NaNo and what to do now, but I couldn’t think of what I wanted to say. I looked at my outline and wanted to get the next chapter done. I couldn’t. The characters couldn’t be heard over the growling cat. I was stuck in an anxiety trap. My mind wasn’t racing like it will when I try to go to sleep. I wasn’t thinking of all the disastrous things that could and might happen—though any time something showed up in my email I assumed the worst. I wasn’t crying or balled into a corner. I was just sitting here, right where I am now, and trembling. Waiting.

Anxiety is a monster that can do many things. It can steal your energy. It can steal your happiness. It can make you angry or sad or panicked. Anxiety demands attention like a bank robber with a gun. And even if your rational brain is telling you things are going to be okay and you work things out in your head, anxiety can hold on, claws sunk so deep there’s no pulling them out until the cat is ready to retract.

But now, here I am, nearly 1000 words into this post, and no longer shaking. Things are different than what I hoped and expected in the beginning of the month, but we’re semi okay and I can suddenly move my fingers on the keys and think about this post. And my outline is waiting for me and my characters are still there, ready when I am.

I used to be a write every day kind of person, only taking one or two days off on the weekends. I was terrified of losing momentum once I started writing a book. If I took too much time off, I was scared I’d struggle to start again. And you know what? I was right. It is very, very hard to start back up. And shit like this week happens that totally derails me and I think, if only I’d been working I’d be further along than where I am and wouldn’t feel so shitty about being derailed. But it’s okay. The words will always be there when you’re ready and able to come back. It took me a long, long time to reconcile that in my head. The write like you’re afraid you’ll die before you finish served me really well these last few years, but now, things have changed and so have I. My anxiety is actually a lot worse than it used to be and I’m having to always learn how to listen to it, deal with it, and adjust for it.

If you need the break because you don’t have a choice because that cat’s claws are sunk so deep you’ll just shred yourself trying to remove them, just wait. Let the cat calm down and retract the claws. Your characters, your words, your abilities will still be there when you come back. Not everyone can work in chaos and despair, not everyone’s art flourishes in the dark, and that’s okay. Wait for the sun.

And, if you suffer from anxiety, and reading this post triggered you, let me leave with you a picture of adorable sleeping pups, using the same pillow to try to calm you back down. I highly recommend a cuddly pet if you have anxiety, btw.

It's that time of year… #NewYearsResolution

So, I’ve got a funny story for you. You know last December, when my Scribes post listed all the things I meant to accomplish in 2019? I can proudly report that…

I might not have done so well.

Or at least I’ve been telling myself I didn’t accomplish much. Getting ready for this post, though, I looked over the list from last year – you can find it here if you’re curious – and I didn’t entirely suck.

  1. I didn’t write another book for my agent to send out on submission, but I did self-publish Lost & Found (previously known as L’Ami Mysteriuex), so I get partial credit for this one.
  2. Last January I’d written ~ 1120 #PostcardsToVoters, and today I’m at ~ 1850, which means I’ve averaged ~ 15 postcards per week. My goal was 20. Close enough.
  3. I said I’d spend 15 minutes a day teaching myself French.
    HAHAHAHA.
  4. I meant to write another Trevor story. He’s the hero in The Clockwork Monk & The Christmas Prince (which is still a free download for the next week or so), and while he’ll get another story, it didn’t happen this year.
  5. Next was rewriting the Creepy Doll story. Funny thing, that. I started a rewrite, changing the time period from 1940 to 1900. Then I cut the vampire. Then I moved the location from New Orleans to Seattle. Then…uh…I cut the doll. And then I had to admit I was writing an entirely different book, but it was my NaNo project and I’m about 10k words shy of finishing the first draft.
  6. I promised to keep my senators on speed dial, and I have.
  7. I didn’t get back into Weight Watchers, but I’ve been going to a weekly spin class and taking yoga a couple times of week, so I’m going to count this as a win, too.

Looking back, there were only two resolutions I really did no work towards (and yes, Babbel, I’m looking at you). Here I thought I was going to write a 500-word mea culpa, but in reality, I did pretty good.

Go me!

Now I guess I should figure out what to do to capitalize on this success. A clever person might make another list of resolutions and since I’m nothing if not clever, here goes…

  1. I hereby resolve to use my planner.

Guess you could say I’m aiming to quit while I’m ahead. I do have a mental list of what I want to accomplish, and tbh, using a planner is a pretty big step that will allow me to translate my mental list to action. I’ll let you know how it goes!

I hope your holidays were happy, however you chose to celebrate. Thank you so much for reading along!!

On Community, Drama and Humanity

So there’s a dumpster fire going on in the romance world right now and I’m not going to say much about it, other than the only thing that is keeping me from leaving the national organization is my local chapter, which I love. I’m in cautious wait and see mode to see what national’s next response/move is given that half the board resigned today.

But this is only a part of what is going on in the author world I’m tired of all the drama. I’m not sure if it started in the sci-fi fantasy community with their racism/sexism/doxxing issues or the YA community when they began to eat their own authors alive on Twitter. Or maybe it’s been going on for much longer than that and I just noticed with those two. (We had a minor version in the historical fiction community a few years ago, but that  was pretty quiet and only resulted in a new organization forming.) Then there is the Hallmark ad fiasco (which has apparently resulted in a call on the national organization’s forums to boycott Hallmark Publishing, but that thread isn’t showing when you try to read it) and J.K. Rowling and her comments. I can’t. I just can’t.

Social media seems to be making it all the worse. I’m all for connecting authors, and yes, I know that racism/homophobia/etc. are wrong and should be called out, but sometimes it feels like a pile-on on both sides. The national organization’s forums are the same way, with all the name calling and accusations (again on both sides). Aren’t we all (or at least most of us) adults? Then why are we acting like children? And there is pressure to weigh in, lest your silence look like you agree. It’s a no-win situation.

I suppose this is just a reflection of how far our society at large has fallen in the last three or four years. Everyone seems angry and ready to lash out at the smallest thing (myself included, sometimes) and everything is insulted/offended by everything (sometimes warranted, sometimes not). Civil discourse is a thing of the past and even every day politeness is gone.

I remember long about 10 years ago when social media was great for the writing community, especially Twitter. I met all of the Spellbound Scribes (past and present) on there when we were affectionately known as #TeamAwesome. They are the reason why I am where I am today. Their support helped a fledgling, wanna-be author persevere through a LOT of trials and stay in the game long enough to be almost breaking even. But now that kind of online Twitter community is gone, replaced with vitriol and cattiness.

And it’s not just in the writing community. I was in several Facebook groups for the last year and a half or so for women discerning a certain vocation. But after being shut down every time I asked questions (that is what discernment is for, right?) and told I was not conservative enough for the vocation by the very people who are supposed to be advocates for it, I left. Thankfully, I have since found my purpose, but I will never forget the pain the people who are supposed to represent God and goodness inflicted on me just for trying to understand.

In both cases, the very people who are supposed to be helping new/existing members succeed are driving them away. It’s enough to make one want to become a hermit. Yet community is key to survival as humans. Multiple studies have shown that being around others makes you live longer. And if you’ve ever experienced the feeling of “finding your tribe” you know what a rush it is when you are with others who “get” you.

But nowadays it seems like flocking to those of like mind is considered a bad thing; you get told you only want to hear from others who agree with you. Well, yeah. If we can’t have a conversation anymore in which we agree to disagree, then being around people who agree with me is much better for my mental health than being yelled at and bullied.

So what are we supposed to do? I have no idea. I find myself retreating from people more with each passing day. Yes, I have friends whom I dearly love (and some of us can get into it on certain topics because we DON’T agree), but humanity (or at least Americans) in general are not fun to be around.

I guess the only answer is to try to be the best person you can (says the woman who can be really crabby and bitchy) and pray (literally) that things turn around. As they say, be the change you wish to see in the world.

If you have any solutions, please let me know. I don’t want things to continue this way.

I wish you all a happy, healthy and drama-free 2020.