Some of the comments were a tad harsh, if not biting. The writers are just going to have to get used to that, though I’m not sure if you ever truly can, even when you’re a grown-up who has been called, among other things, an F— Trophy.
But nobody was dropping the F-bomb this morning in my son’s fifth grade classroom, where I’d popped in for Parent Visitation Day, an annual event with a drab title that makes me feel like I should be bringing a cake with a file in it. But it wasn’t my place to comment on titles or on the stories the kids were reading aloud from their own work for “Authors’ Workshop.” And yet, I couldn’t help myself.
I asked the teacher for permission to address the class, and then I introduced myself as Chris’ mom and an author of five books who was very impressed not only by their writing, but by their comments on the writing.
“You’re all editors,” I explained, “and some of your comments were very helpful. The writing was good as well.”
The kids beamed. I hoped that the moment continues to stick with the child or two who decide to become professional writers someday, because they’re going to need the positive reinforcement.
We all need it. We bloggers-authors-writers who put ourselves out there through our work every day. While there are some writers who write simply for the paycheck or the notoriety, there are an awful lot of us who started out like some of those fifth graders, writing stories just because we love to write.
The Internet has made it easier for us to build an audience of followers, and I’m grateful to be coming up on my seventh anniversary writing for MommaSaid.net. But it comes with a price that sometimes feels too high to pay when you get slammed by anonymous commenters and reviewers who treat your blog not as a snapshot of your life, but as the whole of your existence.
Then again, back in the day before the Internet, a man bothered to write an 11-page letter to the editor of The Boston Globe about an essay I’d written that briefly mentioned Title IX, which irked him. I’m sure that’s scarier than the man (woman?) who e-mailed me to call me an F— Trophy for suggesting that at-home moms might need a day off. It’s all part of the job.
We writers can take the slow-build route, earning the trust and admiration of fans (and Twitter followers who aren’t bots), who occasionally thank you in comments and by buying your books. But sometimes, we yearn to jump a few rungs fast, so we:
- Write a provocative headline, preferably about sex or drugs.
- Add a curse word — or 10.
- Include some sort of boring line designed to grab the search engines’ attention.
- Reveal a major secret or share a harrowing story.
Perhaps you might attack the Balloon Boy and his family, with the bonus of a curse word in the title because you know that everyone’s thinking it anyway. And then, because everyone’s thinking it anyway, they comment on your post.
Or maybe the work is done on your behalf, like when your clever title, “Sibling Smackdown” in Parenting magazine gets edited to “How to Stop Sibling Struggles” on Parenting.com so that the search engines love it. But search engines have no soul, let alone children who have turned their living room into a WWF ring.
Perhaps you share a dark secret with the world, first on your blog, and then on other people’s web sites and soon on national TV until you become the poster child for that secret. In fact, some of the highest trafficked blogs I’ve written were about my ascension into and return from Cancer Hell. Like the song says, people love dirty laundry. Besides, it’s easier to make readers cry than laugh.
But they have their downsides, too:
Some writers, mom bloggers in particular, use their platform to entertain their readers by sharing cute and funny photos of their kids, though now that mine are getting older, that’s getting harder to capture. They just aren’t all that willing to smile for the camera anymore:
And yet, we write. We hope you’ll enjoy what we’ve written (Love us!) and that you’ll share what we’ve written (Link to us!). But most of all, we write because we love to write, to make people laugh, cry, think and sigh. We love when people love what we’ve written and even when they respectfully disagree with our words.
So forgive us for the occasional provocative headline and curse word designed to draw in more readers more quickly. We do it so that we can continue to write, because when it comes down to it, we are all really just fifth graders at Authors’ Workshop.