On Venting and How Not to be a Negative Suckhole
One of the things I often talk about with writers, both the aspiring and the experienced, is how to craft an Authorial Identity.
Briefly, an Authorial Identity is a way to promote your work. Readers don’t want to just buy a book; they want to feel connected to the author. Your Authorial ID is how you make that connection. It’s your public persona.
If you’re like a lot of authors, your main connection with your readers will be through the various social media platforms: FaceBook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, etc. This will be the battleground on which your persona will be tested, forged, and judged.
It is on this battleground that so many authors fail. There are many reasons for this: not choosing a correct level of involvement, being too transparent, not being transparent enough, lack of consistency, hard-selling books, and the list goes on.
But I find the most pervasive reason is that the author spends too much time venting in a public forum.
Now, by no means do I want to give venting a bad name. Everyone needs to vent. Some days, we need to yell and scream and carry on and have our loved ones “there, there” us. We need to call our boss a dick and that friend who never called us back a jerk. We need to rail against that presidential candidate or call out that mansplainer. We need to tell someone that, no, we did not think that blockbuster movie was “the best thing ever,” or that we secretly think that famous author is an inane twit.
We all need to vent, but a public forum is not always the best place. Why?
1. You are what you post.
Sure, it's your right to post venting, angry things, but understand you might be seen as a venting, angry person. Social media identity is a very real thing, and your Authorial ID might suffer for all your venting.
For example, we all have that friend who posts on FaceBook and never has anything positive to say. Nothing ever seems to go right for this person. The day sucks, work sucks, the commute sucks, that last book they read sucks, breathing sucks, kittens suck. Everything sucks.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t hit the Unfollow button fast enough. Because that individual, who might be absolutely delightful in person, is a negative suckhole on social media. And who needs that? The world is filled with negativity. No one needs more negativity in their day.
2. If you’re an author, you are definitely what you post
And if you’re a negative suckhole, you might just lose followers and friends, and thus lose the number of people who want to read your book. No one wants to get to know more about a negative suckhole.
Be especially aware of trashing other authors (and by proxy, other fandoms). For instance, if all you do is trash-talk Twilight, Vampire Diaries, and other vampire YAs in favor of saying how yours is just so much better and "that crap" never deserved to get published, you might only be showing your bitterness toward the publishing industry. You think editors and agents don’t read your FaceBook and Twitter? Sure we do. And if your manuscript is sitting on my desk next to the manuscript of an author who is positive, who engages in intelligent debate over flame wars, you’d better believe I want to work with the positive author, not the negative suckhole. Quite frankly, I work too hard to have a negative suckhole bring me down.
3. Venting in a public forum shows that you don’t know the proper use of the social media.
Even as I typed this, I heard the dulcet cries of “But it’s my wall/feed/account. I can post what I want!” Sure you can. But make a conscious decision every time you post, and keep in mind:
By posting your vitriol in public for everyone to see, you are forcing intimacy with that other person. If that intimacy is something they don’t want to see, you’ll get some blowback.
Ask yourself at every turn: Does this post reflect how I want people to see me?
Choose your causes wisely
4. What you put out into the world, you get back.
Venting, by its very nature, is meant to give you release, not engage you in hours upon hours of debate. It’s meant to blow off steam, not cause more anxiety.
Think of it this way—ever had a bad day? Maybe your boss was a dick, and that guy cut you off in the parking lot, that old lady took forever in line at the grocery store, and by the time you’re home, you’re seething. Then you might calm down a little. Then someone comes in and asks how your day went. You tell them. Oh, man, you tell them. And suddenly, you’re reliving it. You’re stressing out. All over again!
Why? What is all this venting doing for you? Nothing!
5. Venting in a public forum tells me you want an audience
Venting in public is much like a toddler throwing a tantrum. She doesn’t want to get out her aggression—she wants everyone to see her getting out her aggression.
It tells me you want to make a spectacle of yourself. Rather than venting privately with a group you trust, you put it out there for the whole world to see, making everyone deal with your vitriol whether they signed up for it or not. It’s forced intimacy of the worst kind. Your own private tantrum. You’re not venting; you’re abjectly bitching.
And everyone knows it. They’re just too polite to tell you.
So how, then, does an author vent? Because we all need to. Venting is natural. It’s healthy. Venting is a form of releasing aggression, and like other forms of releasing aggression, it should be dealt with responsibly. Simply spewing poison isn’t responsible, the same way punching some out isn’t responsible.
Here is a list of ways you can vent safely. This is by no means exhaustive.
1. Vent responsibly
To an audience who is expecting your aggression
To someone who is like-minded and sympathizes with you
BUT helps you deal with it constructively. At some point, the “there, there” has to stop, and that person should tell you to get over yourself, let it go, keep calm and sally on, or whatever helps you vent, get it out, and then walk away.
Do not include people who rile you up or insist you revisit every injury, hurt feeling, and bad experience
2. Vent privately
Make a secret FaceBook group
Make sure to include only a circle of people you trust—people who will not screen-capture your venting and use it against you, people who will respect you but tell you when you’ve gone too far
Include someone who can talk you off the ledge.
Be aware that things can be taken out of context.
3. Take a breath before you post in a public forum
Never post angry.
For any reason.
Just don’t do it.
Walk away. Go for a run, hit the heavy bag, vent to your Circle of Trust—anything. But don’t post angry. It only takes one angry post where you trash a fandom you don’t like or a book you don’t like or an author who treated you rudely, and suddenly, you’re perceived as a negative suckhole.
4. Set a timer
Give yourself, say, ten minutes to scream, shout, and rant—to your private Circle of Trust, to the walls, to your cat, whatever you need to get it out of your system.
When the timer goes off, stop.
Take a deep breath.
Take another deep breath.
Move on to something positive for a moment. Sing a song, watch a favorite scene in a movie, look at cute kittens on the Internet, murder people in Halo.
CAVEAT: Now, I am in no way saying all your posts must be light and cream-cheese-filled dollops of sickeningly sweet candy. Hell no. That’s swinging the pendulum in the opposite direction.
What I am saying is: be mindful. Choose what you post. Exert control over your identity and what you put out into the world. Choose the causes you champion carefully.
At every turn, ask yourself: Does this post reflect the identity I want to project?
Because, really, if all your posts are you being a negative suckhole, please understand I’ll probably view you as a negative suckhole. I'll hit the Unfollow button and move on, as always, defying gravity.
Thank you for reading.