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On Monday, I blogged about one of my 16-year-old autistic daughters having a (thankfully rare these days) tantrum, in which all reason went out of the window. 

By an uncanny coincidence, the very next day, a couple of writer friends of mine got involved in what I would describe as the non-autistic equivalent. 

Those of us on the group's email list had to endure an ever-more-spiteful (and frankly, childish) back and forth in which the two parties, both of whom considered themselves the innocent victim, proceeded to question the other's talent and moral character - seriously, Nazi's even came into it.

Two of my other writer friends became collateral casualties - one, when he refused to get dragged into the argument, the other when he tried to step in to clarify the situation for the benefit of folks who weren't at the group meeting.

Here's the thing: People will upset you sometimes, that's life. Just ask Senior Management. I upset her all the time. I know for a fact that I've unintentionally ruffled the feathers of some of my writerly friends and colleagues over the last few years, and some of those folks have upset me, but getting dragged in to a public slanging match helps no-one. 

I stayed well out of this week's silliness. I consider everyone involved a friend. It's a shame they didn't handle things better (and in private), but it's a bigger shame that the group will probably lose some of the newer members because of it. If I didn't know these folks so well, I doubt I'd hang around either.

When someone upsets you, the best thing you can do is walk away. Come back later, when you're head's clear and you can communicate in a rational, cool manner, but the moment you feel your hackles rise, step away from the keyboard, otherwise it'll end in tears.

How about you?

What do you do when another writer upsets you? 
 




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Comments

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lyonesse
Jun. 11th, 2011 03:05 pm (UTC)
i think it depends on the subject. if another writer annoys me about something basically unimportant (my book, say :) then i think you're totally right, and disengaging is the only appropriate response. but if it really *is* something important (racism, say) then walking away is not right to me; silence is too much like compliance.

imho anger isn't inherently useless, and "coolness" is not necessarily to be valued over the expression of genuine emotion.
msstacy13
Jun. 11th, 2011 03:49 pm (UTC)
But really, these arguments are rarely about the subject.
Most arguments among groups of writers
have more to do with the pecking order and a suspicion of insufficient respect.

Seriously, almost any heated exchange will be identical to any other
if you switch a few words; seldom more than a dozen.
There's even a formula for determining
when Hitler will be mentioned in any argument,
and it's surprisingly accurate.
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darke_conteur
Jun. 11th, 2011 03:09 pm (UTC)
If someone does, then I make it private. I left a writing email list because I was tired of that exact thing. Something would be said and someone else would take it the wrong way and instead of sending an off-list message, they slam the person in public.

If you have a problem with someone, take it to private or leave the group. Period.
jongibbs
Jun. 11th, 2011 04:02 pm (UTC)
Good advice :)
msstacy13
Jun. 11th, 2011 03:30 pm (UTC)
As Ambrose Bierce said, "Speak when you are angry, and it wll be the best speech you ever regret."


I would like to relate a number of instances in which my behavior in the circumstances you describe was exemplary. This shouldn't be difficult, since I write fiction.

Okay, just an example from history, since you're not asking for ficton, and I don't mean to rub your face in this, but George Washington, commanding the Continental Army, lost most of the battles he fought, yet won the war. He never surrendered, but he knew when to withdraw, when to back down, and when to step away quietly.

Cornwalis, on the other hand, won a series of battles, successfully turning large numbers of disinterested Americans into patriots, and thus doing more to help Washington than Washington could ever have done on his own.

Oh, and I've learned there's no point in arguing with Mormons. Not only does it fail to change their minds, they won't remember a word of it the next day. What they will remember is the highly unusual kind word. I suspect this is true not only of Mormons.
jongibbs
Jun. 11th, 2011 03:55 pm (UTC)
Re: As Ambrose Bierce said, "Speak when you are angry, and it wll be the best speech you ever regret
That Mr. Bierce was one smart biscuit :)
wendigomountain
Jun. 11th, 2011 03:35 pm (UTC)
I usually do the stupid thing and fight them. Then, when I see their books on the shelves of my local book store, I turn them so you can't read the cover and no one buys it.

Yes, I am a juvenile, mean spirited little cuss.

I'm working on not being such an ass though. Really.
msstacy13
Jun. 11th, 2011 03:51 pm (UTC)
Don't forget to use an anagram of their name
for a minor character who gets killed early in the first chapter.
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jun. 11th, 2011 03:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Jun. 11th, 2011 04:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
snapes_angel
Jun. 11th, 2011 03:39 pm (UTC)
Pretty much the same thing as you do, walk away and try for a breath of fresh air. While I was in a writer's group on GEnie, I did a critique, and was viciously attacked by the author over it who, because I asked another person, privately, and sent her a copy, both of my critique and his response (she'd been workshopping a lot longer than me, and was published already to boot—and I'm not bringing names into this, it's only an example), and she reassured me that Ihad done nothing wrong. I had kept my critique to the piece, and had offered suggestions on ways to improve it, and not gone into personal attacks, and his response was a sheer personal attack. Who was I, to...

But he had upset me enough, and I was only starting in workshopping then, that I had to ask advice from someone to make sure that what I was doing was the right thing. Sometimes, whether you're involved in the altercation personally, or a collateral bystander, the best thing is to walk away, and not look back. It can help you and others to preserve sanity. I think this applies to more than workshopping. ;)
snapes_angel
Jun. 11th, 2011 03:41 pm (UTC)
Oh, but I kept mine private, for the better part. Why involve a lot of people in something that neither involves, not interests, them?
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jun. 11th, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Jun. 11th, 2011 05:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
wordsrmylife
Jun. 11th, 2011 03:41 pm (UTC)
I tend to start out by doing that old-timed effort of writing something that I do not send, which lets me vent. Then I tend to step back and ask myself why I'm upset by what was said. There are a couple of areas where I've got a hot button that so strongly wired--usually from some childhood experience--that I can't be rational about it. In that case, the best thing I can do, depending on our relationship, is let the other person know that I'm not going to engage, because this is such a hot-button area for me. Otherwise, I sit with my reaction until I know why I reacted the way I did, and then either ignore the situation or reingage in what I hope is a rational manner.
jongibbs
Jun. 11th, 2011 03:58 pm (UTC)
Most of the time, I think it's frustration about something else entirely that fans the flames of these sort of arguments. If the folks on either side are frustrated, that's when sparks fly.
(no subject) - ladysaotome - Jun. 11th, 2011 06:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
knittingknots
Jun. 11th, 2011 03:55 pm (UTC)
Normally, if someone upsets me, I handle it in private, usually by destressing away from the public (my husband has listened to this more than once). If I think I need to say something because of what was said, I say my piece once, but don't take it out into an argument, just state my POV and move on.

Life is easier that way, to allow people to do dumb things (and when we step on people's toes, it's usually not with malice) and go on. I've certainly done dumb things. And I am not afraid to agree to disagree. Why make the world a more conflicted place that it is.

If it's really bad in the form of unreconcilable differences, I just usually quietly move on. Life is too short and dark enough to waste time on internet fights. Or even real-life ones.
jongibbs
Jun. 11th, 2011 03:59 pm (UTC)
"Life is too short and dark enough to waste time on internet fights. Or even real-life ones."

Abso-bloomin'-lutley :)
ideealisme
Jun. 11th, 2011 04:01 pm (UTC)
Somebody, a writer whose opinion I respected deeply, suddenly defriended my livejournal, probably over a politically incorrect opinion I had about married women sometimes being *very* naive over finances. What got to me is that I really looked up to them and I hadn't even finished the first draft when they defriended me (I was showing bits and pieces.) I was a bit upset, thinking "F you if you think my first draft is that boring." and defriended them back after a week sitting on it.

Thankfully, although I look up to them, I am not writing primarily for them or anyone else, so I got over myself and kept going. I'm over the upset now :)
jongibbs
Jun. 11th, 2011 04:05 pm (UTC)
I used to worry about what I'd done when folks unfriended me, but then I realised they were probably just pruning their flist.
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darkspires
Jun. 11th, 2011 04:19 pm (UTC)
I think arguing in a public forum is what distinguishes the pros from the wannabes. Some jerk can stick a highly opinionated review on a pro's work and the response is either silence or a brief thanks for the opinion.

Then there was the recent case of the wannabe author objecting to a good and considered review by a pro. Her remarks disintegrated swiftly into profanity and the thing went viral as an example of how not to behave.

So where is the crossing point between wannabe and pro? Going through the door of acceptance that not everyone is going to like what you write. Knowing the critism is not directed at you, as a person, but at the work/project/writing opinion held. Just getting over this threashold is a sign the writer is ready to spread their wings into submitting to agents/publications. There are many rejections, most of them form rejections ahead, and the person not able to hold it together in a crit group just doesn't have the discipline it will take to work with an agent/editor.

My advice to anyone is to step back and agree to differ. If the other person persists, it is them going to look peculiar and difficult, not you.
jongibbs
Jun. 11th, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
Good advice, Elizabeth.

As my old gran used to say, "Don't talk when I'm interrupting you."

Wait, that's the wrong one. She also used to say "It takes two to argue," which is somewhat ironic since the vicar at her funeral (who'd known her for more than seventy years) said she could start a punch-up in an empty room :)
lizziebelle
Jun. 11th, 2011 04:46 pm (UTC)
This is why I no longer join mailing lists. No matter the subject, something like this always happens, and people just can't let things lie. The trolls win every time, no matter how many times people are warned to ignore them.
jongibbs
Jun. 11th, 2011 06:39 pm (UTC)
This is why I no longer join mailing lists.

Sounds like a good strategy.
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Jun. 11th, 2011 06:41 pm (UTC)
I agree, even if you don't keep your feelings about a situation to yourself, it's definitely not helpful making a fool of yourself online.
arguing with fools - donnabrennan - Jun. 11th, 2011 08:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
peadarog
Jun. 11th, 2011 04:58 pm (UTC)
Yup. I'm a walker rather than a confronter.
jongibbs
Jun. 11th, 2011 06:41 pm (UTC)
Lol, I just realized your birthday's tomorrow, not today.
(no subject) - peadarog - Jun. 11th, 2011 07:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
maryjdal
Jun. 11th, 2011 05:29 pm (UTC)
I agree about stepping away for a bit - for several reasons - you get a chance to formulate a better argument if it's truly necessary, you give the other person time to recognize what they had said might have been harsh or not quite what they meant and they might retract the comment themselves, and often times a remark that may sound off putting or harsh initially, with a little space you may realize yourself that isn't actually what they meant.
jongibbs
Jun. 11th, 2011 06:42 pm (UTC)
"...with a little space you may realize yourself that isn't actually what they meant."

And it was, you're still better off stepping away.
awelkin
Jun. 11th, 2011 05:33 pm (UTC)
John:

I'm with you. I think you've just got to get into a better head space so you can solve the problem, rather than complicate it.

Catherine
jongibbs
Jun. 11th, 2011 06:43 pm (UTC)
On an unrelated note, I have to say that I love your icon :)
chant_1
Jun. 11th, 2011 06:13 pm (UTC)
I think the best thing to do - no matter who it is - is to give yourself time to cool down before you respond. So often we say things in the heat of anger that we wish we could take back later...and I think the instantaneous nature of e-mail/texting/facebook/whatever only exacerbates the problem. The old advice to take a deep breath and count to 10 is still some of the best! That being said, it's important to stand up for yourself, but again, choose your battles,and make sure the response and the forum you use are both appropriate to the situation/relationship.
jongibbs
Jun. 11th, 2011 06:46 pm (UTC)
One of the sad things about the internet is it's so much easier to annoy folks and make a fool of yourself in public than it used to be.
(no subject) - chant_1 - Jun. 11th, 2011 10:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chant_1 - Jun. 11th, 2011 10:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
southernweirdo
Jun. 11th, 2011 07:19 pm (UTC)
...and this is why I've greatly reduced my online presence over the last year or so. I grow tired of flame wars and arguments that ultimately don't seem to resolve anything. Online communication tends to take out all vestiges of civility for some reason, and words get taken out of proportion all to easily. I'd simply rather spend my energy/time on writing new stories or editing duties. So much more productive that way. Speaking of, I have an interview or two to work on. Take it easy, Jon! :)
jongibbs
Jun. 11th, 2011 07:28 pm (UTC)
I wondered why you'd been around less.
(no subject) - southernweirdo - Jun. 11th, 2011 07:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
donnabrennan
Jun. 11th, 2011 08:11 pm (UTC)
give it time
When something someone else sends me in email upsets me, I usually give it a little time and then re-read what was written. Sometimes it doesn't seem as bad on the second reading. (But sometimes it seems even worse.)

Then I ask myself if it's worth getting upset about. Writers are wordsmiths; they should be more tuned in than most about the meaning of and power behind their words. But they are also human, and we all make mistakes.

I choose to overlook the way things were written and any issues that aren't important. Then I only address the ones that matter, and I do it ignoring any meaness that I may have read into the words written.

Of course, if they really get me mad I could write them into my book and then torture their character in all sorts of fun ways-if I were that sort of person, that is.
jongibbs
Jun. 11th, 2011 08:51 pm (UTC)
Re: give it time
A sound strategy.

Thanks for sharing, Donna :)
bogwitch64
Jun. 11th, 2011 09:56 pm (UTC)
I am a total pacifist. In the old days, I would step in and play peacemaker. If there's a possibility of it, I still will--but I've learned that sometimes people just like to argue. I steer clear of all flame wars.
jongibbs
Jun. 12th, 2011 09:27 am (UTC)
In a flame war, everybody gets burned :(
writerjenn
Jun. 11th, 2011 11:51 pm (UTC)
Well, first, I try to avoid mentioning Nazis ... ;-)

Seriously, first of all I give people the benefit of the doubt. When we're communicating online, we don't have the face-to-face cues of tone of voice and gesture that can change the whole meaning of what's said. (That's why emoticons exist, to try to add some of that flavor to text-based discussions, though emoticons are limited too.) Very often, when people cause offense online, it's unintentional. I give people the benefit of the doubt that I would like them to give me.

If they are intending to cause offense, and it's unmistakable--I tend to just walk away. In a flame war, both parties lose. I'm not going to convince someone who is that intent on opposing me to change his or her mind. And nobody else needs to see me raging.

Also, people who send out an angry message and don't get responses in kind will sometimes regret their hasty message, and will apologize and take it back. Once the heat of the moment cools, and there is no more fuel on the fire, they sometimes regret what they've said, and they should be allowed to make amends, since who among us has nothing to regret?

If I unintentionally caused offense, and the person is angry about that, I would tend to apologize and hope we could get past it.
jongibbs
Jun. 12th, 2011 09:29 am (UTC)
"...people who send out an angry message and don't get responses in kind will sometimes regret their hasty message

Very true. I also like your point about emoticons - it's one of the reasons I often use them :)
tracy_d74
Jun. 12th, 2011 12:32 am (UTC)
I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. If an issue shows up three times, I will say something to the person in private. I will admit that sometimes I will check my response or planned reply with someone I know to have a cool and impartial head about things. Most things don't rattle me. I know my faults and strengths pretty well. And I can spot when something is about me or about someone else's issues. If it's me, I apologize. If it's the other person's crud, I apologize for the piece I contributed to the argument and leave the rest for them to sort through.

I've learned long ago to not get involved in other people's wars. If they want me to use me as a sounding board so their responses are okay...fine. But I will not fight their battle.
jongibbs
Jun. 12th, 2011 09:32 am (UTC)
"I will say something to the person in private."

me too, when it comes to personal disputes, I think private is always better than sharing the problem with everybody you know.
asakiyume
Jun. 12th, 2011 02:00 am (UTC)
If someone upsets me.... I tend to withdraw, I guess. Sometimes while I'm withdrawn, I think about things, and I come to the conclusion I've overreacted, and things aren't so bad. And with time, lots of things seem less bad.
jongibbs
Jun. 12th, 2011 09:35 am (UTC)
...with time, lots of things seem less bad.

They do indeed, Francesca. Sometimes, I can even look back on my old gran's infamous treacle and vinegar pudding and smile ;)
bodgei
Jun. 12th, 2011 03:03 pm (UTC)
I normaly sort of obsess about it away from the group, I may even talk about it with someone who isn't involved and then re look at the situation. Because I don't have much in the way of internet access at work it allows me to step back for at least 8 hours.
jongibbs
Jun. 12th, 2011 06:03 pm (UTC)
Stepping back from an argument is nearly always worth it.
birdhousefrog
Jun. 12th, 2011 03:07 pm (UTC)
My goodness. What a lot of comments. :D

Oz
jongibbs
Jun. 12th, 2011 06:04 pm (UTC)
Almost as many as I got for that 'Is sex with poodles always wrong?' question I asked last year ;)
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jun. 14th, 2011 09:00 am (UTC) - Expand
friedmarbles
Jun. 12th, 2011 03:18 pm (UTC)
I am on the email list you are speaking of and received the diatribes that prompted your blog entry. Words that immediately came to mind were childish and immature. I was reminded of an old street game we played as a child...King of the Hill. When others act and react as we've seen, I tend to wonder about their backstories. And keep them in mind for future characters in my writing. Some have real issues but aren't blessed with the tools to express them. Others simply enjoy keeping the "fun" in dys"fun"tion, while pushing everyone else's buttons along the way. As an innocent bystander to this particular incident, I merely shake my head and walk away. I plan to remove myself from that particular list.


jongibbs
Jun. 12th, 2011 06:05 pm (UTC)
I plan to remove myself from that particular list.

You and me, both, I'm sorry to say :(

bondo_ba
Jun. 12th, 2011 07:30 pm (UTC)
I never, ever, get into fights...

Actually, when in a fight, I try to keep things to the issue at hand (and have no respect whatsoever for people who are sadly unable to do this). Attacking an individual is the first sign that you have no valid arguments.

I have lots of friends who believe that my opinions and way of expressing them are incredibly misguided - but they know they can argue with me all day without an emotional outburst on my part (and I expect the same from them).
jongibbs
Jun. 12th, 2011 07:38 pm (UTC)
A good approach, Gustavo, but it'll never catch on - it's far too grown up ;)
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Jun. 12th, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

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