It's vital that we support each other if we want to continue to grow the indie community. In today's encore post, Barb Drozdowich says indie authors need to be more tolerant of each others' strengths and weaknesses, especially with regard to technical skills. From the perspective of a technical trainer, she explains how it's too easy for those with strong IT skills to inadvertently bully, belittle and upset those who struggle, and reminds us of the need to be more sensitive, especially when responding to comments on social media.
In my experience, authors are really creative people. They create imaginary worlds and characters that I certainly enjoy reading about, but can’t fathom coming up with myself.
You see, I’m the technical trainer in the crowd. I’m the one who managed to get through a Masters’ degree thanks to my mother (the English teacher). She spent a lot of time encouraging me to “add more words” to the papers and projects required for my degree. Apparently, four years of creating concise lab reports while studying science didn’t prepare me for other forms of writing!
We all have strengths that we bring to the table.
I suppose the flip side of the previous sentence is that we all have weakness that we bring to the table.
Creative vs Technical Mindsets
Let’s go back to the first sentence of this post – “In my experience, authors are really creative people.” Science tells us that creative folk don’t use their brain in the same way that technical folk do. Just as some folks are right handed vs being left handed, some folks are better with creative information than others. That doesn’t mean creative folk can’t figure out how to post to a website, but it doesn’t come as easily as it does to someone like me, who is primarily technical.
Digital Natives vs Non-natives
Let’s add another layer to this discussion. At my age (55), I was lucky to grow up with a computer in the house. My dad was a programmer and was one of the early adopters of technology in the neighbourhood. Many of my peers were lucky to have any exposure to computers in any meaningful way by the time they left high school. I certainly didn’t use computers while in high school. In fact, in my first job at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto in 1986, I had access to early forms of the internet. I couldn’t access it at home until well into the 90s.
Many younger writers had ever-increasing access to computers and computer technology during their years of schooling. Moving forward to more recent times, my daughter, who is now 15, does all her school work online in Google classroom environments. In fact many school districts are moving to require (or supply) middle school kids with computers. The learning environment today is much different than what I was exposed to.
These are all facts and I’m sure you are wondering why I’m even pointing this out.
Many folks who were not taught using technology, struggle to add another layer of information to their already full brain. For adults to admit to not understanding a topic, requires guts.
In my experience, pretty much everyone is capable of learning how to manage a website, manage social media accounts, manipulate email and newsletters as well as all the other technical tasks that are required of an author in 2019. They just need to be taught correctly and given the opportunity to practise.
Telling a creative person that something is “easy” doesn’t make it so in their minds.
Be Sensitive to Others' Backgrounds
Several years ago at a writing conference, a presenter asked the primarily grey-haired female audience “Who has a website?” Two hands were raised – mine and another lady's. The presenter waggled a finger at us, looked down and shuffled his papers while saying “Tut, tut ladies. Easy, easy. Five minutes. Go to WordPress. Click, click, click and you have a website. No excuse.”
Since he wasn’t looking at his audience, he didn’t realize that most looked ready to cry.
I teach WordPress, and even I wouldn’t think of telling an audience of grey-haired ladies that setting up and managing a website is easy without any training. It certainly isn’t a five-minute job to create an author website! For that audience, who likely grew up in my era and before, and since they are at a writer’s conference are creative types, that type of comment from an authority figure is completely unkind.
Let's Change Our Vocabulary for the Better
Let’s talk about the words that we use. “Easy…simple….nothing to it….” Do we really want to be using these words?
- By using the word “easy” are you shaming someone who doesn’t take to technology as well as you?
- By using the word “simple” are you in fact bullying a fellow writer?
The example above from the conference is an obvious error on the part of the presenter. Wander through some author Facebook groups and you’ll see similar things.
We type responses to questions without thinking. We type without considering the audience.
I can teach anyone to use WordPress, but I don’t think I could create believable dialogue to save my life.
I have a Masters’ degree in Education but I consider my favorite authors to be way smarter than I am with the stories they create.
In my interactions with authors I try to be kind and considerate of their level of understanding.
I like the words “Learnable” and “Straight-forward” rather than “simple” or “easy.”
So think about your language the next time you are talking to a fellow writer. Don’t be the un-intentioned bully in the group.#Indieauthors - worried your tech skills aren't up to scratch? Technical trainer Barb Drozdowich @sugarbeatbc says why we need to be more respectful of each others' strengths & weaknesses. #selfpub Click To Tweet
OTHER POSTS ABOUT THE INDIE AUTHOR COMMUNITY
From the ALLI Author Advice Center Archive