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Opinion: Don’t  Be The Inadvertent Bully To Fellow Indie Authors

Opinion: Don’t Be the Inadvertent Bully to Fellow Indie Authors

Headshot of Barb Drozdowich

Technical trainer Barb Drozdowich cautions against inadvertent bullying of the less technically-minded indie author

Indie authors need to be more tolerant of each others' strengths and weaknesses, says indie author Barb Drozdowich, 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.

photo of girl despairing at computer

Creative people's brains work in a different way to technical people's

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

cover of Blogging for Authors by Barb Drozdowich

Barb Drozdowich writes technical books for authors

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 Share on X

From the ALLI Author Advice Center Archive

Author: Barb Drozdowich

Social Media and Wordpress Consultant Barb Drozdowich has taught in colleges, universities and in the banking industry. More recently, she brings her 15+ years of teaching experience and a deep love of books to help authors develop the social media platform needed to succeed in today’s fast evolving publishing world. She owns Bakerview Consulting and manages the popular blog, Sugarbeat’s Books, where she talks
about Romance – mostly Regency. She is the author of 6 books and over 20 YouTube videos all focused on helping authors and bloggers. Barb lives in the mountains of British Columbia with her family. www.bard


This Post Has 7 Comments
  1. Having literally grown up with technology, and being a software developer in my day job, I’ve always been deeply saddened by people who simply refuse to learn technology.

    I’ve always been of the opinion that you shouldn’t be allowed to switch on a computer if you don’t have a basic understanding of at least the big components (CPU, RAM, Motherboard) and what they do in brief. Like you shouldn’t be allowed to connect to the Internet if you don’t have a passing knowledge of IP addressing and what DNS is and does.

    Or, you shouldn’t be allowed to drive a car if you can’t check your own oil and water, and maybe change a tyre.

    There are many other examples, and by extension, you shouldn’t be producing e-books if you don’t know the difference between epub and mobi, and maybe understand a little bit of the history, so you know that there are formats which predate both, and Amazon’s Kindle was by NO means the first device that allowed you to read them.

    Same with print book formatting.

    I think technology is meant to enrich our lives, and the best way to do that is through education. As it is, technology just makes many people dumber because they don’t understand how to use it.

    So I have a lot of patience with people who admit what they don’t understand, and who express a genuine desire to LEARN all of the above things, but I have to say, I get incredibly frustrated by people who are perfectly happy in their ignorance, but still want my help with things they have no business doing, because those things require an understanding that they’re not prepared to obtain.

  2. You’re so right, Barb! A person might think they’re being encouraging when they say something is easy, but it’s not likely to convince someone (like me!) that working with WordPress is in any way, shape or form easy! TY for your excellent article!

  3. When I first started training others on using social media back in 2010-ish, one of my mentors (Dino Dogan, co-founder of Triberr) taught me about perception bias, whereby when you know a thing well, we can forget that others don’t know it as well as we do.

    If you’re a skilled trainer or teacher, you DO know this, and you understand (or learn) the model of how to teach others. If you’re not (as many informal writer to writer interactions aren’t), they can be as you described, Barb – that kind of bullying or scoffing effect which never end well.

    I so appreciate this article. It’s a good reminder for all of us in the industry! Thank you.

      1. Excellent point! Maybe (based on my comment above) the reason people give the impression that they aren’t interested in learning those things is that they’ve been burned too many times by people who didn’t know how to teach them.

        I need to be better than all those previous “teachers”, by showing them that I’m prepared to help them understand the things they need to, without judgement or arrogance.

        I’ll ruminate on this. 🙂

  4. I agree completely. I try to understand that others aren’t as technical as I am, and where possible give step-by-step instructions rather than a blase “Just do this. It’s easy”.

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