Writing Tips

#WW Judging An Author’s Life

Judging An Author’s Life

The photo
The photo

Recently—and by “recently” I mean a month ago—I posted this photo on my Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, and . . . well, pretty much anywhere on the Internet that I have an account on. To my surprise, (and still to my confusion), I received a bit a slack for this. It was a Wednesday afternoon, fairly nice outside, and due to the events of my day, I ended up in my hometown with one of my best friends. When it started raining, we ducked into a bookstore, and I couldn’t help myself. I bought a book—Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan to be exact—and some sticky notes for work since my stockpile was dwindling. The caption of my photo read, “Silly rain. Forcing me to hide in a bookstore to collect books until the sun came out.”

I didn’t think anything of it. I simply thought, “Hey! I am having fun. This has to do with reading, and I bet my readers would enjoy sharing this moment with me.” Because that’s what I think every time I post something—I think about how much fun it is to share these bits and pieces of my life with my wonderful followers. I don’t think much beyond that. So, I guess that’s why I was so surprised when I received a message, stating that I was adding to the misguidance of the industry and how authors live—how our lives actually are and how much of a struggle it is to be a writer—that I was adding to the “problem”, to the mirage of authordom.

And this is my open letter to you, dear sir, about that photo and my life as an author.

First and foremost, social media is up to the individual controlling that social media. No one else. I share what I choose to share, and I choose to share my fun and delightful moments. That goes to say that I’ve often—more often than not—discussed many difficult aspects of my life on my blog, particularly my mother’s death and my college roommate’s death. I’ve discussed moving around a lot as a child and finding myself creating stories and characters to make up for my lack of real human connection. I’ve confessed to doubting everything, and I’ve strived to remind myself (and my readers) why we write . . . which is always because I love to write and read. All of these topics have been on my blog. Numerous times. Throughout almost three years of blogging. But I’m assuming you’re judging me based on one or two photos posted during the afternoon. I know which ones you’re looking at. After all, I’m the one who shares all the moments of coffee, cats, and books. And guess what? That is my life. But it isn’t my whole life, and by no means have I ever expressed that “I do this every day.” Take this photo for instance. At no point does it state, “Here I am on my daily afternoon walk, just buying a dozen books for me to read this week.” In fact, I only bought one . . . with a gift card that my older brother bought me for Christmas . . . five months before this photo was taken . . . five months in which I saved that card just for the perfect moment to buy a novel on a day I needed some cheering up.

You see, back in January, I lost my car and my job, and I had to move to another state. (Something I openly discussed on my blog, by the way.) And ever since January, I’ve been building myself back up. On the very day this very photo was taken, I had finally saved up enough to buy a car, and I did, but I was broke afterward. That gift card was then used to help me buy office supplies (the sticky notes) that I had run out of, and I happened to see a novel I really wanted. Did I have to buy it then? No. Of course not. But it was a way of reminding myself that I am proud of how much I saved from my hard work and how far I’ve come in the five months since hitting rock bottom. My car was a long-needed necessity. This novel was a reward for the five months I’ve worked and saved and walked without one.

Why didn’t I put that story as my caption? Well, aside from the fact that it would be the longest caption in the world, the caption was my decision—and my decision was to express how much fun I was having and how much fun I wanted to share with my readers.

By no means was I trying to portray myself as an author who spends their days browsing bookstores. By no means was I trying to pretend I could afford every book left and right. By no means was I trying to prove something at all. I was just being me. I was just sharing me. By stating authors have to share ugly moments of their lives, we’re stating something ridiculous—that we assume they don’t have human lives—and that is a ridiculous presumption to have about anyone.

There is ugliness in everyone’s life, but I choose to focus on the happy moments, and I want my readers to know that they can have fun and encouragement when they come to me. I choose to share laughter and coffee and silly cats and paperbacks slung over my shoulder. I choose to post only when I’m smiling too—because I want to smile with my readers. I want my readers to feel encouraged when they come to me, not discouraged, and that is my choice, just like sharing my emotions around my mother’s death is my choice. I am not perfect, and I do not pretend to be, but no one should assume that about me either. Authors are human, after all, but not every detail of my life needs to be publicized all across the web (even though a large portion of it is).

Take my cats for instance. They’ve stared in my YouTube channel. They’ve done interviews on my blog. They’ve popped up on my Instagram and even shown their kitty faces on my Twitter. I love them, and since I work at home, I spend a lot of time around them. I share them in the grass, on the couch, while they are sleeping and playing. I make cartoons with them and pose with them and cuddle with them all the time (sometimes even when I don’t want to cuddle). And when I share them, people have fun—because most people love animals—and I have fun—because most people have shared their pets with me—and it’s a fun way to connect and relate to one another as friends instead of Internet strangers. I’d even like to exchange photos of my pets with you. But if you really want to see the ugly moments instead, I’d be more than happy to send you photos of me cleaning out the litter box instead of my three cats cuddling on the couch. (Just kidding, of course . . . I think.)


49 thoughts on “#WW Judging An Author’s Life

  1. Who ever harassed you about you tiny bag obviously with only one (MAYBE two books) was having a bad day…(>_>) because of all the loads of stuff you write about (sorry i’m such a silent stalker I should comment more). They chose this to say: “stop spreading your joy! People are going to think all us writers have happiness when really writing is a horrid experience filled with hard work…”


    Don’t even sweat it. Anyone giving you crap because you bought a book really ought to look at their life and sort out their stress (or write about it) instead of throwing it at you.

    (^_^) but what do I know, I bought a donut today and am thinking about buying a new book for my kindle—The shame!

    1. Hahaha I love this comment. I have also seen a theory that people who troll others on the internet, (like this guy did) is reacting to something they are unhappy with in their own lives.

    2. The shame! lol Thank you so much for reading and commenting. You brightened that moment for me. I think, at first, I wasn’t going to write this article, which is why there’s been a month since it happened and this post, but I decided too because it’s not the first time I’ve seen it happen. This was just the first time it happened to me. So, I felt like it needed to be addressed. I hope you enjoy the book on your Kindle! I might go get a new book today too. Just to celebrate all the wonderful readers out there. :]

      1. I’m glad you wrote itjust so you can see how many people delight in your joy. (^_^)

        Also I must live in a dirty cardboard box under an overpass, because I’ve never really heard of the “author high life” persona this guys talking about. All I’ve ever head of are the hardtimes and how gruelinng life will be unless you hit it big. Clearly I need to get out more.

  2. I love love your YouTube videos. I enjoy reading your posts because they are so real, a mix of both the bad and good. And I love seeing your happy posts because more often than not they are bright moments to remind me to keep my chin up and keep working on my dreams. Ignore the negative comments because your posts are perfect just the way they are!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoy my YouTube videos! I hope to post another episode soon. Thank you for reading and watching and commenting on both the good and bad topic posts. It means the world to me!

  3. Just like @FrancineSimone said. Maybe the person who had picked up at you and your small treasure in the bag, was having a pretty bad day. But no matter how bad someone’s day goes, it shouldn’t be thrown out at others, under any circumstances.
    It’s ones choice/problem how they spend their hard worked money or day – it’s theirs and not anyone else’s. You shouldn’t put those bad remarks at heart – though sometimes is hard not to.

    You know how much I love to see how your day’s going and all. I like those bits you choose to share with us more than anything – well, besides reading and sometimes doing a little writing, too – and if I happen to have a bad day, they always put a smile on my face !

    1. I agree! I understand having a bad day. I understand wanting to see more authors address having bad moments too, but there is a way to approach someone. If he had simply messaged me and said, “I really like your posts, but I wish I could see more of the struggles. Do you have anything like that?” I would’ve been more than happy to send him previous articles or even think up a new one and credit his website with the idea. I suppose, in a weird way, he’s out there knowing he gave me this idea as well.

  4. Wow!! I am absolutely mind blown that someone could be that ignorant to you. Are you not supposed to have any fun in your life? I don’t even think you needed to explain yourself, but your response was perfect! Obviously, that person is not a happy person and feels he has to project his negativity onto someone else. Life is short, and we have to do what makes us happy whenever we can, and what makes us happy is nobody else’s business but our own. Happy reading and writing :).

    1. I agree! I don’t think I need to explain myself either, which is why I think it took me a month to write this article (because I wasn’t sure if I should/could or not), but I’ve seen it happen to others, so I found it a relevant topic to many that I could, now, personally address. Happy reading and writing too! Thank you for reading and commenting. It means a lot. 😀

  5. “misguidance of the industry and how authors live”. I’m not sure what this means. Is there a standard belief about the industry and authors? I do notice that there’s a ton of negativity on the Internet and some people can’t stop themselves from trying to pass it on to happy people. No idea why being happy and positive is slowly becoming a bad thing, but it does feel that way.

    1. You know, I wasn’t sure about that either, but I’ve seen a few articles talking about readers saying this to authors before, but I mainly see it from author to author. I’m assuming it’s the whole “authors don’t sit around all day sipping champagne and writing” cliche–which I don’t think I’ve ever tried to pretend to be, although I’ve definitely shared fun moments. Maybe you’re right. Being negative is the “cool” thing. I guess I’m just not very “cool” then. Happiness. Happiness everywhere! ;]

      1. I think I’d rather be a positive nerd than a negative cool kid. Though I do find it hard to stay smiling with so many people trying to drag me down. As far as the ‘sipping champagne and writing’ stereotype, that’s ridiculous. Most authors can’t afford champagne. 😀

  6. Another enjoyable post, Shannon. I guess the person who criticized the photo doesn’t realize that social media is a highlights reel and should always be viewed as such. Do new mothers romanticize motherhood because they post pictures of cute babies instead of the last diaper? What about the athletes who post pictures of their well-earned abs, but not their blistered feet? Even new homeowners post pictures in front of the “sold” sign, but not photos of them cleaning out the bathroom of their new house. There is no need for his comments. You should have the freedom to post about your highlights – whether it is the joy of a new milestone as a writer, or as simple an afternoon shopping trip.

    Pay him no mind. I love your updates.

    1. Those are great examples of highlight reels! I agree. I think there’s enough negative stuff circulating on the Internet anyway. Why add to it? That’s why I try to be positive and uplifting and encouraging. But I’ve also shared the struggles in a positive way to show that we can all get through it. I’m so grateful for your comment. Thank you for reading.

  7. I’m really glad I read this post. I learned things I did know had happened to you. Why someone would choose to criticize any of your posts is beyond me. Keep doing what you are doing, because you have a lot more of us supporting your efforts as an author and happy person than there are distractors who want to be critical.

    I am glad you have been able to bounce back since January and congratulations on getting a car. After reading your post, I’ve decided to attempt to speed up my next project.

  8. You post a picture of yourself walking with a shopping bag slung over your shoulder and you get criticized? Wow. Just wow. Apparently, as writers we’re only supposed to post and talk and share about the hard parts of the effort. That’s a writer who is wallowing in it.

    1. It’s unfortunate that there are people who would rather we all be negative instead of positive and supportive of the writing community. Thank you for reading and commenting!

    2. Shannon’s going to have to start wearing a dirty burlap sack when she takes pictures. You know, show the life of the “real author” because we aren’t allowed to wear nice clothes let alone go to a bookstore! (>o<) I just…I just can't understand the hate.

      We should all go buy a book just to support another author in protest of the negativity. Spread some love…and because I need to justify buying a second book even though I told myself just one.

      1. Beautifully said. Now let me go back to my own blog where I shall spread the misery that is my writerly life rather than focus on anything positive that may otherwise be occurring. 😉

  9. Shannon, I’m so proud of you. You show and share so much of what’s going on in your life with us. You shouldn’t have to filter out the good days because of one unhappy person. Misery truly does love company.

  10. The one thorn among the roses does stand out, doesn’t it? I still remember the one review I got with “written by a woman” as a put-down. But I choose to focus more on the thoughtful and positive reviews.

    Since your following apparently has grown to the point of attracting thorns, I guess you’ll have to devise a standard reply for them. Something along the lines of, “Thanks for your comments, but I prefer lifting people up to dragging them down.” Aside from that, I wouldn’t engage with trolls. Why spoil your own day?

    We all choose where we put our energy. Keep your joy as great as you can.

    1. Agreed! Normally, I wouldn’t respond with an article like this. That’s why it took me a little over a month to actually write and post it. But I’ve seen this happen to others before, and since it happened to me, I thought I would address it, mainly because I wanted to express why I prefer positive posts and encouraging words. But trolls will be trolls. Guess I just crossed that bridge. ;]

      1. I’ve had similar experiences with authors telling me I need to be tougher when giving critiques. “You have to show the writers how hard it is.”

        And, why? It’s not up to me to decide if this writer has what it takes.

        “Thanks for your comments, but I prefer to lift people up.”

  11. Sometimes I think people who always have something nasty to say about someone who is clearly just trying to enjoy the little moments in life are just jealous… they don’t want anyone else to have spots of happiness because their life is clearly just lame… and so they have nothing better to do than go out and spread mean little comments all over the internet…

    but you’re right… spreading the fun times and seeing those cute little pics are cheerful and I know they make me smile… and I do think it’s good to share some of the bad times too… as a writer it’s kind of therapeutic for me to write the stuff out because I know I’ve done such on my own blog and it’s good… and sometimes that even helps people to know that someone else is going through the same struggles they are… but I wouldn’t want to sit around and only talk about the bad… to only focus on such would be even more depressing than going through those moments… I think sharing more of the good and looking at the good times is the best way to go through life…

  12. Seriously? Someone took you to task for that picture and caption? REALLY?! I find that ridiculous. Come on people — writers are people, with the ups and downs that goes with that. And most writers I know (like most non-writing people I know) post a mix of these events… the ups and downs, the book buying sprees and times of relaxation as well.
    Please tell me you at least indulged in the authorial splurge of cool-colored, or neat-designed post-it notes…

    1. Haha. Yes. That happened. I was pretty astonished too. But I’ve unfortunately seen it happen in one way or another to others as well, which is why I addressed it instead of completely ignoring it. As a matter of fact, I did splurge on cool-colored, neat-designed Post-it notes. I just uploaded one to my Instagram yesterday. They say “BTW” and they’re close to my favorite color. I wrote one to all my readers, saying “BTW: I love you.” And check marked “Big Deal.” (You can checkmark Big Deal or No Big Deal.) They are adorable. :]

  13. My first thought when seeing the post was “that sounds like a cool book. I hope she enjoys it.” When you recommended it on Goodreads I decided to check it out. (I am enjoying it!) I like seeing people I know having a good time reading and talking about books. It is hard to imagine an author being envious of another author’s choice in reading or desire to read a book (or whatever else bothered that person). Just live your life and enjoy something like reading without any guilt whatsoever.

  14. Very brave of you Shannon. There’s always going to be haters and those who will criticise what you do or what you don’t. Hey – at least it makes for interesting blog posts! 😉

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