We need to talk.
You know how it’s generally not polite to discuss politics and religion with people you don’t know well? That’s all gone out the window, or so says my extremely unscientific poll. I think many professionals have struggled since last year with the need to voice their opinions (and usually outrage) versus not offending anyone lest their sales and influence suffer. Or just plain annoying the crap out of people.
Around the time I retweet a fifth ragey article in less than two minutes is usually when I catch myself and have to take a step back. That’s when I begin to question the wisdom of blasting followers with messages with which they may not agree.
My unscientific poll and various conversations with readers and writers overwhelmingly indicate not only that it’s okay to be vocal about current politics, but that authors are expected to take a stand. Arguments in favor of this stance include:
• I figure anybody likely to enjoy my book already shares my views…
• I don’t want people to judge me based on my beliefs, so why would I judge others for expressing theirs?
• A good storyteller is a good storyteller no matter what.
• I follow a lot of authors. All of them [are] so angry and so vocal. This is not normal politics anymore.
• Keep it max. Balance it out. Your fans will stay.
• Being vocal doesn’t seem to be hurting Author X. Her feed is giving me LIFE.
If we go with those opinions, it still creates other issues. We’re more than 100 days into this administration and although the initial blinding rage has simmered down a touch, every day brings new opportunities for high blood pressure. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and burnt out. I’ve had to step back several times for my mental health, physical health and because I don’t want to become so radicalized that I’m no better than the people who support the views and issues I vehemently oppose.
This is a generalization, but I believe readers and writers are among the most intelligent people on earth. We’re also a little sensitive. Or a lot sensitive. This puts us in a unique position to affect change. It also leaves us perhaps a little more vulnerable than others. We love facts! But … feelings. And empathy. And not seeing the world in black and white. We’re lovers not fighters, right? Eh … we just fight differently.
In the next few posts, I’ll show you how.
Part I: Strategize and Optimize
You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. Read that again. You can tackle anything you set your mind to, but you cannot conquer every single thing. Figure out where you’d like to focus your efforts. Is there a certain topic you feel particularly strong about?
Personally, I’m very passionate about the environment, children and LGBTQ+ rights. You might feel more comfortable advocating for water rights, universal healthcare and tax reform. Whatever you choose, focus your energy. Be aware of the multitude of issues going on, but let others handle the bulk of those.
Focus. People have been protesting for centuries so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Stand on their shoulders and do what they did. Pick one march to attend. Pick one rally. Call your senators about one issue. There are literally thousands of well-established organizations you can join and call upon to fight with. Use your energy wisely and remember that there’s strength in numbers.
Look at the Women’s March in January. Thanks to the Internet, smaller marches all over the country were linked with the massive one in Washington. Join those groups and take advantage of their resources – they’ll give you tips, talking points, actions you can take, hashtags to use, (hats to knit?). Don’t waste time, energy and resources going rogue unless you’re microfocused on an issue that’s very specific to your community or deals with a very particular group of people. Obviously, if no organization exists for what you’re fighting against, you may just have to step up. Even then, take a page from bigger organizations and adapt to your needs.
Adapt. Like many writers and artsy types, I’m pretty introverted. Not completely, but being around a lot of people eventually drains me. I’m also a little awkward. Generally speaking, the world will not adapt to me, so I have to adapt to it. Part of this is recognizing your limitations and tolerance levels. This is where being a naval-gazer has advantages. We’re already self-aware. We know we can handle two hours of marching in a crowd, but asking us to stick around to listen to guest speakers yell into feedbacky microphones will put us over the edge. So we do what we can and adapt. We make a plan to extract ourselves from the activities before we hit the proverbial stroke of midnight and revert to cinder girls and boys.
Same goes for online activities and (OH GAWD) calling senators and representatives. I’m a writer, not a speaker, for very good reason. Technology and strategy to the rescue! There are a bunch of apps that will connect you to your reps and let you send them written messages. Some senators are even active on Twitter and you can catch them on there. I recently heard mention of an app that will let you record a message for your reps and then keep calling until it gets through (oftentimes, their voicemail is full or the lines are all busy). You can write out your message ahead of time and just read it. (Try adding some inflection do you don’t sound like a robot, lol.)
Even without apps, if you just call after hours, you’ll get their voicemail and you’re able to leave a message. No human interaction required.
Next: Keep Your Cool