Friday, July 20, 2012

Aspiring Advice: Withstanding Offense

I had a dream the other night. Or should I say, more of a nightmare?

I was inside a writer's conference. Hundreds of people in attendance, everyone set in groups for an exercise. I missed the details since I entered the scene late, so I ended up at a table that would present last. It would take an hour before we had our turn, so I went somewhere quiet and rested in a chair for a while.

That's when I slipped into a dream within a dream, filled with all sorts of high fantasy awesomeness. There was magic, dragons, and Skittle-eating fairies. Rock on!

Then a dwarf told me to wake up. And I did.

It was one of my group mates. She was in a state of panic, her eyes intense. "We're up next!" she said.

Up next for what, I wondered. We ran back and sat down, just as someone at the table next to us finished speaking. It was our turn. My group looked at me. The giant conference room went silent. What's going on, I ask, to which they all say, "We appointed you as our group leader, remember? You are to present for us!"

I give them a blank stare. "What am I presenting?"


I gulped. This crowd was expecting awesomeness, but I had no idea what we were doing here. I had missed out on the exercise. I tried to make something up, to wing it. No matter what I said, everyone started to boo. Half the room got up and left. My group mates glared at me. A panel of guest agents shook their heads. A couple of them pulled out their "black lists" and took notes.

Then I was confronted by a mop of angry faces, faces I knew well from the blogging community. And they were vehement. "How could you abandon us?" they cried, just before one of them socked me in the gut.

Trippy dream, huh?

I woke up, literally winded. Turns out The Girl sneaked into our bed in the middle of the night, only to kick me in the abdomen. It took a second to readjust to reality.

When I finally did, I felt like a chump ...

I've always had this impression that dreams are one of two things: a regurgitation of information or stimuli that is stored in the brain or a representation of unconscious, deep-seeded anxiety (or something that has been on your mind for a while, whether you knew it or not).

It got me thinking ... have I abandoned anyone? Have I offended them by doing so? I know for certain I'm not one who goes out of his way to troll people, living the "golden rule" life, yet with my good intentions, or lack of attention, who is to say I haven't put anyone off?

Totally irrational, I know. But still, how does one deal with feelings like this?

The simple truth: some will always find a reason to be offended by something. I've even worked with people who wanted to be offended, so they could have a valid reason to gripe about something. And there are those who enjoy offending, just to stir things up. It's like having a sadist and a masochist in the same room ...

10 points if you get the joke!
Having said that, no matter what you're writing, for whatever reason, someone won't like it. Someone might even get offended by it. And maybe the book isn't the problem, but you, the author, because of your religion, lifestyle, or political opinions. It is going to happen.

If offense was not intended, no worries. You're just being you. If someone has a problem with that, then that's their problem. Not yours. Let them own it.

Still, it never hurts to give an apology when it feels warranted. I haven't exactly been the most stalwart blogger in the last couple of months, and I continue to receive more visits and comments than I'm currently able to reciprocate, but as an open letter to the blogosphere, you should know I appreciate you.

I aim to do better. Thank you for your support.

Please don't punch me at the next conference?

Unless it's this kind of punch, cause that's good stuff!

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Do your best, be who you are or want to become and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You're good enough, smart enough, and goshdarn it, people like you!

Has the idea of offending others worried you? Is this something to be concerned about as an author?

I'm David, and I'm watching Batman!


  1. You can't please everyone. If you do, then you're not being effective.

  2. Trippy I had dream similar once (although without the dream within a dream thing). Whilst backstage at a Foo Fighter's gig, I was mistaken for Taylor Hawkins, their drummer (go figure...)and was ushered on stage. Everyone kept telling me I was late, but didn't want to know where I had been or, more importantly, that I wasn't their person. Anyway, they sat me down behind the drums and the concert started, but I didn't know how to play. I just remember the glare in Dave Grohl's eyes as he looked at me, wondering what the hell I was doing. I felt sooo bad :)

    Anyway, I agree that a writer should write what they want to write. There's always gonna be someone who hates it, but there will always be someone who loves it. Write for them.

  3. Very odd dream.
    I definitely know people who want to offend, and who want to be offended. People are strange.

  4. That is a really whacked-out dream. Skittle-eating fairies?! At a writing conference?! Did you perhaps eat too many Skittles before bedtime?

  5. That's an interesting dream. I had one when I was about 7 or 8 and I taught my grandma and my dad how to fly . . .

    I don't exactly worry about offending people. Family Guy has taught me not to worry about things like that. :D


  6. Crazy dream. Those dreams that seem so real are had to shed when you wake up. They can throw you out of whack for a while.

  7. Great and important post! When I first started writing my column for KSL I was shocked and hurt by how many mean comments I would receive on some articles. I learned a quick, hard lesson that not everyone will like what I do, agree with what I write and that some people are just flat out mean when they disagree.

    But being a writer means being exposed. I know my upcoming book will also get negative reviews - that's just how it works. So understanding that negative responses are part of the process and not necessarily a true reflection on you as a writer or person is critical to surviving life as a writer.

  8. I KNOW my current MS will offend a lot of people, and it's been hard to put it out there because of it. I don't want to offend, but it's impossible to avoid. But it's me and I have to stay true to that.

  9. And I thought my dreams were stressful. Lol

    I think we all worry to an extent. No matter how many times I tell my children to not care what other people think, it's the one advice I'm worst at following.

    I know not everyone will enjoy my stories, and that's ok.

  10. Strange dream, I've had some weird ones in the past too including some repeating ones years ago, they kinda freaked me out for a while.

  11. I think it's inevitable that someone, somewhere, will be offended by something a person says regardless of how hard they try. I do think authors should be concerned--to the extent that they shouldn't go looking for a fight. But if it's just someone's honest opinion presented respectfully, then I don't see anything wrong with that.

  12. Great post David and a very true viewpoint! I think sometimes we worry too much about offending people and of this puts limits our style!

  13. Even if you're offending someone, you're still making them feel SOMETHING, which is in my opinion one of the big factors of writing.

  14. Whatever you ate before you went to bed ... don't eat it again! As Alex said, we have to walk our own path ... with consideration for others of course. :-)

  15. I have two similar recurring dreams--one, that it's the end of the semester and I suddenly remember I'm in a class and there's a paper or an exam due the next day. And the other, that I forgot I had kittens and put them in the oven or let them die in some other horrible way. Anyways, I think these are archetypical feelings...good to get 'em out there.

  16. It is something that has bugged me before... but then I thought, hey, if I can make someone FEEL something - anything - then I've done my job as a writer. I'm not here to please anyone. Yes, I want to have readers who enjoy what I write, but I also want readers who read my stuff and go "are you kidding? You're writing something to uphold those views and values?", or feel challenged by what I've written... or something like that. And maybe that makes me a bit of a troll, but hey, the world needs some trolls.

    I sincerely hope that no one punches you on any occasion, because that would hurt. Unless it's the punch in that link... that looks delicious. NO SOUP FOR YOU!

  17. I used to write blog posts that were for an online book site based in the UK. My job was to take one side of a relevant health issue and write about it. I definitely offended people, but never took it personally as my writing was meant to spark conversation. Not all conversations are pleasant and sometimes people just need to get over themselves.
    A2Z Mommy and What’s In Between

  18. "Skittle eating fairies." Too funny. I have a few in my WIP that get hopped up on pixie sticks. Very scary. Hide the breakables.

    I think we all worry about offending at some point, but you're right, you have to do what's right for you and what's right for your stories. You're never going to please everyone. It just won't happen. Some people choose to let things bother them. I choose to be happy. We just have to respect each other and sometimes that means accepting that we all do things differently. That's what makes the world go round, right.

    BTW:thanks for the follow. I followed you back.

  19. Trippy dream does not even begin to describe that lol!! At least the gut punch had a more real-world reason for it.

    I must admit, I have been feeling a bit on the angry-at-myself side for a week or two now. I'm usually able to visit and comment to dozens of blogs, comfortably. As of late, more writing/revising/editing focus has turned that into a sad affair where I'm struggling more than I'm used to. But I'm trying to balance my thoughts remembering that I'm making some kind of progress...I think.

  20. Wow, what a scary dream. I would cry if something like that had to happen to me in real life. This is a really great post and I needed to read something like this. I am terrified of having people hate my writing. But like you said, there will always be someone that wants to dislike your work. Thank you for following my blog.

  21. That is scary! I have had some unusual dreams lately, not blog worthy, but unusual. I am constantly worrying about offending people and I need to just focus on what I need to do.

  22. Crazy dream! I hate those kind!

    I also hate offending people. I NEVER mean to offend, but I fear that sometimes I do, just by not paying attention enough. Sigh. That's the problem, too-- because I never know when / who I need to apologize to.

  23. Don't worry. I don't think anyone will punch you at a writer's conference. I've always found people at conferences to be very nice.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog today. I'm a new follower.

  24. That was some dream! Dreams have been the basis for several of my books. Just sayin'.

    "If offense was not intended, no worries. You're just being you. If someone has a problem with that, then that's their problem. Not yours. Let them own it."

    Well said.

  25. people who like to be offended so that they could go crazy and those who like to offend others are both energy vampires - they drain it from others and thrive upon it. The best thing is to ignore them, that hurts them most. That's their garlic and stake :)

  26. Oh man, who hasn't had a dream like that? Or felt like they were letting people down, even when they probably aren't?

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and saying hi :)

  27. lol. sounds like that dream was quite the ride. I've had things like that happen to me before. Trust me, you didn't let anyone down, everyone thinks you're the :)

  28. At least you weren't naked in the dream? Or were you?

  29. I try not to deliberately offend anyone but some people seek out controversy just to start an argument. I try not to worry about it too much and just do my own thing.

  30. I can't tell you how many times I've seen book reviews that complain about the author's political or moral views, which are not even in the context of the book! It drives me nuts.

    Sometimes I have to apologize for inadvertent comments I've made. As a kid people would be mad at me and I had no idea why--only to discover that I'd said something mean that I didn't even remember saying. But I would never go about offending people on purpose. That's just rude.

  31. Skittle eating fairies, rock on! That sounds like an awesome dream.

    I spend a lot of time these days rewriting book reviews on Goodreads because I'm so afraid I'm going to offend someone. I used to be more upfront, but after receiving feedback from an author (who's book I said had a type of ending I don't like) defending why she wrote the end that way, I felt bad. I am a people pleaser, if possible.

  32. I once offended one of my old room mates. I didn't know that I had for about 6 months. During this time, she withdrew from me until the point that I wondered what was wrong. It saddened me a great deal because, before the said offence, we were good friends. Once I knew that I had offended her by a stupid remark I made, of which I hadn't thought about since the moment I said it, I felt awful. All that time lost for a friendship by something stupid I said that was definitely not meant to harm. It was said in jest. Since then I have regreted what I had done. I try hard to keep what i say in check so the same thing doesn't happen in the future. But alas, moving onward and upward is all I can do in this case. *shrugs*