Home > prose, publishing, things that are grey > The Importance of Discourse: Stop Shouting, and Start Speaking

The Importance of Discourse: Stop Shouting, and Start Speaking

I love discourse. I love a good discussion. For me, it’s a learning tool. And, as someone who studied English lit for her MA, it’s a necessity. Participation was roughly 95% percent of my soul grade. You had to form an opinion/interpretation and back it up with the text itself (or scholarly research etc). As long as you could do that, your interpretation was considered valid. For instance, you couldn’t just INSIST that the protagonist in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper went crazy due to a miscarriage (this was an actual argument someone presented). While it would make the story infinitely more interesting, the text itself didn’t back up the argument. The analysis wasn’t valid, but the person did conduct herself in a reasonable manner. She presented her argument, listened to the rebuttal, offered reasons why she thought that, and everyone in the room learned something from that discussion. (Side-note: I loved her idea and wanted her interpretation to be true.)

She did not flip out, insist we were all wrong, point fingers, and mutter that we were all evil slaves to the patriarchy. She did not repeatedly rant about how her interpretation was MUCH better than everyone else’s. She didn’t rail at us, talk down to us, or suggest we drink her Kool-Aid. If she had, we would’ve all stopped listening. Because, as a writer or a lit student, what you SAY is just as important as HOW you say it.

Which brings me to my point: don’t be a douchebag. If you have something to say, fantastic. Please do. The internet, as you well know, is your pulpit. You can educate the masses, make people laugh, or write something so beautiful that people cry. (The highest compliment a writer can get, sometimes.) Having a big fanbase is great. People are already inclined to listen to you, rather than see you as the crazy guy on the corner shouting about the publishing apocalypse. (CLUTCH YOUR EREADER AND YOUR BIBLES! THE END IS NEAR!)

You see, once you stop talking about the reasons why something is awesome – and start flinging around mud, big words, and vitriol – people start to edge away. You can be perfectly, awesomely RIGHT – and still be wrong. Having a discussion is distinctly different from listing the reasons why the other guy is completely, utterly, stupidly wrong. You know what? We get enough of that in political campaigns. When you start telling me that Stephen King is SO WRONG, because of [whatever*] – I stop listening. And the thing is, I want to listen. I want to learn. I want to understand the changing landscape of the literary world, but I don’t want to drink the Kool-Aid, wear black Nikes, or worry that Charles Manson might be your prison-based penpal.

Stop ripping the other guy and tell me why I should believe you. Better yet: tell me why [insert belief here] worked for you. Don’t tell me why it’s the ONLY way. Don’t insist that it’s how things SHOULD always be. Let me reach my own conclusion.

Here’s the hard truth: I don’t care how people get their books. I don’t give a damn if you’re an ereader junkie, a paperback princess/prince, or an audiobook aficionado. You know what I care about? I care that you READ. To each, his own. Personally, I love books. I love stacking them in corners when I run out of bookshelves, space under the bed, or room in my closet. I love the way they smell and the fact that I can scribble in the margins. I love shoving one in my purse everywhere I go. But you know what? I’d love to get an ereader for vacations. Because I end up with more books than shoes in my suitcase. Imagine how much I could read if I wasn’t limited to what I could carry? I’m gleefully dancing at the thought of the limitless possibilities. I would read ALL THE THINGS.

The same principle goes for publishing. I don’t care if you self-publish through Amazon, publish through their imprint, get a six-book deal from [large publisher name redacted], or Kinko your own zine. Self-publishing is a great idea. (Full disclosure: I self-published a book of poetry through them. I had realistic expectations – which is that it wouldn’t sell three million copies. I knew what I was getting into and why I was doing it. That instance, for me, was a win. So many people have great success at it. *eyes Denise Grover Swank*) But self-publishing isn’t for everyone. That’s a fact. If you’re an unknown, without an audience base, it’s really difficult to build an audience or get the attention of people who aren’t already paying attention to you (either because they know you personally, or connections you’ve made via social media – which, in my opinion, is a godsend of awesomeness). Grand success stories, without a previously established reader base, are rare. If they weren’t, we’d all be Amanda Hocking – who, by the way, worked her ASS off to get where she is today.

But, back to the previously mentioned [whatever*]: he referred the physical, printed book as an “actual book.” Now, you can interpret that as Mr. King being an elitist douchebag – or you can view it as him referencing the tangible object. It doesn’t have to be a knock on ebooks. You can take it that way, sure. Maybe your opinion is backed up by the fact that he’s “holding off” on releasing an ebook. But you know, that’s his choice. It doesn’t hurt anyone. As I’ve said previously, if I like an author, I’ll read whatever he/she writes, even if it’s scribbled on a roll of paper towels. Do we get outraged if a film company doesn’t release something in 3D? Because if we have the technology, we MUST have access to it at all times. Honestly, there’s nothing I want less than a giant CGI piranha hurling itself at my head while I’m trying to eat popcorn. If the movie’s good, I’ll enjoy it in whatever what it’s presented. Although, I’d love anything shown at a drive-in, because who doesn’t like a nice drive-in? *ahem* Where was I?

I want to hear your reasons, calmly and clearly. I don’t want to feel accosted by your beliefs. I don’t want to feel like you’re shouting AT me. I want to understand. I want to discuss why and how and what. I want to learn. Stop shouting, and start speaking. I promise, I’ll listen.

  1. May 31, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Good luck on getting this message through! When folks can’t make a point, they usually opt for making noise instead.

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