by Julie Wright
This last weekend, I was a participating guest in a science fiction and fantasy writer's conference. We had a panel on things you could learn from the internet. I am (obviously) pro-internet, but I imparted a word of caution to the audience and I will now share that caution with you.
The world seems like a huge place, the internet makes it seem larger still, but the writing community is very small (and smaller still when you do something stupid and you're wishing everyone would forget).
I am a big believer in blogs and forums. I've made several fabulous acquaintances through these mediums; I've sharpened my own skills, and I've gained insight into the publishing world. But there have been times when I've commented on a blog, or responded to a post on a forum, and had second thoughts as my finger hovered over the left mouse button prior to hitting send.
I'm happy to report that most of the time, my greater senses kick in and I delete the message, or soften the tone. This has saved me from looking like a bitter hack, whose only joy is flaming other authors, publishers or agents.
Others haven't been so lucky.
Watch your words in public forums. Remember that emails can be forwarded. Remember that, even though you're commenting on an editor's website who you would never dream of publishing with, there is a good chance that editor will switch publishing houses and you just might need to be in their good graces. Am I saying I believe in censorship?
I'm saying I believe in self-censorship.
Do not commit career suicide just because the internet seems so anonymous. Just because you're in your office hiding behind a screen doesn't mean the arrow you loosed from your bow doesn't have a return address on it.
The internet offers many ways of networking, research opportunity, and self marketing. I believe those tools are important to survival for new authors. I encourage you to use those tools to further your career. But beware the knee-jerk reaction. Beware arrogance, gossip, and flamatory remarks. A comment made in a moment of self righteous anger will haunt the internet--and you--eternally.