First, can we all take a minute to remember the diggers who sacrificed their lives, their futures and their sanity for our right to self-determination? One minute. That's all I'm asking. Just bow your head, close your eyes and try.
Now that minute is over, use another one to reflect on how fortunate it is that you are not required to pick up a gun to defend democracy. All you have to do is exercise your right to vote. That is how you keep winning the war, and that his how you continue to remember and honour them.
Lest we forget.
Yesterday I received an email from a person I know from another walk of life regarding an image I had put on my Facebook Page. This image in question it this one:
Let just preface this exchange be saying that this man and I do not see eye to eye on many issues at all. I am a staunch feminist, and do not care to hide the fact. He is a self-identified MRA (Men's Rights Activist). Most of you familiar with MRAs probably don't need to be told why we don't see eye to eye. Don't get me wrong, he's actually quite lovely in person, but we've had bitter, bitter arguments about things that still raise my blood pressure just thinking about.
In any case, he requested this of me:
I'm just wondering can you tell me a bit more about the meaning and what your motivations were for writing it etc.
When you have some time of course.
It's just a line spoken by a character in one of the short stories I wrote for the anthology 'The Dying God & Other Stories.'
Do I have to read the book to understand why the character spoke it? lol
Dear whomever wishes to know, the answer to this question is always "Yes." It is an astoundingly large "Yes" written in flames across the night sky. It is a flashing neon "Yes" in an otherwise colourless world. Yes. Yes. Yes.
I really don't mind answering questions from my readers. At all. But the catch here is that they are my readers. It is a colossal waste of time for me to go through and explain something when there is an explanation already written - with context and everything - waiting for people to read. Reading the story will generally give one all the context one needs to understand anything quoted from it.
I was very blunt in explaining that to him, I'm afraid. It was literally two sentences long, with the first sentence being - you guessed it - "Yes." I'm not proud of that, but by this point in the conversation, I really had to get to work.
He immediately responded with:
Maybe when you have some free time?
No rush of course....
I'm so horrible.... I probably only have read maybe 6 books in my life and most of them I read between the lines
It must seem really innocuous to the outside eye. What's the problem? He's just asking for some clarification. And I understand this... to a degree. However, it becomes a problem when I have very little free time, and the free time I do have would be better served answering far more legitimate questions from readers or, you know, actually writing. It becomes a problem when my time is of so little worth to others that they think it's all right to demand I explain something that already has an explanation.
The best I can do is refer people to the source material. If they refuse to read the source material, it ceases to be my problem. The reason they refuse is not my concern.
I wrote back saying as much:
I really appreciate that you are interested in how I think and why, but I really don't have time to explain everything I write to various people. Nor am I bound by what my characters say (I'm a writer. I am not the characters I write).
If you have time to read any lengthy explanation I send you, you have time to read the book (or the short story in question. It's been over five years since I wrote the anthology, but I believe the story you're looking for with this quote is 'Lady of Shadow').
I, however, don't have time. I am really, really busy.
A big issue here is that I am not the characters I write. If I was, that would make for a very boring book. All the characters would be fiercely opinionated but wildly introverted young women who want children but are less sure about securing themselves a husband.
There seems to be a lot of conflation between authors and their characters. I'm pretty sure George R.R. Martin is not a psychic child sitting in the roots of a tree, nor is he an honourable man who ultimately is beheaded. I'm also quite certain he is not a enormous but kind-hearted imbecile who only knows how to say his own name. I've seen him in interviews. He utters complete sentences and everything.
Likewise, I am not the young mother who says this quote to her daughter. Nor am I the horrible man who kills said young mother, or the slaver who sells her daughter. I am the woman who writes about these characters. I am not these characters.
My real complaint here is exactly what I said. If anyone has time to read a lengthy explanation that I send about anything in my story, they have time to read the said story. If they have read the story and require clarification, that's another matter entirely. I'll happily clarify anything, with the caveat that I am not the characters I write, so that people may better understand character motives or the circumstances or something.
I know it seems harsh, and also seems in direct conflict with my desire to be the kind of author who is there for her readership. My desire for that hasn't changed. But it is important that I am able to use the time I have to do what I'm supposed to to: write my stories.
Let me put it this way, I'm paid to write (in a round about way; I write a story, I put it out in the world, people buy story, I get paid). Answering questions is an extra activity; one that sucks time away from the things I should be doing. I have to be very careful about which questions to answer and which to not. I try to answer all questions as best I can, and sometimes the best thing I can do is answer with, "Read the story."
I know there is a profound debate surrounding authors and what they do in the face of experiences like these. No doubt, trying to explain my position here will result in some backlash from people who feel entitled to another's time for any reason whatsoever. And I will also say that I really do enjoy connecting with my readers. I've had some wonderful conversations in person about my stories. I can happily discuss themes with people, or listen to their theories about my stories (they've often spotting things in my stories that I was completely ignorant of until they mention it).
But I am setting boundaries. I can't spend my time giving out explanations for things that are already explained. Sometimes, my answer can only be, "Read the story."
I guess I'm asking for people to respect my time; anyone's time, really. Do feel free to ask, but also know that sometimes you won't get the answer you want in the manner you want. And, to be honest, nor are you entitled to it.
An author's primary task is to write. Let's ignore the fact that most writers also hold down full-time jobs, must have time to buy, prepare and eat food, take some time for personal hygiene and self care like exercise, as well as sleep and, if they're really lucky, have some time to hang out with friends.
If they do more than write for their readership, please understand that it is entirely at their discretion, and that said readership is very, very lucky that they care so much about them.
I do care; very much. But time is so very precious. Please respect that.
Right... now that I've made everyone angry and defensive, I'm off to hide from the world a while...