On Dignity

*sigh* Since it apparently bears repeating…

As an author, convention-manager, artist, *creative of any sort*, or anyone who is in the public eyes, you have a responsibility to act a little better than everyone around you. It is your *job* to be graceful under pressure. I know it’s hard and hurtful and you may go offline and drink and dream about throwing your awful, ungrateful audience off of a cliff, but the key is that you do that *offline* and *away from people*.

It’s tempting, as an artist, to think that all you have to do is create, but that’s never been the case. Comedians and actors stood on stages and suffered the boos and spoiled produce of the crowd. Authors saw their books burned, the greatest musicians our race has produced died in obscurity and misery.

Art fucking sucks. It’s hard, and awful, and no one appreciates our genius until it’s too late, and sometimes that’s just too much.

It doesn’t give us one fucking lick of license to abuse the people around us. Fans, friends, family, enemies, critics. We don’t get to do that. It destroys what good we put into the world. Someone criticized you? That’s as much their right as it is your right to create the thing they criticized. Someone said nasty things about your character? What, are you going to go prove them right?

Last year, I volunteered to help document someone’s vile behavior, a task that meant combing through endless pages of vitriol against women, minorities, gays, etc and making careful notes. I couldn’t skim, I had to read in depth. I was literally sick at the end of each session, unable to eat or work or talk coherently. All I could do was call my boyfriend at the time and spill some of that poison back out. I still have scars from that, because it was the shit I grew up hearing, and it brought back memories that I still can’t properly deal with. When I talked about this subject at Gen Con last week, and told this story, I had tears in my eyes and my throat was closing up.

I never once went online and vented about this person. I didn’t tell anyone to go harass them or boycott their work. When I had to interact with them, I was quiet, composed, and polite in my interactions, even though it physically hurt to hold back the anger. It’s not like I’m a fragile flower, either. I’ve got a justifiably infamous temper, and when I let it out, things get fixed very, very quickly (a perk of typically being restrained and quiet: if I’m visibly angry, it’s well beyond time for the bullshit to go away). But it was my job, and my pride, to stay above their cesspool, to not provoke worse behavior.

And that’s what happens when you lash out. It makes things worse. You’re validating their opinion of you, both in their eyes, and in other peoples’. The damage becomes exponentially worse with every defensive statement or aggressive counterattack you make.

Does this mean you should just bend over and take abuse? Fuck no. Just because you’re an artist doesn’t mean anyone else owns you. If someone is legitimately abusing you, remove yourself from their reach if possible. If they’re damaging you, make a calm, short statement about the reality of the situation, and ask that people take a moment to consider the allegations/attacks/whatever. Don’t defend yourself, it validates them. Don’t strike back, it validates them.

If there’s only a single incident, make record of it–screen shot, archived email, whatever–and move on. It’s systematic, and you’re able to, expose without comment. One of the people I follow on Twitter has been taking a lot of abuse for a stance, recently. She retweets the abuse, and occasionally makes a joke about how awful she is, or how they’re teaching her all these new things. It invalidates *them*, and shows that they can’t hurt her with their abuse. It also allows other people to see how badly she’s being treated, and takes the ground right out from under their feet.

Dignity. Grace. Humor. Resilience. The untaught, essential tools of a creator’s kit. Learn them, use them, and when you can’t use them anymore, go offline for a while and detox before coming back and using them again.

I promise, it will make your life easier in the long run, and choke off a lot of problems before they have a chance to build.

Let’s make the industry better, not worse, ‘kay?

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