Respect Your Readers

by Birgitte Rasine | 28 comments

I have been a contributor here at The Write Practice for over a year. In that time, I’ve had the honor and the pleasure to get to know some of you. I've enjoyed writing every one of the posts published in my Write Practice stream and taking part in discussions and comments. But as all things eventually do, this too must come to an end. This is my last regular post.

Photo courtesy B. Rasine

Photo courtesy B. Rasine

The good news is, it’s not one of those “Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn” endings. It's more like “I still love you but I have to go and I'll write when I can.” Blame it on our solar system that only gives us twenty-four hours in a day. I’ve been trying to figure out how to make the Earth spin a little slower, but not even Elon Musk has been able to do that. So I’m taking an impermanent bow.

Of course, I'll pop by whenever I can, and I'm still surgically attached to my email so feel free to say hello!, become a part of my little Muse community, or come visit my online garden that has been woefully unattended of late, but is now freshly turned over and planted with new seeds.

Alright enough violins. Let's get down to business.

Respect Is the Writer's Bedrock

In this world swimming with scandal, corruption, injustice, and flat-out lies, it can be a little disheartening to exist at times, at least for those who've refused to get swept up in this churning river of mud. Even if you're not having to fight for your basic civil rights, you've no doubt felt the sting of disrespect, mistrust, or that little pinch of doubt as you signed on the dotted line of contract X or shook the hand of person Y, at some point in your life.

Respect, honor, integrity. Regardless of your profession, regardless of your background, these values are still our bedrock. And for us writers, even more so—because we hold in our hands and our minds the power of the word. It is a power that has toppled governments, built and destroyed civilizations, upended religions and moved nations. It's the power that decides who gets to rule and who gets to be oppressed.

If I never publish another word in this wonderful community, I would like to leave you with this thought. Respect yourself as a writer, and respect your readers. Do not ever fail in this regard, for everything—everything—that you'll need to be a successful author, will follow.

Respect Will Always Follow You

(And So Will Its Evil Twin)

Don't think that somehow that novel you're working on deserves royal treatment while the emails you fire off daily to friends, colleagues, or clients don't get a second look. Every email, every online comment, every social media post you put out there reflects you and creates a lifetime's trail of impressions, also known as “reputation.” Is your trail spotless, rich with interesting fruits of your thought, or pock-marked by rants, comments you wish you could erase off the face of the World Wide Web forever? Remember: if it's online, it is forever.

Once upon a time, we didn't have to worry about this trail. There were no cloud servers, email networks, or spyware. But knowing that every email you send out is hackable (just ask the heads of SONY), and that “delete” button on your social media accounts means something else in the language of code, has profoundly altered the communications landscape.

Thankfully, it's really not that difficult, once you're aware of all the different places you're leaving your mark. Respectful often simply means mindful.

Respect Defines Relationships

Why do you write?  If it’s for any other purpose than your own edification, therapy, or other intimate personal reasons, you should assume there are indeed readers in the equation. When you write for an audience, that audience will form a relationship with you. No matter if it’s not a direct personal relationship. It is still a relationship: you are the creator of the worlds, the stories, the ideas that your books, blogs, and other works funnel into the minds of your readers. That is a sacred thing. You are doing what only a few elite souls were able to engage in just a few centuries ago.

The same goes for everyone who is in any way related to your work: publishers, editors, designers, layout artists, proofreaders, publicists, marketers, reviewers, book club members, librarians, and so on and so on. Watch for the temptation to treat certain people in these circles better than others (Big Six publishing head vs. intern proofreader). Fame, status, power, and wealth have nothing to do with respect, despite all of our societal machinations to the contrary. Nor should you “respect” someone junior to you only because “you never know if s/he will be your boss one day.” That's not respect, that's self-interest.

True respect and courtesy consider all human beings as equals, simply because.

How Do I Respect Thee?

Just as importantly, we need to respect our own craft. Let us count the ways:

  • Expertise: Whatever topic you choose to write about, be sure it's either one you are highly knowledgeable about, skilled in, or at least familiar with; if it's not, take the time to research it before you start writing. Green writing shows—and there are few easier ways to kill your reputation, as a writer and as a professional in general.
  • Grammar: The word alone speaks for itself, but let's include everything from grammar to punctuation and formatting. Proofreading your work (whether you do it yourself for your emails or hire professional copyeditors for book-length works) might seem like an annoyance, but we have enough proverbs about devils and details to demonstrate otherwise. Even after all these years, I re-read my emails at least once before hitting “Send.” Every single person I write to is worth a clean, well written email. Even those unpleasant emails we all sometimes receive from readers who don’t find our works to their liking.
  • Do Unto Others…: There is, of course, that flip side. Just as you respect your readers et al, you too should command respect. Remember that respect emanates from a position of neutral strength, meaning you're neither pulling weight to your side nor submitting in weakness. If a reader sends you an impolite email or leaves a scathing review of your work, there are ways to deal with both (we could write entire books on that).
  • The Intelligence Factor: Don’t insult your readers, you've no doubt heard. But how do you ensure you’re writing to the proper level of your readers’ sensitivity and knowledge? There is no way you could possibly know the diversity of people who might pick up your book or stumble across a blog post online (including this one!). There is no way to guarantee you’re on target for everyone, but there are certain things that become more or less obvious as you learn the ropes.

For example, don’t spell out, in grinding detail, the underlying reasons for your characters’ behavior—let their actions and words tell the story, the way real life does. Make your readers work for it—they’ll love and respect you more. Do do your research; do open your readers’ minds; do tell them something they’re not likely to know (and if they do, they’ll likely be impressed!).

There is more, much more, but Joe will have my pen if I don't stop now.

Respect yourself as a writer and communicator, and respect those you communicate to or with as your readers and audiences.

How do you show respect to your readers, or your other relationships in your writerly life?  How have you learned to command respect as a writer? Share your thoughts and experiences with the community in the comments section below.

PRACTICE

Write about something you have expertise in, something you are highly knowledgeable about, skilled in, or have researched. Write for fifteen minutes. When you're finished, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, be sure to give feedback to your fellow writers.

Happy writing!

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Birgitte Rasine

Birgitte Rasine is an author, publisher, and entrepreneur. Her published works include Tsunami: Images of Resilience, The Visionary, The Serpent and the Jaguar, Verse in Arabic, and various short stories including the inspiring The Seventh Crane. She has just finished her first novel for young readers. She also runs LUCITA, a design and communications firm with her own publishing imprint, LUCITA Publishing. You can follow Birgitte on Twitter (@birgitte_rasine), Facebook, Google Plus or Pinterest. Definitely sign up for her entertaining eLetter "The Muse"! Or you can just become blissfully lost in her online ocean, er, web site.

28 Comments

  1. Dawn Atkin

    Birgitte,
    I’m sad to hear this is your last post. Not that I always respond on the TWP, but I always take away some inspiration and a good challenge. Your voice is fierce, powerful, direct and challenging. And I love it! 🙂

    I have many areas of interest and knowledge but one of my skills that I really feel adds depth and integrity to all relationships in my life (socially and professionally) is my ability to cut through the surface and get real, with myself and the many people I interact with. Some may call it emotional intelligence and others might say it’s intuition. The thing is – I can see.

    I can see beyond the smoke and mirrors. I can see behind the self-saving screens. I can see the truth unspoken behind the words. I can see beneath the surface silts. I can see unfulfilled selves yearning to be heard. I can see the shimmer beneath the sheaths of protective armour. I can see the squashed half dreams loosing breath. I can see the lies, a thin veneer. I can see the shames that cloak vulnerability. I can see the pressures to be perfect that inhibit integrity.

    I can see the light hiding in many.

    And, when I let these lights see me, we begin to speak: with authenticity and honesty.
    And we hear: some truth.

    The Truth – I sincerely wish you all the best, all the courage and commitment, and all the time you can handle to set your ‘calling’ on fire. Ablaze!

    Love Dawn

    Reply
    • Ruth

      What a powerful post! Your gift of intuition is valuable. Perhaps you have talent as a counselor as well as a writer. I like “… I see the squashed half dreams loosing breath.”

    • Dawn Atkin

      Thanks Ruth.

    • Birgitte Rasine

      Such moving words Dawn, thank you. Like a river that runs through bedrock. If you can see through the artifice we have built up around our souls the way the river can cut through mountains, you have a gift you should practice daily. Come carry the torch with me, then!

    • Dawn Atkin

      See you more on your blog. Torch ablazing 🙂 I’m looking forward to it.

      My current project (actual day job – Project Manager/ Festival Director – fancy title for a lot of grind) might interest you.
      http://www.festival.greenskills.org.au
      (Site under construction, Hope it’s ok to post this here. delete if not)
      Best wishes
      Dawn

    • Susan W A

      heart stirred. imagination captivated. relationships recalled. potential shared and supported. respect only added to, encounter by encounter. gratitude for paths crossed.

    • Dawn Atkin

      Thanks Susan.
      Ditto to you. A blessing.

  2. Dlambein

    So well said, Birgitte! We will miss you!

    Reply
    • Birgitte Rasine

      You guys have to stop otherwise I’m going to tear up. I feel like I know so many of you! Big hug!

  3. Margaret Fleming

    Thanks, Birgitte for the respect section. This will really help keep me on target in non-fiction I’m writing.

    Reply
    • Birgitte Rasine

      Very welcome Margaret! What are you working on, if you’re able to share?

  4. David Sellers

    Thank you! Good advice, and as a really old guy, I should know…I have received and given a lot of it. This has piqued my interest and renewed my interest in writing. Merci Mille fois. David

    Reply
    • Birgitte Rasine

      C’est un plaisir David. I’m touched. To everyone else… always listen to your elders, whether by age or experience.

  5. Katina Vaselopulos

    A great post with wise and precise advise that everyone who writes should take seriously!
    Thank you, Birgitte!
    Katina Vaselopulos

    Reply
    • Birgitte Rasine

      You are most welcome Katina, and thank you!

  6. Ruth

    Thanks, Birgitte, for the beacon of light you shine into this confused, dishonest and corrupt world. Your beautiful posts will live on to inspire, comfort and guide. ****
    Today I write about a phase of my life which never disappoints. For the fifth year I am a volunteer reader at the local elementary school. During past years I’ve shared time at the food bank, the garden club and property owners association but nothing rewards like interaction with children.
    It is a joy to share favorite books of my youth and add the popular choices of the day. Beautiful artwork in the picture books is a priority as well as a strong message for the listener. We stop to discuss word meaning and sentence structure which pleases the ear. We pause after each story to share what we learned. Definitions of fiction and non-fiction, author and illustrator are weekly topics.
    At times a combined class of 40 students listens in rapt silence. Spontaneous applause and hugs result as well as purchase of books for their personal and school libraries. “All your stories have a message,” one 6-year old noted.
    The teachers offer kind words and gifts but the greatest reward is the privilege of the experience. I appreciate the enormous influence of literature on young lives, the impact of a simple message, invaluable time shared with young children. As a writer I value the connection between the written word and the reader. It is my own version of sacred time.

    Reply
    • Birgitte Rasine

      Ruth, you are also a beacon of light. Takes one to know one! 🙂 And there are many more, many who post and comment here, and many whose names we’ll never know because they do their good work outside of the limelight.

      Bless you for reading to the little ones, and for infusing them with the love and wonder of stories. Nothing more sacred than that.

      I’m blessed to have gotten to know you and everyone else here. All we’re missing is a Write Practice retreat somewhere in the mountains. (Joe are you listening??)

    • Susan W A

      Write Practice mountain retreat? I can totally see that. : )

    • Ruth

      Yes!

    • Susan W A

      the bliss of a book well-shared. thank you. thank you. thank you. thank you.

      I’m sure you have, but I invite you again to sit for a moment, quietly, and let your essence feel all of the lives you’ve touched. We never fully know the impact we have on others’ lives, now and into the future. Who of us can’t recall the sheer joy, as a child, of delving into a wonderful children’s book … amazing whether we sounded out those words so proudly ourselves, nuzzled into a parent’s chest, wrapped by their arms with the book presented right in front of the two of us or sat criss-cross applesauce on a colorful schoolroom carpet to fill our ears and eyes, our mind, our cells with the voice and the enriching guidance of a book aficionada.

      I would agree… truly sacred time.

    • Ruth

      Thank you, Susan, for your thoughts. It’s good to know that children can still be lured away from their Xbox and TV!

    • Dawn Atkin

      ‘…but the greatest reward is the privilege of the experience.’
      Much respect to you Ruth.

  7. George McNeese

    This is a great post, Birgitte. We need to give readers credit, as well as fellow authors. We would want to be treated the same way.

    I think respect boils down to practicing common sense. We wouldn’t disrespect ourselves by being nasty and hypercritical. Why should we do the same with our audience?

    Reply
    • Birgitte Rasine

      George, thank you. Indeed! If only one COULD boil respect down to its essential elements, one would find it’s made up of… itself. Unfortunately there are plenty of us out there who do disrespect ourselves, often without knowing it. Therein lies the key.

  8. themagicviolinist

    So sad to see you go. Your posts have always inspired me. 🙂 Best of luck to you and your writing!

    Reply
    • Birgitte Rasine

      Thank you my dear! But I’m not really going. Just attending to all the literary babies crying in the next room. I’ll always be around, and will now be publishing a lot more on my own blog so I hope you’ll pop by!

  9. Tony C

    Mall Protection

    By Tony Chianese

    The Loss Prevention Manager should be receptive to the needs and objectives of upper management and work to prevent and reduce loss from crime, fire accidents etc.

    With the continuing threats brought to us by our AL Quaeda and Taliban enemies and the outbreak of new TV shows that reinforce the danger we all face on a daily basis, one must look within as to how we can protect ourselves from threats both real and imagined. I said imagined because we can become either hypochondriacs or completely oblivious to the dangers around us.

    The situations we will focus on in this brief evaluation are those where large volumes of people congregate on a daily basis. Much has been written about airports and how the Government has stepped in to facilitate the security of baggage and boardings etc. Although Schools and theatres could be targeted, one area I would like to review is the Mall, which we have first hand knowledge of since we frequent them almost daily. The mall, some large and some small all handlelarge volumes of people daily. Its close proximity to the airports has caused me to visualize a frightening scenario from time to time. This also should be addressed in any critique of physical protection

    Security for malls throughout the country is based on protecting the occupants and the property primarily from fire and water damage.

    Personnel are generally given basic information as to what should happen in the case of fire and subsequent damage control, but essentially the function of either Security officers or tenants is to pull the fire alarm and wait for the fire trucks to get there, hopefully as quickly as possible.

    Business continuity is a primary situation for the Mall and yet there is little accomplished to meet those requirements. With this in mind a good security officer should be a fireman and or be trained in fire prevention and training. In the world of fire training there are those who are listed as fire police. They are primarily there at the scene of a fire to direct traffic and move gawkers away from danger.

    Mall security would seem to fit in this category, as they are not really trained in fire prevention nor fire combating. This exclusion in training on a primary and continual basis is a danger faced by the visitors and businesses that expect protection.

    Fire-personal as well as the police, by nature, are trained to meet the demand for medical aid in the event of minor or major medical emergencies. At the least, basic first aid should be a required continual training program for all Mall personnel, with an emphasis on the Security Guard. The fact that defibrillators are available at Malls along with first aid kits but with little or no training approved by the Mall is a condition that should be addressed.

    Most security guards are usually hired because they are between jobs, work cheap and don’t ask a lot of questions. Training consists of reading a manual, taking an open book test that consists of :

    1. Appearance

    2. Where the fire equipment is located

    3. Reporting problems

    4. How to tour the inside and outside of the building and

    5. Limits of authority.

    It is not the job of the Security Guard to fight fire, provide medical assistance or use force. The primary use of Security personnel is to walk the Mall during the business day and to report from time to time that they have gone into a tenant’s space and shown their presence. Observing possible loss pevention does not appear in their lexicon.

    Over the years the defensive tools used by security personnel has been reduced to carrying a set of handcuffs, which can only be used under the direction of a local law enforcement Officer in the completion of his duty. Again, without basic and ongoing training, the uniformed Protective Services officer is of no other use than to be seen. Physical contact with individuals is totally prohibited due to the same reason above. Lack of training creates liability to the Mall and to the officer.

    The physical plant known as a Mall has many egresses and entrances. Sets of keys are used by housekeeping, maintenance and protection services to secure the movement throughout the site. In most cases the key systems work as the keys are assigned to individuals and are signed for. Various situations cause damage to the doors, some by the stores themselves and by visiting vendors. Unlawful entrance and egress from the stores occur at all times of the day or night. Doors that are broken and unable to be secured with a key are not repaired in a timely manner. Automatic closing devices are tampered with and are inoperable and in many cases doors are intentionally left open to allow easy access to various parts of the building by not only the Mall employees but many of the store personnel as well. Damaged doors and poor maintenance precludes the hazards to all visitors and employees as well. The ability to enter the building and to cause damage, either unintentionally or inntionally should be of paramount concern to the administration as well as injury to visitors and employees from individuals who may be emotionally, politically or criminally motivated. Daytime situations are normally different than evening and overnight due to the fact that more personnel are available and more activity promotes little opportunity for problematic situations. On one hand this combination of light and sound along with the presence of people creates the environment for terrorism and or criminal acts. During the evening hours there is the added problem produced by teenagers and young adults who create disturbances causing security extra work which distracts them from actual security and placing them in the position of acting as police, which they are not trained for. The use of force has been all but totally removed from their arsenal of protection. No training in civil disturbance or any other disturbance is given on any basis.

    Radio communications is used in various ways depending on the requirements of the various departments within the Mall. The benefit is that communications are available to identify negative situations that would require fire, police, housekeeping and maintenance. In the event of an emergency, radio frequencies will be modified to meet the needs of security. Maintenance and housekeeping as well as Mall administration should be subordinate to security. The standard operating procedure would require that the individual in charge be completely cognizant of the workings of the building and at least have the workable phone numbers of department heads. In many situations of various venues, the phone numbers of employ ees are not kept up to date and can cause unnecessary delay not only in emergencies but also on a day to day basis to contact personnel who are due in for shift changes. It should be the responsibility of at least one person in administration to make sure that the phone numbers are kept up to date.

    Video surveillance, on the most part, functions well. The worst problem is the lack of light particularly in the parking lot. Often the failure of pole lights creates blackout areas during evening hours. This makes it impossible to check activities from the control center. If there is only one guard on the midnight shift, it requires that the control center may be left unattended to check the lot as well as the entrance and loading doors. video cameras with night vision capabilities would provide the necessary protection of the lot. The inability to patrol and or visually observe the site have created criminal acts from break-ins,vandalism and murder. Using the parking lot or a lover’s lane cannot be tolerated.

    Without listing banal conclusions to these initial thoughts, lets recognize the need to be aware of that, which surrounds us. Remember, God is in the details!

    Reply
  10. Joy

    We will miss you, Birgitte! Thank you for all your hilarious and inspiring posts! Your post “Cooking Up the Writer’s Sauce” is still stirring in my head. And also, your post “Put Some Real Romance into Your Writing,” really resonated with me. Thank you for all the time and encouragement and wisdom that you have shared. Best wishes on your future writing endeavors! <3

    Reply

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