Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Benefit of the Doubt

I remember when I was at the very beginning stages of trying to get published, I went to a conference. And at that conference I had a chance to meet an author I really admired. I was a nervous wreck to go meet them, and almost wimped out. But I worked up the courage to say hello and...

The author was rude.

Not horrible or anything. Just not very friendly--in a noticeable enough way that even the people with me agreed.

I walked away surprised and disappointed, and from then on assumed that this author just wasn't a very nice person. I still loved their books. And I certainly didn't share this story with others. But I also formed my opinion of them.

Fast forward to an event where I had to see this author again.

I'll admit, given my past experience, I had certain expectations for how the meeting would go. And this time....

The author wasn't rude at all. In fact, they were one of the nicest authors I've met. Which left me baffled.

Was it split personalities?

Some sort of strange body-snatching scenario?

Or was it option number three--the much more logical option, and the option I *should've* considered all along: maybe they WEREN'T rude.

Maybe the whole thing was a misunderstanding.

Looking back on my first meeting with the author, I can see how poor my timing was. We were at a conference and they were probably on their first break of the day, desperate to get something to eat/drink (or to find a bathroom), and I was delaying them. Or maybe they were exhausted from having been "on" all day and just didn't have the kind of energy I'd been hoping for. Or maybe they're uncomfortable in social situations.

There were a million, much-more-probable explanations for the author's behavior that would've given them the benefit of the doubt. But I assumed the worst.

So really, if anyone was the rude one, it was me.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately--mainly because I've discovered that one of the hardest parts of this job (for me, at least) is being thrown into all kinds of crazy social situations. There's really no instruction manual for how to act at any of the events authors have to do, and every time I do one I'm very aware of how easy it would be to say/do the wrong thing and leave someone with a bad impression. And the worst part is, if I do, I'll probably never know.

So I just want to put a big THANK YOU out into the universe, to anyone who's ever met me (and not just in the writing world). Thank you for your patience. For giving me the benefit of the doubt. And for sharing a small part of your time with me. I'm sorry if I've ever made you feel like I don't appreciate that. I really, really do.


  1. +JMJ+

    I'm one of those who can feel really drained by social situations, and I often come off as rude when I'm really just trying to hold on to my sanity. I imagine that writers who must go on tour, attend conferences, engage fans online, etc. must feel really drained at the end of each day. But this is just one reason I agree that we should give authors the benefit of the doubt once in a while.

    Margaret Atwood once wrote that wanting to meet a writer because you enjoyed his book is like wanting to meet a rooster because you enjoyed fried chicken! And I tend to side with her: even when I really like several books by an author, I rarely care to meet him. So I confess that I'm a little baffled by the chumminess in the book blogosphere, where an author's persona seems to get the same weight as the actual merits of his books.

  2. Ahhh. Self-introspection can defuse almost any situation. Good for you for being real and seeing things from many different POVs.
    ~Just Jill

  3. I've had some of those experiences, meeting someone and the timing has been off, and they come across rude. It's easy to forget about their day and what they're thinking....

  4. My go to defense in any awkward situation is sarcasm so I can relate. I'm glad you find out they weren't rude after all!

  5. I know exactly what you mean. I had the same thing happen to me at a conference, but I'd probably just caught the author at a bad time. Then, I feel like I did the same thing to someone at a conference--not because I meant to, but I was just shocked someone talked to me, and it threw me off, so I probably wasn't as friendly as I should've been and wished I'd been. Someone really should write up a rulebook on what to do in these social situations! :)

  6. I'm the worst in social situations - the worst! I feel awkward and flighty, anxious...sometimes light headed. So, yeah, I'm dreading this part of the 'job' too. Surely, I'll rise to the occasion and be able to take it all in. Surely.

    Great post Shannon! Thanks for keeping it real yo.

  7. What a wonderful post. I can see what you mean and it does seem like it would be tough for authors to be thrown into so many different social situations. I am one of those people that constantly second guesses myself after social situations at work (did they think I was rude, did my comment come off wrong). Thanks for sharing your perspective! I can't recall any authors I have met being rude, but I will remember this post if any ever come off that way>

  8. I love this post, and I'm going to feature it in my Saturday round-up . It's something we don't think about nearly enough. THANK YOU for bringing it up, and for saying it so eloquently. Since many of us writers are introverts, it's really hard to get thrown into a social situation like that and 1) remain sane, and 2) stay friendly and patient regardless of what's going on. Heck, never mind friendly and patient; I'd settle for coherent.