I love seeing good news from writers I know personally, those I would like to get to know, from authors I admire, publishers I respect, from literary publications I enjoy, and the writing organizations I belong to or follow for the good work they do. Usually this comes in the form of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn updates, as well as emails, newsletters and blog posts.
In a few minutes (often a few too many minutes!) I get all the up-to-date info on who just signed with an agent, whose manuscript just sold to which publisher, what literary award was earned, which grant received. It all scrolls by my eyes, all that great good news I'm happy to hear – whose essay is now live at what site, which bookstore is hosting what author, which writer just got hired by what college to teach which genre, whose book made a coveted list.
When I can, when I have a minute or it's news I've been hoping for on someone else's behalf, I click Like, or write a quick Kudos! comment, or just nod and smile and think, that's great.
And then there are the other days. The ones when I just don't want to know. I don't. The days when I nearly sneer at the screen and think, sarcastically, yeah terrific. Days when the last thing I want to hear about is another writer (who is not me) accomplishing something, getting awarded something, getting published someplace, landing an agent, book deal, teaching job, residency.
It's not that I want writers to stop tooting their horns. We all need to, once in a while. Plus, it's a career imperative, bound up in platform building, book promotion, student recruitment, reader engagement, and editorial relationships.
And of course I do this myself too, and yet even while doing so, I'm aware of a double edged reality; that there are writers out there – in many cases who may in fact even like me or wish me good things – who on a given day just don't want to hear about anyone else's good fortune.
Because maybe that day for them (as it is for me some days), the manuscript-in-progress is being an uncooperative bitch, or the machinery of freelancing is slow and cruel and broken, or the email inbox is filling with too much rejection for a single day. Or maybe none of that happens, but even so, it's still too much to contemplate all the good things happening everywhere else to everyone else.
On those kind of days, I avoid social media, open emails carefully if at all, and take no meandering walks around the internet. Those days, I kind of long for the days when good news only arrived once a month between magazine covers which you could then either read in the bathtub or stack on a shelf, or at a monthly networking meeting when you could blunt the impact with a glass of wine, or in a chatty phone call which you could field while cooking or painting your nails.
I get over it quickly, and fairly soon I am back to being happy for everyone, retweeting and sharing their good news. Still, I think my father was onto something when he used to say, in the days before cell phones and email and CNN, "No news is good news."