Words are powerful.

I know that’s a “DUR” statement from an avid reader and an author. But sometimes that statement just smucks you upside the head and leaves you stunned. I had one of those weeks re-learning this lesson.

There are times words can bring you to tears, tickle your funny bone or royally tick someone off. I experienced the latter this week and it was incredibly humbling and horrifying at the same time.

For a whole day I was reminded how something meant innocently can mushroom into a full blown out misunderstanding that affects more people than even the original audience.

Oh, it was sincere enough. I questioned something … quietly and professionally … or so I thought. A tiny snowflake fell somewhere in the universe. THEN I went and told someone about this interaction. My tiny snowflake found a friend or two and was now a cold, hard snowball hurtling through cyberspace. I didn’t think much of it as I went out into the internet to share my thoughts which spurned a discussion. My snowball started tumbling down a hill. From my perspective it was a very good discussion, lots of tossing around of ideas. Plenty of give and take. All positive. Again … from my perspective. By now a huge mound of snow is hurtling itself my way and I am totally oblivious of it’s arrival.

Fast forward several happy hours and a good night’s sleep.

The snowball I created rushes into me with a power I never anticipated. My few words of innocent inquiry had suddenly become a nuclear bomb exploding into a mushroom cloud that dropped debris for miles and miles. I was in trouble.

For a whole day I tried to discover exactly what I had done wrong and what specifically I had said that created such hurt and mistrust. At the writing of this, I still don’t know the specifics.

I may never know.

I just wanted to remind everyone that sometimes words go in a totally different direction than you intended. It is hard for humor especially to be understood over an email. I’m just happy things have worked out in this situation and I can move forward with only a little bruising.  

The internet is double-edged.

As a writer I use the internet every day to do research, look up words (because I am the world’s worst speller), and keep in touch with people and the news.  I love it. I rarely get out of my house these day and being connected to so many people is just wonderful. I have friends from around the globe I talk to nearly every day. That’s when it’s a tool that keeps things humming along.

But …

There are times when the internet slices open up a can of worms and the worms breed and spread malcontent and then that seems to breed more worms who wriggle and crawl into corners and spaces so far from the original can that you’re not even sure where the whole mess began.

I love blogging. And now I’m on twitter (and it’s like a little snippet of blogging in quick outbursts of thought.) I don’t often get time to read blogs. They’re a real time suck and I feel guilty. Even though … mind you …there are a ton of really good interesting, funny, and innovative blogs out there. Still … I don’t do it very often.

But every once in awhile there’s a blog thread I can’t stay away from. Last week a very popular publishing industry blog began a thread about a publisher suing one of the big chain bookstores. It was news. Public. Some people may not have seen it or known it was happening and I applaud them for bringing it to the forefront. Authors should be aware of what is going on in the industry. Market trends and such.

But what happened next was a train wreck of such magnitude that I couldn’t help but read every word of every comment. I’m not going to say it was mud-slinging, because frankly, I don’t know any of the players. But there definitely were some volleys back and forth about authors and publishers and marriages … a total degredation of the original discussion.

Which is what happens on this particular blog quite often. (To no fault of the blog owners … it’s just a popular blog with lots of people with differing opinions visiting.)

So what’s my point? I’m not sure I have one. Except to say that human nature comes out in every aspect of our lives. Sometimes more so on the internet as there is no real face-to-face confrontation as most of us, even when using our “real” names are hidden behind an author personna.

Publishing is a hard business. Authors lay their souls out on the page as they weave their stories. It takes a lot of guts to put your work out there and have it judged, first for it’s quality to make it to publishing, then by critics who review, and lastly, but most importantly, by our readers who we hope become loyal book buyers.

We’re all doing the best we can here. There are people who do it better than others … we call them NYT or USA Today Bestsellers. There are others who make an awesome living, but don’t necessarily break onto the best seller list, but continue to write incredible stories with real emotion and plots that keep you guessing (I call them my idols). And then there are the new comers, breaking into a difficult industry, working to perfect their craft and improve. (Quietly raises hand.) But all of us are doing the best we can.

I’m not saying people shouldn’t have opinions. God knows I have enough of them myself. (Just ask me … I’ll tell you. 😉 ). Experiences should be shared if just to help others not repeat your mistakes. Seems silly to me if I do the same thing Suzy Author did and get the same bad result. I’d much rather try a different tack and see if I can sail smoother seas.

There are a lot of hurt feelings and anger generated from posts on the internet. But I guess it’s no different from any other part of our lives. I’m trying to steer clear of it. Though I think I’m going to feel some ripples coming my way. I am in the publishing business and sometimes it just can’t be avoided entirely. I just hope I can express myself here and other places in cyber space that don’t hurt other’s feelings or degrade the hard work they’re doing.

But I guess sometimes it just can’t be avoided.