Writers who read their mentions

There may be nothing more poisonous for the quality of a writer's work than "reading your mentions." You can tell immediately when reading or listening to someone (say, in an interview or podcast). Everything is couched, defensive, anticipating the inevitable "ur the wurst" tweet-reply or comment at the end of the article. It doesn't matter the style of writing, or the subject. It's present in politics as much as in sports journalism. I suppose in certain sub-cultures of theology, it might actually be muted, because while the rabies theologorum is a vast, multi-headed beast, it feasts on numbers and passion. So you find it in evangelical arguments and intra-Catholic skirmishes—both of which communities are large enough to have sizeable Extremely Online contingents.

But academic theologians? Now that's a small group of folks. And surprisingly friendly online, at least in the corners I frequent.

Regardless, though, we're all susceptible to it. And by far the best writers, whatever their expertise, whatever their genre, whatever their politics or ideas, are those who write simultaneously for an imagined audience—you can't write for no one—yet an audience in no way represented by the writer's experience on social media. An audience of readers who aren't likely to tweet or comment, but who are there nonetheless, reading and thinking with the author.

They exist. Write for them. Don't read your mentions.


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