How To Behave In A Creative Help Community

Getting into a creative community is a great way to help yourself develop and grow as a creator - but if you're constantly rude or annoying, it might not be long before you find yourself ignored or even kicked out. Here are some tips for behaving yourself.

Google your questions first. Whatever kind of help you're looking for, there's most likely something on it already, and you can save everyone a lot of time by spending a few minutes searching.

Check any available FAQs or guides. You'll often find that what you're looking for is already covered under them!

Start with a summarized version of your question. If people know ahead of time what they're supposed to be doing with the details you're giving them, they'll be able to answer your actual question much faster and far more efficiently. So for example, instead of asking, "My character is named [name] and [context and circumstances of character's life]; do you think my character's name fits the setting?", ask "I want to know if you think my character's name fits the setting. My character is named [name] and [context and circumstances of character's life]."

Be specific and provide any necessary contextual information. Specify exactly what it is that you want to know. For example, rather than asking "do you think my OC's name is okay?", you might ask "do you think my OC's name fits the setting?" Instead of asking "does this plot twist seem okay?", ask "does this plot twist feel like it could actually happen given these circumstances?"

Don't add unnecessary information. Don't make people wade through cruft and natter - get right down to the issue you need addressed. For example, if you what you want to know is whether your fictional gizmo could plausibly work or not, nobody needs to know the history of why and how it was created. They just need to understand the principles of how the gizmo is supposed to work. Before adding detail to your question, ask yourself why people need to know these particular details, and what you expect people to do with them.

Give serious answers to the questions that people ask back. People usually ask questions because they need to know more before they can give you an answer. Giving evasive or smartass answers is really counterproductive here, and it's a quick way to get people really annoyed with you.

If someone asks you a yes or no question, answer appropriately. Appropriate answers to a yes or no question are usually yes and no, and sometimes things like maybe, both, neither, I'm not sure, I haven't thought that one through yet, and that's my intention. Inappropriate answers are anything that don't actually directly address the question posed to you. Remember, yes/no questions are an important part of any troubleshooting process, and by answering them inappropriately you are hindering the process and thus wasting everyone's time.

Don't ask other people to do your heavy lifting for you. Don't expect other people to do the research and report their findings to you. Don't ask people to develop a whole plot for you. Don't try to get people on board of a creative project where your only real contribution is going to be giving out orders or being the "creative director."

Respect that people have lives and projects of their own, and can't always get to you immediately. If nobody shows up to help you immediately, be patient and check back later. Don't get dramatic or snide over it.

When you get the very feedback you asked for, don't get defensive. Don't rush to explain why the problems people are pointing out aren't actually "problems." Don't scramble try to come up with a "fix" right on the spot. Don't make excuses for yourself and/or your project (EG, "well, I did have a cold when I wrote that" or "well, that wasn't even my final draft, it was just an idea..."). The thing is, if you let yourself get defensive you aren't going to remember a good chunk of what people tell you, because people don't remember things very well in this state of mind. Also, those rush job "fixes" of yours are probably going to be just as bad (if not worse!) than the initial problem because you aren't taking the time and effort to properly think them through. Wait until later to start fixing those problems. Finally, nobody cares about your excuses. They just want you to fix the darn problem and be done with it.

Don't be excessively negative. Criticism and critical analysis is definitely an important part of being a creator, but people who always seem to be hating on something or someone grow tiresome quickly. (Try to make sure your positivity outweighs your negativity 4-5:1, and don't disrupt conversations to start ranting about how much you hate something or someone.) Also remember that nobody looks cool when they boast about how they don't write some genre or theme that they don't like - they look like arrogant prats.

Don't try too hard to curry favor. Don't agree with people just because you want them to like you. Don't go around saying things you think they'll agree with just to make them like you. And don't lavish them with praise and compliments for the selfsame reason. The people most worth talking to are the least likely to find this endearing.

Don't try to guilt people into giving you or your project attention. EG, such as by trying to get people to help you out of pity by posting about how miserable and hard your life is, or how people have ignored you up until now, etc. Those who have experience dealing with manipulative people will be able to recognize that you're trying to do and will probably just ignore you for that fact alone - if they don't decide to rip you a new one or ban you outright.

Don't go on about how terrible you/your creations are. The only thing you accomplish by doing this is wasting everyone's time and making yourself look greedy for attention. Self-deprecation and groveling endears you to no one.

Don't dump your personal troubles on everybody. It's one thing to talk to a friend who is willing to listen, but going into a space full of casual acquaintances - or worse, strangers - and telling everyone about your troubles is inappropriate, plain and simple.

Use the resources that people give you. If people give you links or research suggestions, check them out if you possibly can. Absolutely do not just brush them off and keep pestering people to spoon-feed you information.

Don't brag or bloviate about your own work. Few people want to be around self-absorbed twits who never seem to shut up about their projects and how great they are, so don't do it.

Don't complain about people talking about something you don't understand. Not every conversation has to be about you, or include you. And remember, the best thing to do when people are talking about something you don't know about is to Google it.

Don't try to help if you don't know what you're talking about. At best you waste people's time; at worst, you sabotage their efforts with bad advice. Remember, there's no shame in just keeping quiet and listening.

Remember that your opinion isn't always needed, either. Are you trying to weigh in with your opinion because it genuinely adds insight or depth to the conversation, or to give people food for thought? Or are you sticking it in there just for the sake of feeling included in the conversation? If it's the latter, keep it to yourself - it's most likely irrelevant and unhelpful.

Take responsibility for yourself. If you're told that you're being annoying, unhelpful, or missing the point, don't try to play the "I was just trying to help!"/"I was just offering my opinion!" card. Instead, apologize and adjust your behavior accordingly. (Simply shutting up and listening to others is often a good choice. If you've missed the point, asking for clarification can be good, too.) If you're in a bad mood and snap out at someone because of it, apologize and go try to deal with your bad mood in a healthy way. And if people tell you that you're being creepy or inappropriate, you most likely are behaving inappropriately, so apologize for your behavior and stop doing whatever it was you were doing.

If you don't like the critique you ask for, keep your cool. Just because you don't like what you're hearing, doesn't mean it's bad or rude. And even if it is a little rude, it doesn't mean you ought to respond with rage and anger. If you constantly get upset or rude when people give you the criticism you asked for, they'll probably stop trying to help you altogether. For more information, see Dealing With Criticism & Negative Reviews.

If you're going to give advice or critique, know how to give it well. See Basic Advice For Giving Useful Feedback To Creators and Tips To Help People Improve Their Creative Work for more information.

Also, you might be interested in:

Social Tips For The Socially Awkward
A Few Things You Really Need To Know As An Anxious Writer And/Or Artist
Tips For Describing & Summarizing Your Story & Pitching Your Plot Ideas
"Is This A Good Idea For My Story/Setting/Character?" - How To Answer This For Yourself!
Universal Creative Tips For Everyone & Everything
How To Recognize Bad Creative Mentors

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