21 May 2013

We'll Have a Lot More Energy to Write if We're Good to Each Other

By Gayle Francis Moffet

The first draft of this opinions post was an extremely ranty, blunt, somewhat swear-filled diatribe against some habits writers have been known to have. However, as I started writing it, I sent an e-mail to a friend asking for a list of things she does not like about other writers (she's one herself). She sent back a thoughtful, detailed e-mail that broke down that she doesn't like to think of other writers in negatives because the amount of negativity writers throw at each other is already bad enough.

You ever have a moment where you realize you’ve maybe been approaching what you’re doing from the wrong angle? Because that happened to me with this e-mail. I read this e-mail, and I looked at my previous post, and I saw all of my negativity staring me in the face, and it wasn’t nice to look at.

This flower is pretty to look at.
Though I don't love how it's
creeping at my window.

I’m a highly competitive sore loser workaholic. I get frustrated with people who I feel aren’t making an effort, but my level of “making and effort” and the definition of  “making an effort” are pretty different things. You shouldn’t work yourself to the bone if it’s not how you work. You’ll do better work working at your own pace then trying to match someone’s (my) sometimes obsessive writing patterns.

And, that, really, is bare bones of my newly appreciated opinion: Hold your own standards. Respect that other people have their own. Seek out advice if you want it. Feel free to disregard advice that doesn’t apply to how you work.

And please, for the love of the craft, stop using each other as ammunition against each other. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, rolling my eyes or mocking a writer I think I trump somehow. I try not to do it publicly or otherwise, but I still do it, and it’s a waste of time and possible resource. Maybe I don’t like the way that writer writes, but that doesn't make that writer necessarily bad, and maybe that writer is doing something else that I can learn from. Maybe that writer can introduce me to people who can help my work. Maybe that writer is skilled at marketing and does something interesting I can use for my own purposes. Maybe that writer is actually a really good, decent person, and being a judgmental pain in the ass is hurting me way further than I realize because I’m too busy trying to be superior.

We have got to knock this off. All of us. Because we all do it. It’s Twilight vs. Pride & Prejudice. Do you know what I’m talking about? There are these stories that get passed around by writers, and they go like this:

Twilight got rejected by X number of publishers! I can’t believe someone actually bought that book!

And then, of course, there’s the other version:

Pride & Prejudice got rejected by X number of publishers! But someone saw how great it was! Keep trying!

We do this all. The. Time. Using the same standard to make two different points--one that makes us feel superior to someone else’s hard work; one that makes us feel like we should keep trying. Whether or not you have anything positive to say about Twilight, we can all agree on one very basic principle: It got published. It doesn’t matter if it got rejected X amount of times; it doesn’t matter that it’s personally disliked by many people. It got published. And if that is your goal, there’s something to be learnt from that process.

So, why do we do this? Why do we, as writers, who understand the importance of community and collaboration (or else there wouldn’t be writing groups and message boards and blogs and websites and facebook pages all dedicated to working as a group), fall into being negative towards one another?

I don’t have an easy answer for this. I’ve got an answer for why I do it (highly competitive sore loser workaholic, remember?), and I’m also blunt as a brick to the head. But you aren’t me, and we aren’t each other, and I think it could do us good to remember that sometimes; that we’re individuals who have chosen to be part of this group we call writers, so maybe let’s not be dicks to each other all the time, huh?

Before I sign off, I want to make clear that I’m not saying we shouldn’t have discussions. I’m not saying we shouldn’t stop giving advice or constructive critique, and we shouldn’t stop sharing our personal stance in our personal voice about this work we do. What I’m saying is, I think we can do all of these things and take off the layer of ever-hovering negativity we can have towards one another and all have more time and energy for writing.

Let’s stop wasting time and energy on the useless pursuit of knocking each other down. Which was, actually, the final point of my original post, but looking at that post and this one, I’d much rather this one have my name on it.

I’m probably not gonna lose all my bad habits in one grand gesture, but I’m gonna try, and I think you should try to.

Gayle Francis Moffet writes. She will probably always be a highly competitive sore loser workaholic, but she’s going to try not to demand those same adjectives attach to anyone who doesn't want them. She’s got a writing tumblr, three comic projects in the works, and she's pretty sure she's gonna surprise a librarian this weekend. She really liked Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie. You might, too.


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