• allieyohn

Don't be a jerk (writer)

Decades ago I was in a collegiate journalism program with a woman we'll call *Celia. She was a truly gifted writer.


She was also one of the most miserable people I've ever had the misfortune to meet. Nothing anyone said or did in the program ever met her (unrealistically high) standards. Woe be unto you if you dared to edit anything she submitted either. Edits were for other, lesser, people.


When Celia decided to quit the program, we all breathed a sigh of relief. Her parting shot was an editorial about how awful each and every person in the program was and why we'd never get anywhere without her.


I don't think she thought we'd actually publish it, so of course we did. Though she never saw the responses that poured in, they were scathing. People, most of whom didn't know Celia, hated her to an extreme level. They'd never met her but they knew her, or someone like her, in their everyday life and man did they hate that person.


I think about Celia a lot and wonder if she ever accomplished her dream of being a journalist. Given what I witnessed, I doubt she did. The world is far less forgiving of difficult women than it is with difficult men, even if they're great at what they do.


In a similar vein, a writer I'd met connected with me on Facebook and I accepted their request. Within days they had a long and detailed conversation on one of their posts about how people who do things like NaNoWriMo aren't real writers. To be a real writer you can only write- not try to write.


If they'd had a chance at having me as a fan, the chance died that day. Aside from the lucky few born into family money, most writers start from the very bottom and struggle their way up.


I could go on and on.


There are writers who refuse to follow editors instructions because they think they know better,


Writers who turn their nose up at people who want their autograph.


Writers who befriend other writers when they're both struggling to get their first publication, then promptly dump those friends as soon as they become successful.


Writers who behave predatorily or appallingly at conferences.


The thing about publishing is its a lot like a small town- everybody talks and there are no secrets. If you behave badly, everyone knows.


There is value in treating others with respect (and you should do that outside of writing too) with regard to your career. Unless you're the best thing since sliced bread when it comes to writing, chances are you're missing out on publications simply due to your behavior.


No one is saying that you should change your personality to make it in publishing. Some people are naturally sarcastic (guilty) or dour. Regardless of your natural personality, you should still treat others in and out of the industry with respect.


Think- would you want to work with someone who treated others with disdain and contempt? Or would you rather work with someone open to feedback who treats others with respect?


You'll find the road, and life, a lot easier if you don't act like Celia and countless other writers who behave badly.


*Obviously not her real name. Nobody wants to be sued.

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