I like writers. I have many writer friends. But I have no Writer friends. That capital letter is very meaningful.
But, doing what I do, from time to time, I must be around Writers. I try to make this as swift and painless (for everyone) as I can. As much as you’d think I would, I don’t tear into them. It’s not that I’m afraid I’ll be outplayed. It’s that it’s too damn easy. Writers get hurt easily. They’re a soft-skinned bunch. Writers keep every rejection letter ever sent to them. Writers whine that their talents are being overlooked or, if the situation is dramatic enough, ignored. I swear Writers spend more time talking about Writing than actually writing.
I used to give a speech on freelancing to a professor friends writing class. I’d walk in, walk up to the biggest guy in the class, lean over and scream,
“You suck!” Into his face.
Then I’d go to the front of the class. The red-faced kid glaring at me as I smiled and said, “If you’re going to be a freelancer, get used to that because you’re going to hear it every day of your life.”
Then I’d just answer questions because, truthfully, that’s all you need to know about freelancing.
But Writers don’t see it like that. There’s always someone blocking their climb. Someone jealous of their obvious genius. Cowardly forces who will never rear their ugly heads to do battle with these gigantic talents.
When the reality is, most times, you’re perfectly acceptable yet not for them. Or not for that project. Or you’re not the type their looking for. And, trust me, they know exactly what type they’re looking for. It doesn’t mean stop trying, it means keeping your eye out for a good fit. It’s why every place tells you to read them before submitting. What they don’t tell you is be a good judge of yourself at the same time. Writes can’t do that.
I edited a country lifestyle magazine (I know! But, it was in English and I know all the words) and this guy submitted a science fiction (albeit country tinged) piece. I sent him back a nice note telling him, although it was good (the writing was good so I had a scifi friend read it and he said it was good), it wasn’t for our very specific market. I got back a letter from this Writer ripping me up and down.
Now I’m in a room filled with Writers just waiting to exit. I was there to see one person who I was trying to work for. As soon as I dropped off the things requested, I was out of there.
But it didn’t happen quickly enough and a Writer I’ve had the misfortune of speaking with before came over. He starts in with how frustrated he’s been. That tidbit was nestled along the hello so I wasn’t allowed a chance to speak. Or flee.
Over his shoulder I see the person I’m there for. I wave and he starts over. Thankfully. While watching the approach I hear something that catches my attention.
“What?” I ask shocking myself that I’m engaging.
“I said, I don’t know why I’m not better known, I’m only here to use my writing as an inspiration.”
I stop a beat. The person arrives, I hand him the package, turn to the Writer and say,
“That’s what I thought you said.”
I then proceeded to laugh myself into tears and pain. People stopped to watch. The guy I was there for put his hand on me for stability. I’m laughing and crying and pointing.
And I wasn’t faking. That could possibly have been the funniest thing I have ever heard. I gather some composure (good thing I never have much of it to begin with, huh?), stand, look the Writer in the eyes and say,
I just couldn’t find a way to top laughing and pointing.