Two Hard Lessons

I've always tried hard to walk the line between speaking my truth and remaining professional in my public journal space. I value truth-tellers and bold speakers who do not cower behind political correctness and herd mentality, even when I disagree with what they have to say. However, I am uncomfortable with finger-pointing and ad hominem attacks as well, so I try hard to refrain from those things. All this by way of saying that I hope you'll forgive the abstractions in the following entry; I'd like to discuss a couple of hard lessons I've learned this week, but I'd rather not mention names.

Lesson One:
Writers, value and defend your work. Know your rights, know how to address violations of those rights and pursue appropriate remedies when necessary. Most editors and publishers are well-meaning people who do competent work, but clashes are sometimes unavoidable. Often those clashes will happen with people from whom you would never expect inappropriate behavior, and indeed, most people who violate your rights will not believe they are doing so at the time. This changes nothing. You should be kind about these matters when you can be, but it really is all right to be firm when you must be. Do not allow editors and publishers to persuade you into making decisions about your work that favor them but not you. Do not allow yourself to be bullied into believing you are being selfish when you do not concede to unreasonable demands. Do not allow your work to be altered or published without your informed consent. Be prepared to fight, and then follow through with the fight when you must. Be prepared to terminate unhealthy professional relationships. If you do not advocate for yourself, you cannot expect anyone else to do so.

Lesson Two:
On the heels of the last paragraph, it can be useful to remember that there are writers, editors and publishers whose only interest is in themselves. I've encountered a number of such people who are all too happy to hear what you have to say about your professional life but refrain from responding, since that would constitute risk. I've been pressured for details about markets that publish my work from people who have no interest in me personally but who approach me with a gushy 'do-tell' attitude, as if I would gossip about my professional resources. I've been treated to silence from writers whose digital rights I defended until they read I had been offered a book contract as a result and suddenly wanted to chat it up about the matter. Most recently, I was encouraged to share the details of an editorial clash with a writer who has also had difficulty with the publishing entity in question, only to be treated to silence afterward, as if the writer only wanted me to dish for the sake of some morbid curiosity. So stay sharp, writers. Don't allow yourself to be manipulated by selfish or dysfunctional people.

It's been a double-whammy week for me, but no permanent harm has come of my experiences. However, I did want to share them with you, inasmuch as I could do so without finger-pointing or name-calling. Hope it helps.