One of the many things I have discovered in the course of being a blogging agent is the intense sensitivity of many writer types.
And actually, the mere fact that I typed that sentence will probably get legions of anonymous commenters up in arms about my gross insensitivity. Steel yourselves, sensitive writers! Steel!
To take the most obvious example, there’s a proud and distinguished history of authors losing their minds over bad reviews and acting badly, to the point an author has to really, really act badly for anyone to surprised anymore (but writers also happen to be inventive types and manage to find new ways).
To take another example, I can’t count the number of times in the course of writing this blog I’ve been accused of hating writers or looking down on writers or otherwise being reflective of all that is wrong with publishing today. Even aside from the fact that I’m actually a writer in my spare time, why in the world would I spend my time blogging about writers and books if I hated them? Why would I have spent seven years in this business to begin with?
Now, to be clear and fair, I’ve written a lot of words on this blog and anyone who spills this much e-ink is going to misspeak or state things inartfully from time to time. So I’m not criticizing people for taking offense occasionally. I also don’t intend to absolve agents everywhere of bad behavior or attitudes that don’t deserve to be absolved.
But still, there’s a small, vocal portion of the Internet writing community who will seize upon any teeny tiny perceived slight and use it as proof that agents really truly are haters of writers/scum of the earth/enemy of Literature with a capital L/Philistines/Luddites/Carthaginians (is that a thing?)/you name it.
It’s worth remembering during these times: agents have devoted their working lives to writers, they have typically worked their way up for years while living in expensive cities and making less than some part time temp workers, and they often work for hours on end with writers whose books they can’t sell, for which they receive absolutely no compensation. I’ve never met a single agent who is in this business for any reason other than the fact that they love writers and they love books.
But there’s just something about writing, where it’s almost as if writer types feel things more deeply and need a channel for that passion and the inevitable frustration that comes with the business. And frustration really is inevitable. No matter how successful you are there are always going to be challenges, needlessly personal bad reviews/rejections, and any number of road blocks along the way.
Channeling it into frustration with the business side of publishing, against literary agents, editors, reviewers, bookstores… you see it so often, and yet it’s just so clearly not the most productive way to be.
Michael Jordan is the one of the most notorious competitors and cataloguer of slights of all time. Rumor has it he never missed an opportunity to feel slighted. The sensitive soul of an artist!
And yet: he didn’t complain (at least not publicly) when he was supposedly frozen out when he was a young All Star or when the Pistons created the “Jordan Rules,” which basically entailed knocking him senseless at every opportunity, or about the height of the rims or the length of the court or David Stern or fans or anything else. Instead he set about destroying the competition on the court.
This is probably some of the most obvious advice you’ve ever seen on the Internet, but still! I think it’s worth remembering that if you’re a writer you are most likely also a sensitive type who must steel yourself from time to time and remember to channel your passion into the proper vessel: your writing.