5.15.2010

Your Attitude Sucks

Since immersing myself in this whole writing thing with an aim to become published, I have observed a phenomenon among certain peers.

I like to call it "Entitled Writer Syndrome."

Symptoms include:

  • Righteous indignation at anything less than a three-paragraph essay on why your written work was not considered for publication
  • Attempting to sway an agent or publisher through clever means, such as calling their offices or sending your manuscript attached to cookies and/or handmade sculpture
  • Expressed fury on applicable blog comments and message boards directed toward agents/publishers for daring to send you a "Thanks but no thanks" on an "amazing" manuscript that (insert favorite friend/family member) absolutely loved
  • Seething with jealousy over other the fact that your "avant garde" query written in pictographs with captions in iambic pentameter did not pass muster with such an "inconsiderate jerk" as (insert agent name), who clearly doesn't "get" your "artistic vision."
  • Thinking that since "so and so" got a book deal and he/she sucks, you deserve ... no wait, DESERVE (It's only FAIR!) ... a deal too

I could go on, but you get the point. And I'm big enough to admit that I've caught myself falling into similar cognitive behaviors as well. It happens when you're frustrated at having the same story returned to you repeatedly with a "No" attached to it.

It also happens when you see people to whom you feel you are superior getting green lights. I think a certain measure of shock and/or amazement is to be expected in those cases. It's only natural. I mean, these things are our babies, right? And this market is competitive. We labor over them until the characters within start to feel like extensions of ourselves. Any slight they get feels like a slight against us. And after receiving enough of these, it's understandable that sometimes you'll want to kick the people responsible for making you feel that way.

But I'm going to ask you for a favor as a fellow writer. I'm going to ask you to pretty please give me your keys, because it is clear that you've become drunk on your own bullshit. 

The second you start to think that you have the right to be treated any differently than the rest of us, you need to stop, take a breath, and realize that the publishing world doesn't revolve around you. Are there people in this industry who are cynical dicks hellbent on delivering heartbreak because they're trying to work out their own angst as former literary rejects? Yeah, probably. But they are rare. Most of these agents and editors are overworked, underpaid, and they want more than anything to find something that moves them. Remember, their income depends on you being awesome. Do you really think they'd turn down a golden meal ticket just to spite you? Do you really think a normal person would invest THAT much energy into kicking total strangers?

No. In most cases, they're doing it because they either didn't see the same brilliance in your work that you apparently do (taste is very subjective), or because even if they do see some redeeming qualities, they couldn't rouse enough passion in themselves to advocate it in the way that any good writer deserves. Would you rather have a rejection or a lackadaisical agent? The latter is far worse for your career.

Maybe your story, like it as not, is too much like the fifty dozen others in this agent's slush pile. Or maybe it was SO different, that agent didn't feel like he/she could effectively sell it. If I sold cars, and someone wanted me to try and pimp a vehicle that runs exclusively on roadkill carcasses, I don't think I could do it. It happens.

Just don't get entitled. No one "deserves" to be successful. As in any field, we have to work our asses off for the middling shreds of recognition we get. Some promotions are purely lateral, and that's okay too. I have always found that the biggest things in life happen when we least expect them to--from falling in love to getting that life-changing promotion. We least expect these things because they happened while we were too busy working our asses off to notice if anyone was kissing them. 

Don't harass agents or publishers, even if they treat you like a speck of dust on the manuscript pile burying their blotters. They're not doing it because they don't like you. They're doing it because they have more words to read than there are stars in the galaxy. And remember, the emotional attachment you have to your own work will hardly ever be reflected in the eyes of the agents or publishers you're trying to woo. It's unrealistic to have that sort of expectation. Just rejoice when it actually does happen.

Now, if anyone disagrees with me, I have a basket for your keys waiting by the door. :) 

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