Crossposted to the Deadline Dames, where there is oodles more writing advice, neat giveaways, and just generally a Party All The Time. Check us out!
First the news: Escape Between The Pages has the cover art for the next Jill Kismet book, Heaven’s Spite, which is due out in November. It’s shiny and pretty, and honestly I can’t wait for this book to come out, because it’s going to just kick everything we know about Jill right in the pants. I can barely contain myself, the glee is so awesome.
Moving on to our Friday writing post…
Pride, like laudanum and other poisonous medicines, is beneficial in small, though injurious in large, quantities. No man who is not pleased with himself, even in a personal sense, can please others. -Frederick Saunders, librarian and essayist (1807-1902). Ganked with thanks from AWAD
I have a confession to make, dear Readers. It’s not pretty.
I am pretty savage, in my own little way, when it comes to Speshul Snowflake writers. The thing is, there’s a continuum of Speshul Snowflakery. It goes from the all-Speshul, all the time, to the occasional burst of Speshulness from even the most polite and well-adjusted person.
Not even your humble Narrator.
A couple days ago I was bitching and moaning to my writing partner. (Hey, Nina!) I waxed pretty indignant, and cranky to boot. And Nina, bless her cotton-picking little heart, was very kind to me. She finally said, “Look, treat it like spec work. You can do that, you’re good at it, it pays the bills. Come on.”
Which brought me up short. I realized, in one horrifying moment, that I had been indulging in venomous Speshul Snowflakery.
Yes, I do mock the Snowflakes among us. But here’s the thing: everyone will have at least one Snowflake moment in their lives. This is a conservative estimate. If you have one a year, you’re damn near a saint. I suspect most reasonable, well-adjusted writers have one Snowflake moment a month, or even a week.
And that’s OK. No, really. It is. I’ll just wait a second here, so the surprise of hearing me say that can pass. *makes face*
All right. It’s OK. I swear. Because it’s not about having the Snowflake moment, it’s about knowing how to handle it.
This falls under the heading of “professional behavior”, and if you expect to make a living as a writer you need to start from the very beginning with a professional attitude. At one point or another, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot and make a withdrawal against that bank of goodwill. Everyone does. But it doesn’t have to be fatal.
First, accept that nobody is perfect, and you will have a Snowflake moment or two. Get used to the idea. Writing is an incredibly personal art, and writers are judged six ways from Sunday by every single person who claps eyes on their work. But if you know that sooner or later you are going to lose your temper, you are going to have a Snowflake moment, you ARE going to have that response, you are already three-quarters of the way to solving it.
Once you realize the possibility exists, you can try to pause when you’re angry (a hard but eminently learnable skill) and take a deep breath. Soaking one’s head in a bucket of cool water may also be necessary, or a good stiff drink. Whatever gets you there. It is hard, but it is possible to short-circuit the Snowflake moment so that hopefully, nobody but you or your best friend knows you’ve had one.
Here are a few rules I’ve made for myself to avoid the temptation to Snowflake out. You can, of course, leave your own strategies in the comments, where I (and others) will no doubt steal them shamelessly.
* Do not respond to reviews. Ever. Even the positive ones. I’ve covered this in detail, but I think it bears repeating. Responding to even positive reviews ups the chances that you’ll get all het up over a negative one and think it’s a good idea to explain/justify/attack the reviewer/whatever. This leads straight to an Internet Boondoggle and makes you look like an asshat, even if you’re right/justified/whatever. Just don’t do it.
* Don’t respond to emails that piss you off for at least 12 (ideally, 24-36) hours. It’s publishing, not triage. Nobody’s going to die if you take a few hours to make sure that rage pounding behind your eyeballs and cranking your blood pressure doesn’t come out in whatever response you choose to make. This will save you from many, many Snowflake moments that have the potential to shoot you in the career foot and bleed you dry.
* If you must blog about it, lock the post for at least two days. Sometimes you just HAVE to write it out. I’ve done it. And then, two days later, sanity has reasserted itself and I’ve deleted the damn thing no matter how funny and righteous it is. The risk in putting this sort of shit on your blog, even private-locked, is that now it is out of your control, on servers you have no control over, and you will be tempted to unlock it before you’ve cooled down. So if you have just GOT to blog about this huge injustice or whatever is pissing you off bigtime, lock the post up hard and go have a drink. Let your agent/writing partner/best friend know you’re considering putting up a post about X, and see what they say. (See next item.)
* If you are lucky enough to have at least one friend who will gently tell you to STFU and quit being precious, LISTEN TO THEM. This friend may be your agent–occasionally an agent will help you not shoot yourself in the foot. (Beware of expecting your agent to read yoru every diatribe, though. That can sour a relationship right quick.) More often this is going to be a writing partner or friend whose calm and judgment you trust. I’m lucky to have dear Nina, who is collected in the extreme, as well as practical and capable of unhesitatingly telling me when I’m getting my panties in an unnecessary wad. My job in those situations is to listen, and to at least agree to a moratorium on saying anything publicly until I’ve calmed down.
* Get away. Take a walk. Use Freedom to cut off that tempting Internet capability for a while. Push yourself away from the computer and go clean the kitchen or something. Just get away from that thing that’s bugging you. Hopefully, distracting yourself will give you enough breathing space for perspective to creep in…and it will save you from having a public Snowflake moment.
* Decide take the high road EARLY, and stick to it. This is useful at conventions–everyone is tired/stressed/excited/onstage, and behavioral brakes are weakened. Make the decision to treat the convention like it’s not going to make or break you–because it won’t. Remember that the hard sell doesn’t work, your time will come, and you’re there to ideally have fun and NOT make an ass of yourself. Also, staying classy on the Internet makes you the exception rather than the rule. You will never be ashamed of being polite and taking the high road. Getting into the habit of reminding yourself to be polite will help you when crunch-time comes, you’re tired and stressed, and that bitch on the panel has just interrupted you, or that jerkwad commenter/reviewer has called you a hack, or that editor has messed with your Precious Verbage for the last fucking time. You have a chance to not do something you’ll regret. That chance, that possibility is all we get. It’s got to be enough.
* Learn to let it go. One book doesn’t set the world on fire? Let it go and write another one. One reviewer goes on and on about how s/he hates your genre/your books/you because it’s all trash? Let it go, because if you respond it’s wrestling a pig in mud. An editor asks you to completely excise X, then in the next revision pass tells you to put X back in and they don’t know why you took it out? Realize they’re human too, scream into your pillow, and let it go. It’s not that these things don’t matter. It’s that you have to deny them the power to dictate your behavior.
This is an imperfect science for an imperfect world. Human beings are messy, they make mistakes, and they get angry and have bad judgment. However, the Snowflake moments we’re all prone to don’t have to be fatal, and you can make plans to minimize their impact. This isn’t to say that you won’t sometime, somewhere, have completely justifiable rage and you will let it loose in public in a way that will make the world a better place. Those rages and moments, however, are the exception, not the rule, and it’s silly not to plan for the other 99% of the time, when you’re just going to be falling prey to being human and excitable.
I was saved a rather embarrassing Snowflake moment (because I had vaporous dreams of a blog post that would be funny and explosive and would SHOW THEM ALL, DAMMIT) by dear Nina. I’m unendingly grateful, and I know how lucky I am to have her. Which means that next time we get together to dish about writing and the industry, I’m buying drinks. All things considered, that’s the cheaper alternative.
So remember: everyone has Snowflake moments. The professionals just know how to gain that critical few minutes of perspective that stops them from indulging them in public and turning their career into a mudpit.
Over and out.
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