The Most Dangerous Game

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”  – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

I’m going to do my best to put this into words, despite my suspicions of their inadequacy to convey what I’m feeling.

We’re told as artists, from reliable sources, not to take things personally. Yet the act of being an author, or musician, or painter, is quite tied to our intimacies and close relationships. Any career that deals, even a little bit, with reputation is by default a career of duality. The self is suddenly shifted from a thing of sole possession, to a commodity to be bought and sold.

Don’t kid yourself—as an author, you are your writing. That simple truth is the reason why many authors choose to publish under pen names. It protects them. It shields them from some of the inherent pitfalls of this industry. In retrospect, I wish I’d used my pen as a true pen, instead of a novelty leftover from when I was a girl who once dreamt of being an author.

Why?

Because—just like in Son of Ereubus, nothing is what I thought it would be. I don’t feel like I thought I would. I am not reacting as I thought I would, and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it.  Blogging only goes so far. “Getting over it” only goes so far. “Holding your head up” only shuts out so much.

I mentioned, months ago, that everything was changing for me. Part of that change includes  sudden interest in my life, attention from people with whom I’ve tried desperately over the years to rekindle relationships—with whom I’ve tried to start friendships with, in some cases. It’s a double-edged sword. I am both grateful and heartbroken: Grateful because the support has been overwhelming; heartbroken, because it has nothing at all to do with me as a person.

I am now the equivalent of my accomplishments. This isn’t universally true—of course–there are some folks who have been in my life and been by my side since long before any of my dreams started to appear even remotely possible. This post isn’t about them.

So, with all of that in mind, let’s talk about relationships for a moment.

Brutal honesty, while honorable in some circles, is simply cruel in others. Siblings, parents, close friends and spouses often bear the brunt of our less-civilized selves, in part because we know they love us and that they aren’t going anywhere … when in truth, they should be granted only the best of what we are as human beings. They deserve our highest respect and deepest consideration. Yet, we seem to reserve those things for veritable strangers … people we want to impress or from whom we have something to gain.

We are not immune to this as storytellers.

Our fellow authors deserve nothing from us but the kindest regard and the sincerest empathy. Instead, we’re often consumed with jealousy or simply too absorbed in our own pursuits to realize how our actions affect our peers in publishing. It all stems back to this childish competition mode that a good majority of writers fall into … as if one person’s triumph has anything at all to do with yours.

Seriously, as a whole, authors can be the most self-serving assholes on the planet. I’ve watched writers tear each other apart, disregard favors, back-stab and sabotage till they’ve flat run out of ideas. Then they wait till opportunity knocks. If you don’t have any clue what I’m talking about, then good for you. But, read on anyway because if you stay on this career path, you will eventually understand me. It might take moving up the food chain a few notches. The darkness of human nature, in some ways, seems at its most raw and excitable in the creative world. Maybe this is because we deal with the soul on a daily basis. I genuinely don’t know. And religious authors are not exempt from this untoward behavior. They just do a better job of hiding their nastiness.

Not all authors are this way (yet those who are, are unavoidable). Some of us will genuinely do anything and everything we can to help out other people. We want to see others succeed because we remember what it was like to feel the all-mighty Power of Suck. Hell, I’ve given shards of my soul away for the benefit of others, and you know what … it was worth it. I’d do it over again in a heart beat. The problem though, is that a great portion of up-and-coming authors are downright selfish. Pure and simple. A great many mid-level authors, who’ve been in the game for years are even worse. They’re not just egocentric, they’re ravenous and exhausted from treading proverbial water. They’re tired of being the sum total of their achievements to their friends and family, and especially strangers, and some are out for blood.

And in a way, it reminds me of the 1932 film ‘The Most Dangerous Game.’ Why? Well, here’s the plot (courtesy of Wikipedia):

Famous big game hunter and author Bob Rainsford  swims to a small, lush island, the sole survivor of a shipwreck. There, he becomes the guest of Russian Count Zaroff, a fellow hunting enthusiast. Zaroff remarks that Bob’s misfortune is not uncommon; in fact, four people from the previous sinking are still staying with him: Eve Trowbridge, her brother Martin, and two sailors.

That night, Zaroff introduces Bob to the Trowbridges and reveals his obsession with hunting. During one of his hunts, a Cape buffaloinflicted a head wound on him. He eventually became bored of the sport, to his great consternation, until he discovered “the most dangerous game” on his island. Bob asks if he means tigers, but Zaroff denies it. Later, Eve shares her suspicions of Zaroff’s intentions with the newcomer. The count took each sailor to see his trophy room, on different days, and both have mysteriously disappeared. She believes their host is responsible, but Bob is unconvinced.

Then Martin vanishes as well. In their search for him, Bob and Eve end up in Zaroff’s trophy room, where they find a man’s head mounted on the wall. Then, Zaroff and his men appear, carrying Martin’s body. Zaroff expects Bob to view the matter like him and is gravely disappointed when Bob calls him a madman.

He decides that, as Bob refuses to be a fellow hunter, he must be the next prey. If Bob can stay alive until sunrise, Zaroff promises him and Eve their freedom. However, he has never lost the game of what he calls “outdoor chess”. Eve decides to go with Bob.

Eventually, they are trapped by a waterfall. While Bob is being attacked by a hunting dog, Zaroff shoots, and the young man falls into the water. Zaroff takes Eve back to his fortress, to enjoy his prize. However, the dog was shot, not Bob. Bob fights first Zaroff, then his henchmen, killing them. As Bob and Eve speed away in a motor boat, a not-quite-dead Zaroff tries to shoot them, but he succumbs to his wounds and falls out of the window where below are his hunting dogs, it is assumed that the dogs kill him for good.

Head on a wall anyone? There are days when this plot certainly seems to do a damn good job hemming up the publishing industry. And it certainly sums up what it means in this current climate to be an author in general. Whether it’s by fellow scribes, or old friends, we’re hunted once we’ve joined the game … one way or another. We can deny it all we like. But, we’re in this for better or worse. We agreed to this. Didn’t we? This most dangerous game?

 

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33 responses

  1. I know it’s not the main point of your post, but I want to disagree with you about one thing. (Something I seldom do, just so you know.) What the ones you mention as closest to you get is a lot richer and truer and more valuable than the civility you can afford to pass around more profligately. They get the trust that comes with acting in accordance with your beliefs, your high-spiritedness, your deepest values and probably even your vanity and your moods and, if you’re like me, an occasional hangover or plain lack of sleep. Respect and consideration are seldom (to my way of thinking) pure extracts. It’s the impurities that give a drink its flavor, you know?

    Those who deserve your trust, get what comes with it. And by the way, not all of them are known to you. So many of them, I’m quite certain, only get as physically close as your blog. But they do get your blog, and along with it, they get who you are–and I don’t mean just as a commodity.

    As for your main point, for all the self-serving assholes who provoke a post like this, there must be dozens of others like Eve who’d rather join you and be hunted down than take part in an idiot game, anyway, with the likes of Zaroff.

    • As always, I love your replies and your POV on things. I get what you’re saying and actually, I do agree in most respects. Particularly with that bit about the impurities. So true.

      As for my main point, yes, there are dozens like Eve, and I’m fortunate enough to know a great many (you being one of them). You’re an incredibly generous person … and a rare find. I wish more writers were like you. In fact, you’ve taught me more about the business of kindness than anyone else I know. You deserve my trust and then some. 🙂

  2. Sobering, but yes, it can certainly be this way. I was fortunate with my first book to have mostly good comments from fellow writers, but the harshness came from family. Not all family, just some of them. I, too, was surprised at how people looked at me. I hadn’t changed overnight, so it was a bit tough. I wish for you today that all your sharks become minnows, all your enemies become friends. Hang in there and keep writing.

    • I’m sorry to hear that the harshness you experienced came from family. That’s rough. I don’t know how I would have responded to that. And thank you for the blessing, I wish it back to you as well.

      • Thanks. My older generation sort of sat back and said, “no one is going to read your little book.” And then were surprised when it sold well in spite of the outrageous price my publisher put on it. I copied the comments I got on-line and letters written, and showed them. That finally stopped the negativity. I learned I had to believe in myself and my own writing because no one else would.

        I’m sure I was not 100% popular with everyone who read the book, but even though it’s now off the market, I’m still hearing comments on it. Amazing! I heard that one copy made it through a circle of 25 women because they kept telling each other about it and borrowing it. The original purchaser was afraid she wouldn’t see it back. She did eventually, but it took her two years.

        I guess I feel that what goes around comes around. If authors are mean to others, it will come back to them. We live by the “will of the readers” and if they don’t like what we do in our lives (even if our writing is good) they will stop buying us. We don’t have the luxury of being “Mean Girls.” Besides, it’s easier to be nice; takes much less energy …

  3. Wow. On some levels I wish your post would have dissuaded me. But the sadistic part of me is ready to jump into that shark-infested water. I love the look of your blog. Your headliner graphic is awesome. There’s a lot more here I’d like to read, so I’ll be back.

    • Oh, I like shark-infested waters, lol. I tend to tread them often. Maybe a little too much for my own good. 🙂 Glad you like the blog, I hope to see you around more often!

  4. Wow, that’s harsh! I’m sorry you’ve had such a negative experience with fellow authors. You are probably right that people drawn to the solitary endeavor of writing are more likely to be antisocial and self-centered. (I just read an interview with Tobias Wolff that implied the same.)

    I haven’t really “broken in” yet, but I hear mixed reports from others who have signed contracts and gained experience with the business end of writing. There are many writers out there who do help each other and remain civil and ethical in their professional lives. It seems that those writers build solid followings of readers, fellow writers, and others in the industry who genuinely like them as people. Here’s hoping that you (and I, in my fantasies!) can build a network of creative AND supportive individuals who feed others’ spirits instead of trying to crush them.

    In today’s modern age of social networking, it is very beneficial for an author to have an attractive personality and demeanor as well as talent. I’ve seen acquaintances receive free edits, free advertising, free reviews, valuable referrals, and enthusiastic reader promotions based on positive relationships they’ve built with others by being friendly and generous.

    I think it’s important for us sensitive writer types to be careful about editing out the poisonous personalities in our lives and surround ourselves with good “emotional nutrition” in the form of supportive relationships as much as possible. Inspiration is productivity.

  5. I’ve had good experiences with fellow authors too, but I’m naturally pessimistic. It’d be like Bruce Wayne talking about how great the school systems are in Gotham city when he knows what’s really going on and has the power to do something about it … even if it’s one small thug/psychopath at a time. Yeah, that’s extreme. I know. But that’s kind of who I am. I see fellow authors getting stomped and I can’t remain quiet about it. I can’t keep my mouth shut or pretend like it isn’t happening.

    Because here’s the thing, some of the people doing the stomping, are doing it covertly. They have great blogs and followers and attractive personalities. But, behind closed doors, they do heinous and questionable things to others. They have positive relationships, but only with certain, select, people. It’s the literary equivalent of ‘Mean Girls.’ Someone’s still trying to make ‘fetch’ happen …

  6. It’s you.

    HA, HA, HA! I kid, I kid. Please, don’t kill me. Or throw a latte in my lap. One of those extra hot ones. Because those hurt.

    Not that I have spilled one there by accident.

    Ahem.

    ANYWAY, I’ve dealt with nothing but kindness amongst established writers and I’m just a squirt. It makes me wonder what I’m trying to get into because my tolerance for this crap is, I suspect, somewhat like your tolerance. So. Very. Low.

    Writing, as an artistic endeavor, always will have a certain MEH to it whenever it encounters the business side of the equation. The problem, mostly isn’t these malcontents, but the fact that the interweb tubes makes it so much easier to spread their wanker selves in your direction.

    Wanker is a technical term, by the way.

    J.S., you know me, so I’m trying not to be a snot here, but I am going to offer help. You said:

    “I’m going to do my best to put this into words, despite my suspicions of their inadequacy to convey what I’m feeling.”

    You’re suspicions were correct. You almost made it. What you are talking about, at its core, are elitism and entitlement.

    Why was Zaroff evil? He was an elitist who felt entitled, and when he didn’t get what he wanted, his selfishness took on sociopathic forms.

    Elitism and entitlement issues are a pervasive stink and a problem with society in general. Recognize it for what it is and rally against it, in all of its forms, even if it is one person at a time. You mentioned the subversiveness of it all. That’s the nature of the beast you are fighting. We have men, today, who sacrifice their daughters’ safety on the alter of collectivism. We have large segments of American society who feel entitled to the point that someone’s economic success is their failure and retaliate. We have authors who feel elitist to the point of trying to elevate themselves by stepping on the head of their fellow artists.

    It’s all the same. It’s the same thing. The very same thing. You can only fight it by recognizing it for what it is. It’s elitism, and elitism is immoral and unethical, practiced by dishonorable curs and scallywags.

    • Very well-spoken. It is absolutely elitism and entitlement. Dead on. And, you’ve dealt with unkindness among professional writers … a little over a year ago, you and I spoke about a mutual friend who was being treated less than fairly by her fellow authors. Remember? This is the same kind of thing I’m ranting about here. I haven’t personally been offended … not really … but I’ve seen an awful lot of ugliness happening to other people lately.

      You’re right. It is the same thing. And there is a staggeringly thin line between mere human selfishness and a true sense of entitlement. This post was a warning for those of us who walk too close to that divide. One trip is all it takes.

      • “And, you’ve dealt with unkindness among professional writers … a little over a year ago, you and I spoke about a mutual friend who was being treated less than fairly by her fellow authors. Remember?”

        GAH!

        I had forgotten about that, probably because it didn’t happen to me. Now I recall it vividly and we did indeed discuss this very topic.

        Actually, I take it back. It’s your fault that I forgot about this, J.S.. You broke the Universal Rule of Men Remembering Things:

        You did not mention “boobs” in the conversation.

        See, as the male part of the conversation, I can’t bring up boobs, because that would be crass and boorish behavior, and I am a gentleman and a sweetie-pie. Thus, that memory enhancer fell to you.

        Let me give you an example:

        J.S.: Honey, after your game, can you take the trash to the curb?

        Hubby (playing Xbox): Sure thing!

        (next day, the trash is not at curb)

        (one week later)

        J.S.: Honey, after your game, can you take the trash to the curb? Boobs.

        Hubby (playing Xbox): Sure thing!

        (trash out at curb twenty minutes later)

        It is good that we can talk about these things.

  7. I’m relieved to say that I haven’t yet (knock on wood) run into any serious backstabbers in the publishing industry (maybe it’s just that spending a few years in High School in Drama Club has put backstabbing dramatics into perspective..), but knowing they’re out there is definitely helpful for keeping your eyes out for them.

    • Oh yeah … the stories I could tell. I’ve heard such awful things. They’re always whispered … as if people are afraid that speaking them aloud will lend the words credence. It’s sickening.

      • Okay, so now I am very curious about what actually happened. Can you spill any of these stories without getting yourself in trouble? Maybe using code names for the Mean Girls? I’ve never heard a specific tale of treachery in the writing business except for authors giving each other bad reviews on Amazon using anonymous profiles (so lame). I’m interested in what else is going on here. Are you at liberty to divulge specifics?

  8. If I don’t preface this with an acknowledgment that neither the new millennium nor the recent rapture threat have rung in any fundamental changes in the human condition, you might mistake me for some kind of pillowhead, but I do wonder if there isn’t something downright Malthusian going on here.

    What I’m trying to say is: There may or may not be more writers in the world than ever before, but the ones we have (especially the unpublished ones, like yours truly) are so much more visible as to give the appearance of a horde of uncouth barbarians swarming up the hillsides of Rome at a time when the publishing empires are crumbling under the pressures of new technologies, the coffers have been turned upside-down, the houses plundered and the Borders (yes, I capitalized that) barricaded. Nothing seems to work like it’s supposed to, and some of the folks who have figured out how to profit in times of chaos want to pour more fuel on the fires.

    Resources (by which I mean, readers) have not dwindled. It’s just that instead of working together to rebuild the roads in order to get to them, people think they have to, first, find their own path through the confusion and, second, cover their tracks and beat back anyone who tries to follow them.

    I don’t know if there’s a cure for small-mindedness, but I’m pretty sure that the guy snarling at you over his shoulder doesn’t have a clue where he’s going. He’s just scared. The more folks you help get up the hill, even if they get ahead of you, the wider the path gets.

    Either that’s the way the world really works or somebody just fucking shoot me and be done.

    • Hahaha, I love this comment! I’m reading a biography of Charlemagne right now, and the imagery was fantastic. The Borders barricaded indeed. It’s an exciting time to be a writer, huh?

  9. Genie — I wish I could, but I can’t without going into specifics. I will say, however, that I’ve seen the most underhanded stuff come from YA authors. Maybe there’s the correlation to Mean Girls, lol. They write for a teenage audience and thus have begun to act like teenage girls. Who knows. But, I’ve seen it out of men too … and there’s a good portion of this sort of single-mindedness going on in the literary fiction world as well. It’s elitism, pure and simple. Stuff happens at conferences, conventions, etc. Authors within the same large publishing house will sometimes fight over stupid crap, who got what and how. Then, when things aren’t leveled on the playing field, they secretly resent each other. This is one benefit of a small press, things are usually fairly even between authors. Not that everybody sees it that way, but at the end of the day, it is. Just hang tight and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s not all roses, no matter what industry you get into. It’s the same in the art world. Yes, there are some circles where people are generally nicer to one another than others. That’s wonderful if that’s where you are. I hope I’m wrong and that you never see the kind of base human nature that I’ve seen. The fewer jaded authors the better. My attitude isn’t healthy or conducive to productivity, lol. So, stay optimistic as long as you can. 🙂

    Vanessa, they are definitely scared. It’s a Lord of the Flies, every-man-for-himself kind of thing. And I’m with you on the mindset of helping folks up the hill. It has to be that way or we’ll all perish. These roads are in desperate need of repair and it’s going to take all of our abilities to fix things. Well said. I like your analogy a lot. In fact, it’s worthy of its own blog post.

    I don’t know that there is a cure for something like this. The people I had in mind when I wrote this post don’t read blogs like mine. They only read highly-trafficked, highly-touted blogs of agented authors who are signed with big presses. I don’t have an agent, and I’m published with a small/mid-sized press. They are part of that literary crowd who bolster each other up and stick together, only because it benefits them in the right here and now to do so … and they don’t hang out on my side of the cafeteria.

    • On the flip side, last years(?) ‘YA Mafia’ aka ‘YA Clique’ rants were counter-productive and off-the-mark. Which is why I feel your Bruce Wayne, one thug at a time comment was excellent.

    • Hmmmm, good to know. So YA and large publishers are probably more Mean Girls than other genres and smaller presses. That fits with the bits and pieces of information I’ve read on other authors’ blogs. How interesting about the YA genre–I wonder if childish people are drawn to the genre or if writing catty characters influences a writer’s behavior in the RL.

      • I hate to single out the genre like that, but … I don’t know. Maybe correlation doesn’t equal causation here. Maybe I’ve seen more nastiness from them because they are more vocal than small press authors. They have more of an online presence. If there is indeed a connection (and deep down I suspect there is), I’d like to think it’s writing about catty characters that does it. As opposed to these authors having the kind of deep-seated psychological issues that are being presented as chronic narcissism and social violence.

        This is not the same as adults writing about catty characters. When literary authors do it, it’s not from a trendy POV. There are no special gloves, whereas a YA author (unless they’re specifically writing about bullies) sees things myopically. So, that’s not to say that we’re all the sum total of our characters’ attitudes. Not at all. It’s the difference between being a High School teacher, or being an undercover student. One is trying to reach teens and one is trying to blend in.

      • *whispers* I write YA. I am not evil, I promise. 🙂 But I do think it’s a matter of motives. Anytime there’s a Cinderella story (Stephenie Meyer), people who are interested in a quick financial fix leap for the bandwagon (writing, specifically YA). When it actually takes, yanno, real work and effort to accomplish what “should have” been easy, people get cranky. They start looking for reasons WHY it wasn’t easy (come on! Have dream, write it down, get published in 6 mo.! Where’s my entourage and hate mail?!?). And, generally, most of the whys wind up being external instead of internal. Because, shoot, if it’s internal, THAT’S even MORE WORK. *flail*

        I write YA because as a teenager, I wanted something more. I’d read the classics, and I felt pandered to by the YA I did try to read. I wanted a great story, a challenging read, but something a bit more…relate-able. I write because I remember the hell that is being a teenager. I don’t want to re-live it. I want to relieve the burdens of those poor kids who are going through it. At least for a couple hundred pages or so.

        I think people get ornery when their motives are off. It’s hard, being artsy and sensitive, to remember that what people say and do is largely their problem. I can only control myself.

        And if I can manage to remember that and act accordingly, it is a good day. 🙂 Thanks for this post. I appreciate it.

  10. I’m only just starting out on this published author lark and so far I’ve been fortunate. I’ve had only encouragement and constructive criticisms from my fellow writers. Maybe I’ve been lucky in that the ones I’ve had contact with have been nice people. I’m sure the nasty ones will rear their heads eventually and I guess that will be a measure of my book’s success. Because you can never please everyone and in order to reach a wide audience, you will inevitably reach some assholes. But I do know what you’re talking about. I spent two years trying to get my book to the top of the HarperCollins critique website Authonomy. For those of you wjho don’t know, this is a site where anyone can post their book and the idea is that you get other writers to read it and hopefully vote it up the chart. The top 5 books each month get read by a HarperCollins editior. I did eventually get King’s Envoy that editor review, but it was damned hard work and I had to beg read swaps from lots of writers (ie, spam them). Despite this being the sole way of getting your book to rise up the list, you’d be amazed at how many writers disliked being asked. Some were even downright rude.
    I guess what I’m trying to say is that in any activity that carries a measure of competiton – be it writing, sport, dog-showing, you name it – you are always going to meet the nasties. That element of competition seems to bring out the worst in our natures and some people are perfectly willing to trample anyone else in order to win. Anything creative that necessitates revealing part of one’s soul – such as writing – will always involve pain. I think it’s the way we deal with that pain, and those sad few who delight in inflicting it, that defines us.

    • I think your personal and professional network makes a difference when it comes down to it. Rhemalda has a tightly-kint and fiercely loyal network of readers and fellow writers that helps stabilize our experiences. But, I think you’re right about the competition part of things. And some of that is what Anthony mentioned as being a sense of entitlement. My personal network (and it sounds like yours as well) doesn’t involve nasty people. There are too many wonderful people in the writing world to virtually ‘hang out’ with, to bother with grown-up mean girls. But, I know of some authors who have no choice. They literally live in a writing hot zone where they are surrounded by it. They are surrounded by highly-paid, highly-publicized authors and there is no avoiding the mentality you mentioned as being on Authonomy.

      It’s thinly spread rage. It’s throngs of smiling authors on panels and doing conference rounds, who so desperately want to be “prom queen” instead of just another guest. There’s constant comparison between them and you. It’s uncomfortable to be around. I noticed it, on a small level, when I went to SIBA last year. Some authors were gracious and happy and genuinely pleasant. There were a few who were so insecure that you could practically feel their judgement as they walked past you. Like the popular girl who was once an overweight no one who has reached the top of the food chain, making fun of the fat girl at lunch, so do some of these former small press authors look down on us because they’ve now ‘arrived’ at the right table in the cafeteria. We remind them too much of where they once were. It just … never ends. And like you said, it’s how we deal with it that defines us.

  11. Thankfully I haven’t encountered many mean girls or boys, as yet although maybe it has something to do with being visible to radar, which is a scary thought, if your experience in this treatment has escalated. I suppose it’s better than deathly silence? Maybe? Anyway, it sounds like something to look forward to… but so far the writers I’ve encountered (Including you) have been very supportive, and I think we always remember who’s been good to us, and humans have a way of enabling their own karma. I’ll never forget the encouragement you gave me, when you wrote to me in 2010, after reading my first chapter. Like Vanessa pointed out at the beginning, there are those who physically read your blog, but don’t usually comment, (like me) who wish you well, and are pleased for your achievements. (Oh and should I mention Neil Gaiman) Just saying…

  12. Yeah, so far I have been lucky as well…but I agree with others and yourself that it’s a function of where you are in the food chain.

    It still makes me laugh a little, but I did get overtly, deliberately snubbed once by a semi-famous author who didn’t think I was “worthy” to sit on a panel with him at a conference. He actually refused to shake my hand (I was trying to do the polite thing and introduce myself to everyone there), and turned his back in my face. Twice. (I gave him the benefit of the doubt the first time), and was overtly rude to me. He also grandstanded in the panel, and talked about himself rather than the purported topic, which I thought made him look a bit like an egomaniacal ass, personally…but that was his gig. He was an older gentleman, so I don’t think he’s going to change anytime soon. Or really, ever.

    I get that some people are just like that…curmudgeonly, insecure, whatever…so I tried not to take it personally. But there is an element of bitterness I’ve encountered in some writers, those who for whatever reason don’t feel appreciated, respected, venerated, whatever, to the degree that they somewhere decided they deserve. It really seems to suck all the fun out of having succeeded for them. I’ve mostly witnessed this at conferences, again, probably because I’m a nobody, so wouldn’t attract any interest from these people online or anywhere else, but I usually feel sorry for them. I’ve witnessed petty, bitter little fights within genres, between genres, between authors fighting for the same midlist scraps of pie…all the stuff I think you are referencing above, and it just makes them look like children. Insecure children, who maybe write more to be heard/seen than for other reasons people might have for producing art.

    Rather than YA, for me it was the science fiction and literary genres where I noticed it most, because those were the conferences I often attended, and they were the ones who seemed most often to be making less money than some of the genres (e.g., romance, mysteries and so forth). But many of these people were very highly regarded, so I don’t quite get it, honestly.

    That being said, the serious megasellers I’ve met (not like I’ve met a lot, but I’ve met a few) were lovely, lovely people, who had none of these hangups, at least not that I could perceive. Maybe because they are being compensated correctly, in their own eyes. Maybe because they don’t have to deal with all of that crap anymore. Maybe because they have real confidence in themselves and don’t need to belittle others…or you have to have a certain amount of depth and humility to even make it to that level. Maybe because jealous authors with less talent than them already kicked the crap out of them on their way up the ladder…but I just didn’t see it in them at all. They were also extremely encouraging, helpful and generous to me as a starting out writer, way beyond what their time was worth, in the greater scheme of things.

    I haven’t been to any conferences this year, but I highly suspect it is probably getting worse…again, for all the reasons listed above. Now the battles between those who are publishing indie and those who are “house slaves only” (as Michael Stackpole calls them) is starting to gear up, and that promises to be ugly as well. I will say this, however, there does seem to be a growing network of writers who are trying to help new and established writers navigate these changes. Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith are the two I’ve read the most from, and who are very excited about this brave new world (albeit cautious about what is happening in trad publishing)…but I’ve read a lot of others as well, who seem to be viewing the changes in publishing as an opportunity, not only as a sinking ship where you have to smack people with paddles to keep them from trying to climb into the boat with you.

    But, like you alluded to, some of this really is a function of your success. Even at my modest level, I’ve lost a few friends from the mere fact that I’m writing a lot and making some money at it…and they can’t finish projects or don’t want to go the indie route or can’t give up the writing group that gives them bad advice or whatever. Unfortunately, it’s a nature of growth and development and success in whatever form that some people will applaud you for it and cheer you on and/or try to help, and some people will make it about them, and decide that you are hurting them in some way by getting it “instead of” them (talk about a deluded belief right there). Life is a zero-sum game to some people, and that’s just a sad truth.

    It’s entitlement, like Anthony said above, but it’s also the difference between those who own their own success and failures and those who would rather blame the world when things don’t go the way they want. They rail against the world for their lack of success, their lack of satisfaction for their career, their lack of good reviews or money or…whatever. But whatever grains of truth lie in their rants against how this or that system or editor or publishing house or fellow writer has “done them wrong,” they will never gain the perspective needed to help others move forward if they don’t focus on where they have power to change their situation. I sometimes think the difference between happy and unhappy people in the world is that single thing…whether you own your life, choices, failures and wins…or if you blame other people, or feel powerless against the whims of the world.

    Not to say some people don’t have good luck, get screwed over, etc…but life is all about where you place your focus. So don’t let people like that get you down too much. You seem very much like a person who places your focus in all the right places…at least 90% of the time (which is about as good as any of us can do, really). And anyway, it’s cliche, but they are making themselves more miserable than they can possibly make anyone else. I’ll tell you, I looked at that semi-famous writer afterwards and I wasn’t feeling jealous…I thanked my lucky stars I wasn’t him. A bitter old guy who couldn’t be happy about how much cool shit he’d accomplished, and say the hell with everyone else who didn’t agree.

  13. I think I’m starting to understand why J.D. Salinger just dumped his later works in a social security box. When I was 18 I thought writing was meaningless unless you had somebody read your work. Now, I’m becoming more and more content to write and just stick the manuscripts on a shelf. However, all it takes is a really positive fan email or review every now and then to make it all worthwhile.

  14. Interesting post. Besides artistic temperament, or as my dance director used to say – temper – I think a lot of people in the arts suffer from scarcity thinking. When I decided to focus on writing, all I heard was how competitive it is. But what isn’t these days? But there are never as many venues, or publishers, or backers, as there are artists and this brings out cutthroat behavior in some people. I think they must be very insecure. If they are successful, they are afraid of being surpassed by a newcomer. If they are trying to break in — well you know how hard that is. One extra problem with writing as opposed to the performing arts, is that so few writers can make any money, let alone a living, these days So being successful doesn’t necessarily equate with being able to retire when you fall out of favor with the public.
    People get territorial I suppose. It does backfire. I’ve been involved in all of the arts, and all of them circulate in very small worlds. It’s unwise to underestimate anyone.

  15. @ Annie, I totally don’t think you’re evil at all. And I really hope you didn’t take my comments the wrong way. The YA nastiness I was talking about is YA authors against each other, not writers of other genres. I’ve seen quite a few of them band together and single someone else out. Hope that made some semblance of sense.

    I agree with you. YA is every bit as hard as any other sort of writing, and it takes just as much of your soul to write it. Some of my favorite books of all time are books I read as a young teenager (Christopher Pike and L.J. Smith come to mind). So, you have my upmost respect. 🙂

    And thank you for commenting. I need more YA blood here at the Asylum. It puts a fresh perspective on things. I hope to see you more often!

    • Man, that was cool! Experimenting as you go, doing something, unidnog it, trying this, trying that, rumbling along the way Love it!If I were recording a tutorial, I would write myself a script and then rehearse it until I could recite it when woken up at 3am, and that would have been boring. Your tuts certainly aren’t.That’s one thing I admire about Gen Y: their ability to live 100% out in the open. No private thoughts, thanks to Twitter; no private moments thanks to Facebook is a place to live only necessary to protect you from the outside weather now?But I’m rumbling damn, it’s contagious!

  16. Oh, no worries, I wasn’t offended at all. In fact, I agree. There are many things I love about the community of YA authors, but the occasional mob mentality that rears its head when someone breaks a “rule” bewilders me (and now I’m wondering, should I have said that? Eeesh). I find myself wanting to retreat, because speaking out only seems to add to the fray. Usually I just wind up staring blankly into my refrigerator. 😉

    Thanks for the welcome. Your posts are very insightful and gorgeously written. I’ll have to pop in more often. 🙂

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