Thursday, October 07, 2004

Thursday, October 7, 2004
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and cool

Yesterday’s day call was surprisingly pleasant. Traveling during peak hours is always a nightmare – why the MTA thinks they deserve a fare hike is beyond me. The trains are filthy, they’re always late, not enough cars so people have to stand, doors don’t work, cold in winter, hot in summer. With the tens of thousands of people commuting every day and the money coming in, they can’t run a train line? The people who work on the trains aren’t getting the money. The money’s not going in to efficiency or cleanliness. So where are these hundreds of thousands of dollars going every week? And why does the MTA get to hike fares whenever it wants? Why doesn’t it answer to anyone?

But once I was in the city, it was fine. The call was mellow and quiet. Everything got done. I ended up doing more stitching than I thought I could do, and I found I’m capable of more than I thought. Always good to build skills.

Nearly fell asleep on the train home, but ran a few errands, and took pleasure in being a grown up.

When I first got home, I was hungry (having eaten before six a.m.). I figured I should have a snack and putter around until dinner time. Then, I realized, hey, I don’t answer to anyone. If I want to have an omlette with cheese and herbs and a glass of wine at three in the afternoon, I can. So I did. And it was excellent.

An Omlette and a Glass of Wine was my introduction to Elizabeth David’s work, and still one of my favorites of her books.

Caught up on e-mail, pitched two column ideas to a new magazine, and finished the newsletter. I was having font trauma. I like the subcategory headings in Papyrus font, but it was too hard on the eyes to have the entire newsletter in it. I played with other fonts and settled on Arial. I like Arial font anyway, and it works better with the Papyrus than many of the other fonts. I fretted over whether or not I should put the headings in orange (for autumn) because it’s printed on lovely ivory paper. Then I decided to stop second-guessing and, if I like it, do it. So I did, printed off a bunch of copies, frantically ordered more black ink for the printer, and worked on the envelopes.

Which was a nightmare. The quality is much better than the other printer, and it actually prints the envelopes instead of only printing random envelopes, but changing the settings to print envelopes was a nightmare. The directions in the book had nothing to do with what the printer actually did. I coaxed the envelopes out, eventually, but wasted too much time, and lost valuable writing time.

Shot off an angry e-mail to Canon and got a response within ten minutes with step-by-step solutions that will hopefully fix the problem next time. So I sent a thank you.

At least the mailing will go out. I used to do these quarterly mailings about my work, and stopped over the last few years. I never knew if they had an impact until I stopped doing them and people complained about not getting them! Too funny.

By seven p.m., I was ready to go to sleep, but I didn’t. I wrote the four pages on The Other Project. They’re not good pages, but there are four of them. I watched some television – a friend of mine has a role in Kevin Hill, and I always love to see his work.

I’m overtired and unfocused this morning, but that’s okay. I’ll settle down. I wrote an episode of Cutthroat Charlotte and hope to do some more work on the serials before I have to leave for day work. In the next episode, Charlotte has to prove why she should be with the crew rather than tossed over the side, so that will take some thought, and I’m not sure I’ve got enough energy for a truly action-packed sequence right now.

I received an e-mail this morning with the subject line “Virus Sample”. And I would be dumb enough to open it because . . .?

Ah, the joy of the Delete button. And then “Empty Trash.”

Both column ideas were accepted, so I’ll be writing two columns for a new quarterly magazine set to start publication in February. One will be a writing column, under this name. The other is completely different, under another name. It’s quarterly rather than something like weekly, so it won’t kill me to add it to whatever else is going on. And it’ll let me get my feet wet column-wise.

I was extremely irritated by one of the writing newsletters today. The author of the newsletter has a career that‘s really taken off in the past few months, which is great. And she was off to teach at the Omega Institute, which is a spiritual wellness retreat center. Great. She decided that she can’t, as she put it, “get attached” to students anymore, because she gets so many e-mails that she has no time for her writing (with the subtext that she is so much more important than anyone who would ask her for advice). Um, and she’s putting herself out there because . . .? And she’s got a website because . . .? And she’s writing columns and a newsletter because . . .? And she’s teaching at a spiritual center because . . .? Of course, the moral of her little story was that she adored her students and can’t possibly detach and now we’re all supposed to feel warm and fuzzy.

I’m completely disgusted with her and have lost respect for her. A little success and she turned into a Legend in Her Own Mind. Poor baby, getting 300 e-mails a day and can’t keep up. I’m not out there marketing as much as she is and I get more than that every day. And yes, I answer them. It’s part of my responsibility. If you put yourself out there, you deal with the consequences. That means setting up boundaries. It doesn’t mean becoming a doormat and letting people take advantage of you. But if you’re going to actively market yourself, you have to deal with the people to whom you market. The point of marketing is to get a response. And deal with them cordially and professionally.

It’s tough to make a living in this business, and I feel when one person succeeds, it helps everyone. But, over the past few months, I’ve found her comments self-aggrandizing, disconnecting from reality, placing herself above her readers, and whining about lack of time and things like getting up early to do a radio show. This was just the icing on the cake for me. She crossed the line from self-esteem and self-promotion in a positive way to ego.

You can’t have it both ways. If you put yourself out there to an audience, you have to expect a response and learn how to deal with it. If you want to be a hermit, don’t put yourself out there. Do I think writers have to do too much of their own marketing? Absolutely.

The fact is that writing is an intimate act. You are inside the reader’s head and the reader is inside yours. There’s a connection, an exchange of energy akin to sex. If you do your job well as a writer, your reader responds. Your reader is in the afterglow. The reader feels like he or she knows an intimate part of you, which is true. And wants more. The writing is just a part, not the whole, and the writer has the right to choose with whom to share the whole, and which part to share with the audience.

But the writer also has a responsibility to handle the reader gently and cordially. Firmly, if necessary and setting boundaries -- and sticking to them -- if the reader wants too much of the person separate from the work.

That’s why, when writers decide to offer services, they set rates. There’s nothing wrong with responding to a question by saying, “That’s a paid service I offer. I can give you a quote if you like.” The writer is not obliged to read every manuscript for free and give an introduction to an agent or a publisher or rewrite a hopeless manuscript. The time for the writer’s own work is sacred and must be protected. However, it can be protected without refusing interaction with the readers. The writer is obliged to acknowledge the connection that was forged through the work and appreciate it.

It’s part of the deal. It’s not about sharing one’s personal life with a stranger. It’s about acknowledging and respecting that the work speaks to emotions and truth and soul and handling that with care, compassion and responsibility.

Are there days when the writer will be abrupt with someone? Will get annoyed or feel cornered and taken advantage of and lash out? Absolutely. Each individual has to be dealt with as an individual. It's an exchange, beyond the reader giving money for the writer's work. And with such an exchange comes responsibility. Making sweeping decisions about ignoring one’s “public” is unethical, ungrateful and unprofessional.

(Step off soapbox, put away, and get back to my work).



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