Monday, March 30, 2009

Professional Writing

The Caren Johnson Literary Agency had a great post last week. Actually, they have many great posts, but this one really struck home with me. It’s about an unprofessional query they received – the writer kept querying them with the same piece even though he’d been rejected each time. His reason for doing so? “Until I get a hit, I must submit.” Um...

It always amazes me how people don’t see writing as a professional thing. For the non-writers among us, I can understand a little. Only writers know how difficult it is to write well, just like only a doctor knows how stressful it is to have a patient’s life in his hands.

But for a writer to treat writing with such indifference is kind of...well...I find it insulting. I have worked really hard to get where I am with my craft, and he thinks that he can just submit the same piece over and over again in order to get published? The only consolation I have is that I know it’ll never happen for him because he’s not willing to grow or learn. And that is the one thing that writers MUST do.

With any office-like job, what do you do? Do you sit around with your feet up, cranking out the same mediocre work time and again, and then expect to be praised? Probably not. If you did, you’re likely to get a Conversation with your boss. So how can people think writers do this? Because we really don’t. We work just as hard as 9 to 5ers, in a depressingly negative environment. It's RARE to get a zing of inspiration, crank out the story in a matter of days or weeks, and then have it become a classic/best-seller/whatever. We have to work to get it right.

I guess this is a sore spot for me. My husband is supportive of my work, but I have other family members who are not. One has said more than once that I should just self-publish and be done with it. And he won’t see me as a writer until I’m published. Which is kind of sad, but not really my problem. I know what I want, and I know what I need to do in order to get it. His approval isn’t going to change anything, is it? :) I'm a Writer, and I know what it means to me to be a Writer. He doesn't.

On that note, I guess I have one more consolation with the ‘until I get a hit...’ person. He’s not really a Writer. He’s not willing to put in the work, learn the craft, explore, make mistakes, and then learn from them. He thinks he can crank something (anything) out, then have accolades and money dumped on him. Well, it doesn’t work that way.

Sadly, folks like him won’t seek out writing blogs like this one. Probably not even the Caren Johnson Agency’s blog. Instead, he'll just keep submitting. *sigh*

24 comments:

Keri Mikulski said...

Great post. And so true!!

Angela said...

Unfortunately I think there are a lot of these out there, clogging up slush piles. It's...frustrating.

Lady Glamis said...

It's frustrating to me when I see people actually succeed when they didn't really try that hard. And here I am working my butt off.

And I understand about people not seeing you as a writer until you're published. It doesn't seem fair, does it? Not much seems fair in this business. :)

Tabitha said...

Keri - thanks! :) BTW, I love the cover to your new book! :)

Angela - frustrating is a very nice way to put it. :) I wish there weren't so many people like this one out there.

Glam - soooo, true. Very little seems to be fair in this industry. Fortunately, those of us working our butts off here can withstand that. :)

Justus M. Bowman said...

I came into this thinking, "writing seems easy enough." Ha ha. Sometimes it's painful to learn the truth.

C.R. Evers said...

I wish people would keep their opinions to themselves when they say you should just self publish and be done w/ it. They just don't get it. Poor people. Makes me want to go "grrrrr" ;0)

Tabitha said...

Justus - LOL! There's nothing like learning from the School of Hard Knocks, though. You never forget the lesson. :)

Christy - I am SO with you here. But, hey, even if people like that did get it, nothing would change for me. I'd still work my butt off with craft and research and such. So when I hear things like 'self-publish,' I shrug and walk away, then go back to work. :)

Carrie Harris said...

You know, I've heard about this guy from other agent blogs too. And then I think about the people who really are working hard at both business and craft, and it makes me sad.

But then I hear a success story, or I win a zombie book, and then I'm happy again. ;)

beth said...

Argh. I read that on her blog, and it made me SO MAD. I HATE it when people do that. There's a difference between an amateur mistake and solid pig-headedness.

PJ Hoover said...

The writing business is so much harder than other "professional" jobs. In engineering, I never had the ups and downs that I have in writing. I never comments against my work personally.
But unless they write, people just don't get it.

Emina said...

I like the post.
It's unfortunate how some people can be so unprofessional. Dare we still call them "true" writers?

Bish Denham said...

People like that "writer" make it harder for people like us who put so much time and effort into our work. The real crime is they don't even realize it.

Jacqui said...

I usually try to convince as many people as possible to consider themselves "writers," the idea being that it's writing that makes you a writer, not publishing. Which comes at your point from a different direction, I think, in that this guy's energy seems to be in the wrong places.

Tabitha said...

Carrie - yeah, a few other agents commented on Caren's blog that they'd seen the same guy. Kind of sad that he still hasn't learned. Glad zombie books cheer you right up, though, cause one is on its way to you. :)

Beth - oh yes, BIG difference. I can be understanding about newbie mistakes. We've all made them. But not about the same mistake being made again and again and again. I mean, seriously, how many times can you slam yourself against that wall?? It's gotta hurt. :)

PJ - I *completely* agree with you. My computer science job was like kindergarten compared with writing. But, as you say, unless someone writes, he's not going to understand it. :)

Emina - it's very unfortunate. And I for one don't call this person a Writer! :)

Bish - yep, that's the saddest part of all (the not realizing it). Especially since he probably doesn't search out things on craft that could easily tell him what what he's doing is WRONG. Instead, he seems to be going from agency to agency, flooding the inboxes. Very sad.

Jacqui - I totally agree that this guy's energy has the wrong focus. He needs to go back to writing, because, as you say, that's what makes us writers. :)

Anne Spollen said...

See, I have an unpopular belief. I think you actually are an ASPIRING writer until you publish. (Hope angry crowds aren't gathering) But, honestly, I've been on both sides of this fence, and if you say you are a writer, and you have no published work, people are going to inwardly - and sometimes outwardly - wince.

Writers won't because we get what you're saying -- but the rest of the world...

I just always found no one had a problem when I said I was a hopeful writer or an apiring writer. It just sounds less arrogant I guess.

And btw, after you publish that first book, people come up to you and say, "You only published that ONE novel, right?"

So get ready for that next. : )

Tabitha said...

No angry crowds are gathering here, because all opinions are welcome on this blog. :)

I think that's a valid way to think of being a writer. And it it worked for you, that's great. I happen to be un-fazed by those 'You're not published? Oh...' folks, so I still call myself a writer. :) But that doesn't mean everyone has to.

I'll start preparing myself for the 'Only one book?' thing, so thanks for the heads up. :)

Christina Farley said...

That's really sad about your family member who thinks you should just self publish and get over with it! We believe in you!

Tabitha said...

Aww, thanks!!! :) That's a really nice thing to hear, especially in this profession that's so full of rejection. Thanks! :)

Kelly H-Y said...

Wow ... great post! I can't believe a family member said that!

Tabitha said...

Thanks! And, yeah, he said that. But hey, it really doesn't change anything so no big deal. :)

Mary Witzl said...

There was a very young kid who published a book about how to get girls some time back. He had labored over it obviously, and it was cute as could be, but it was still what it was: a kid's first effort. I found myself depressed that he'd managed to find an agent and land a publishing contract so effortlessly when I've been whacking away at the coal face for the past ten years. I didn't really feel envious -- how could I? -- but I do wonder what I'm doing sometimes.

I've got non-blood relatives who will probably have a lot more time for me now that I'm actually earning money teaching, and not just writing all day long. They can't understand why I don't write a bestselling book like 'The DaVinci Code' and make millions of dollars. (Their words, not mine...)

Tabitha said...

I heard about that kid. I kind of felt sorry for him, because he's being thrown into this field of rejections and expectations and he doesn't know what he's getting in to. At least we do. :)

And your relatives are hilarious!! Yeah, it's just that simple to write a blockbusting bestseller with movie rights and everything. And then get it published. Sure. :) Most non-writers don't understand... :)

Matt said...

Thanks for the post. I went over to the agency's site, and you're right there are many good discussions over there. Its certainly a blog I'll start following.

Like so many have already said, I know writers like this and nothing seems to change their attitude toward getting published.

Tabitha said...

The Caren Johnson blog has rapidly become one of my favorites. :)

And it is very sad that so many writers can't see things differently. Makes it both harder and easier for the rest of us...