Monday, March 29, 2010
Learning from the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Remember the great teachers in your life? You can put your finger on exactly how they gifted your life. You didn't mind sitting on those hard chairs because the teacher poured ideas in your head that tasted like butterscotch.
Remember the bad teachers? You fabricated ways of getting even, skipping class, maybe envisioning him/her doing crazy things they wouldn't be caught dead doing. You were bored or else they didn't know what they were doing. They sucked away part of your life.
Oh God, who could forget the "educators" from hell. The ones who failed you on papers because you said the sky was blue and they thought it was green. The ones who told you to study one thing for a test, causing you to flunk a mid-term because none of that was on it. The ones who embarrassed you in class because they could.
It took all three to make you an adult. And it takes all three types of editors, publishers and agents to make you a good writer.
The good professionals empower you, make you giddy with validation. You never want to come down off thte high. You crave their guidance, and they don't lead you astray. These types usually have flocks of proteges, mentors and fans, so getting close to them might prove a challenge, but once they touch you, you soar.
These guys (or gals) don't reply to your queries and throw your SASE in the trash. They might respond, however, with a form letter, stuffed in an envelope by some editorial assistant on loan from the local community college. They are slow to respond. Some pay late. They are a lesson in frustration, but in many cases you are forced to deal with them to earn a living. Most of the time you try not to. They occasionally pop up on forums as ones to avoid.
They ask for a revision (or two) and kill the piece anyway. They steal your idea. They still don't pay you after five certified demand letters. They sit on your manuscript for a year then say they aren't taking new clients. They seem to practice at being nasty, curt and pompous, infusing poison in your writing eden, where you escape to be safe. They make you not want to write anymore for fear of being scammed . . . again.
Believe it or not, each one of these personalities molds your career. Without experiencing the flavor of each, you don't appreciate what normal, good or professional is. You don't learn what works, what doesn't and who to trust. What failed you and busted your chops in one arena, saves your butt in another.
Yeah, it's the pits to endure the idiots, but those idiots make you stronger. You become educated, adept, even savvy at manuvering the obstacle course. You pass up the bad markets and irreputable publishing people you might have fallen for before.
You've heard the old sayings about climbing back on the horse, getting up after falling on your knees. Those tumbles scar you, but those scars make you tough. So you shed a few tears. Everyone cries. But not everyone stands back up and continues on.
There isn't a writer alive who doesn't have scars. Look at it this way . . . if you aren't collecting yours, you aren't trying hard enough to make yourself a writer. Just keep your head about you and don't fall off a cliff.