February 13th, 2012


Candlesticks make a nice gift. Maybe find out where she's registered, get a place setting.

So on Saturday night I posted an entry with screened comments, asking you-all to tell me things that are important.

Friends, we are a mess.

I don't mean to minimize the few of you whose important things were positive. In fact, I don't mean to minimize anyone. It was really, really good to hear from everyone, and when I said I was up for hearing good stuff or bad, I sincerely meant it. I am so glad I did this. But what the overwhelming bulk of the responses told me is that a lot of us--really really a lot of us--are struggling. There's good stuff, but there's a lot of hard stuff. Like the man says, "We're dealing with some serious shit here."

And I mention this just to say: we are going to need to cut each other some major slack. Kindness and patience are so, so very much called for.

Not everyone on this friendslist is in the publishing industry. But it brings to mind one of the things that's developed in my mind in the last decade or more of dealing with publishing. And that is: the more people talk about toughness, the more suspicious I am. The growling about how you have to have a thick skin and all that: they don't actually show you stories written by people with a thick skin and stories written by people with a thin one and then demonstrate how much better the thick-skinned ones are. No. Mostly what people want to do is talk tough about how much they've endured, which is usually pretty little compared to, say, pediatric oncology nurses; occasionally they also don't want to examine their role in what they're asking others to endure, which may not be as crappy as little kids dying of cancer but still actually could be better. Sometimes they are also scared to death that they will lose a favorite writer because of outside considerations and want to try to head that off at the pass.

And you know what? They will. Because the world is filled with crap like that. Outside circumstances do end up mattering quite a lot. And going on about being TOUGH DAMMIT TOUGH TOUGH TOUGH is not really helpful. You can yell at people to be tough all you like, and they will either become insensitive louts and you'll get the books written by insensitive louts, or else they won't and you'll still have yelled at them about it.

So to hell with it. Kindness and patience as much as we've got it. In this as in any other field. Any time you get a cross-section of what's going on with other people, it turns out to be inspiring and daunting and who even knows what. It's always a good time to take a deep breath and try to treat each other decently. Human, humane behavior: it will never be bad for your writing.

Platitudes are sometimes there for a reason.