This is Ask Me Editing, our publishing advice column with Agony Un-Uncle Elizabeth Flux. Many years ago I worked in an offic ...Read More
Welcome to Ask Me Editing, the advice column that’s here to help you with your writing ‘lifestyle’. This week we’ve got all sorts of shifty behavior going on, and the takeaway is that writers are garbage people.
Q: IS MY PARTNER A FULL-TIME FAILURE?
My partner has recently stopped full-time work in a respectable field to pursue dreams of being full-time author. This means I’m the sole bread-winner in the household which is fine but... there is a problem. My partner isn’t very good at writing. They enjoy it, and get a great deal of personal satisfaction from it, but they are not particularly talented and despite my best intentions I can’t begin to believe they will ever make it. I feel horrible for even thinking it, but I believe they are making a mistake. Should I tell them how I feel? What can I possibly say?
If this is my partner, this is super passive aggressive.
Hoo-boy, let’s delve into this. I’m going to start off by assuming you’re absolutely truthful when you say that it’s fine that you’re the sole bread-winner. And also that they are objectively a bad writer. So, first off – nobody is born a good writer. Your partner has been given the most amazing opportunity to grow themselves as a writer, with as I understand, limitless time and opportunity to devote themselves to their craft. I’m massively jealous. It does sound like you’re inferring that they expect almost immediate success, but if you view it as the beginning of what is basically a long process, then you can scrap the idea of ‘bad’ or ‘good’ writing, and see it as a foundation. Perhaps they’ll never be a good writer, but if they actually do spend their time writing every day, they will be better than they were. As for the idea of whether you should say something, here’s a very easy answer: you don’t need to. If they are a bad writer, or are expecting instantaneous success without putting in the necessary work, and have started sending out manuscripts or stories to be published, then you won’t need to say anything. The world will be telling him – either through negative feedback, more likely, a deafening silence. A nice idea would be instead of confronting them, perhaps you or your friends and family could put some money together to buy your partner a writing course of some kind. Another avenue is finding a writing group, where he will have access to other, gentler, criticism, that won’t make your relationship awkward.
I also want to touch on the idea that maybe things aren’t entirely ‘fine’ with your partners new flirtation with the noble and poverty-stricken lifestyle of a writer. I think it’s so, so great that you’ve given them this opportunity – but I also believe that you can impose a limitation on this. Something like ‘take a year to write a manuscript and then go earn some money again, because I don’t want to carry you’. Especially if the idea was that they would be picking up the slack from their writing – and the reason you’re worried about it being so bad is because you’re looking at a long future of solo breadwinning. It’s great to have the freedom to experiment with your writing, but I think everything should be goal oriented, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to put some (generous, still) strictures on this activity.
Q: JOURNALIST OR ASSHOLE?
I’m just about to finish high-school, and have always dreamt of being a journalist. A little while ago, I met and spoke to a journalist I much admire at a writers festival, and he basically tried to talk me out of it - that there was no future in it, that I’d be better of pursuing law, and maybe pursuing writing on the side. Was he right? Or was he just being an arsehole?
There’s this weird psychology that I’ve noticed writers get, both veteran and successful ones, which is where they can’t seem to imagine why anyone would want to be doing what they do. I think a lot of this comes from the age-old hobby of writers everywhere, which is long gripe sessions about all the (relevant) shitty things about our jobs. Journalists, I’ve found, always win that particular game. In relation to young people with stars in their eyes, sometimes the attitude is more about tempering their views, so they don’t get hurt from unrealistic expectations. I’ve certainly been accused of bumming wannabe writers out by bringing up the deplorable state of my finances. So – perhaps it wasn’t super assholey, and was a kind of weird, upsetting form of concern. Or, more likely, it was a grumpy asshole being grumpy and an asshole. That also happens a lot.
The thing is that while it’s great when you have encouragement and inspiration, especially from people you admire, it’s also true that journalism isn’t a super easy field to get into, or to live off right now. If you persevere with it, you’re going to be fielding those kind of thoughts from people all the time, and more importantly, from yourself when things get hard. You have to have a kind of unshakeable belief in your ability to be a writer, as well as a weary recognition of the realities around you.
From MY perspective – I think you should go for it. The journalism industry is in flux right now, and things seem uncertain and dire – but there’s always going to be journalism and writing in some form, so there will always be a place for the motivated and talented. Don’t listen to old cranks who are worried that the world is changing too fast for them.
Q: NOT A-MUSE-ING
I have an ex boyfriend. He’s not really an ex-boyfriend, just sort of someone I was talking to for a minute. Anyway, we broke up and now he won’t stop writing about me. I think he thinks I’m not a real woman. I think he thinks I’m some kind of muse, but he would, because he’s the kind of guy who listens to Leonard Cohen and doesn’t know where the clitoris is.
I mean, really. It’s not that hard. It’s right there.
Anyway, he keeps writing these *very* thinly disguised stories about us and the scene is very small in this town, and it’s embarrassing to think that people will recognise me, or at least the fantasy version this guy has in his head. I’ve asked him to stop, and he just changed the name of the girl in the stories and keeps going. And when I call him out on that, he pleads artistic integrity and that I’m basically asking for artistic censorship.
Clearly the moral of the story is don’t have sex with alt-lit writer-boys, but in the now who has the moral high ground? Am I an oversensitive censor? Or is he being creepy AF?
Straight off the bat, this guy is being creepy as fuck. 100%. No doubt about it. Creep suzette. See-Creepio. Creep by Radiohead.
But let’s dissect this a little, if only because you can be sure that his assertion of artistic censorship will be gleefully ‘devils advocated’ by dudebros worldwide.
Do people have a right to tell their own stories? Yes. But is it bad taste to include people without their say-so? Actually depends, but often. Is it fucking rude to keep doing it after you’ve been asked? Yeah.
There’s not a higher artistic imperative here – he’s just being a rude cunt by saying that his shitty stories are worth more than a human being’s feelings. Furthermore, we’re inundated by shitty white boy stories about casual hookups. I very much doubt (no offense) that his stories about you are what the world needs, unless you are neglecting a crucial piece of information like the fact that you are a mermaid. And even then, Splash was the epitome of mermaid stories, fact. And even more pertinent, if you are a mermaid, you still asked him to stop writing about you. What a shit. It’s bad, derivative, insulting writing, and it’s just a shitty thing for a person to do.
Do you have a question for our agony uncle? Write to us: email@example.com and Patrick will fix all that ails you!
Also, Patrick is a Social Media ace. If you've ever wanted to get started with Twitter or want advice on how to best use social media as a writer, then Mr Lenton can help.
Patrick Lenton is an author, works for Momentum books and runs Town Crier, a social media and digital marketing consultancy for authors.
Welcome to Ask Me Editing, the publishing advice column that acknowledges that while everyone has a book inside them, there’s also other stuff in th ...Read More