Sunday, July 26, 2015

Writers Can Be So Mean

I don't want to deflate any new writers out there, but in my experience not all fellow writers are out there to help each other out with the craft and career. In fact, there is a fair amount of them who might seem like they want to be of assistance, but in reality they're at best just wanting to get themselves ahead, and at worst they are looking to tear down other writers.

Writing is a tough business, there's no way to sugarcoat that.

Back when I was working on my undergrad, a professor of mine told me about how catty the English faculty meetings were. I was shocked at the time, mostly because I thought that my professors were all pretty nice. For whatever reason, when you get a bunch of literary types in a room and lock the door, sparks fly in the most poetic of ways.

I've tried to join writing groups and quickly determined that writers are a lot like English professors. They might be brilliant and seem nice, but once you get into a locked room (even virtually) and are hashing things out over personal works, the claws come out. Some writers are incredibly adept at making it appear that they're really trying to help you as they essentially say that everything you write sucks in the worst way possible. They love to say things like "I have a duty to be honest" or "I know you don't want work like this to be published with your name on it."

I could get into the psychology behind this behavior, which I think is at least partially fueled by a few clinical psychological disorders, coupled with extreme insecurity. There are a number of writers who think that the business is a zero-sum game, even though they would vehemently deny that they hold such a belief.

So I guess I don't "have what it takes" to succeed as a writer because I think some of my colleagues are mean, or at least that's what I've been told. It's funny, because I make a full-time income as a writer and have done so for several years now, but I don't know what it takes to be successful. I can tell you that being unnecessarily mean/cruel/whatever you want to call it drives people away and will eventually catch up with you. In the meantime, I continue on without a peer review group and hope that one day I can ally myself with some fellow writers who aren't looking to sabotage what I'm doing, but instead can be genuinely happy when someone else meets success.


  1. I think it's terrible that this has been your experience. All of my interactions with other writers have been good -- although now that I've said this, I realize I'm setting myself up for Fate to send me somebody mean ...

    1. Maybe I've just had exceptionally bad luck or you've been exceptionally fortunate, I'm not really sure. Here's to hoping!

  2. Steve, I'm coming back to this post to report the first bit of meanness I've had with my First Impressions posts. There are 3 bloggers participating in this now, and this month I was shocked to visit one of my colleagues' critiques and discover a very negative comment to the post.

    My colleague wrote a thoughtful critique (as always). But one of her commenters gave a biting one line negative comment with no constructive suggestions. I was aghast. And so was one of my regular visitors who saw that comment and emailed me privately to make sure the First Impressions writer hadn't been too upset or discouraged by it.

    The ironic thing: The person making the negative comment just put out two books of her own this month that she is currently promoting in an extensive blog tour. Way to make yourself liked and gain readers, huh?

    So ... yes, writers can be mean. But it does get noticed and come back to bite them in the behind.

    1. Interesting reaction. I do believe that what comes around goes around, and try to remember that whenever I do provide feedback to anyone. If you don't give constructive criticism, it really doesn't help anyone out.