How do you earn trust?
The blog’s not been happening as regularly as I’d have liked. It stems from a number of issues but the root of it all is that writing is hard. Coming up with new things to say, or even forming fresh takes on old topics takes a lot of time and effort, and all the while there are voices in the back of your head saying things like ‘Who’s going to read this?’ or ‘Who’s going to care what I think?’
This isn’t news. It’s certainly no revelation for the authors, journalists, and bloggers out there, who rock up to the word-face every day and hammer their heads against the wall in search those precious veins of truth, those glorious seams of poetic prose. Writing is hard. It takes determination to produce, effort to craft, and a real resilience to look at it objectively afterwards. My job is easy by comparison. I can see the whole story in front of me already, trace the arcs of the characters, feel the flow of the prose…and then I can step in to help my authors refine their work, molding it into its final, shining form.
If you’ll forgive the screeching shift in metaphors, there is a tendency in some areas to treat authors like cattle – natural producers who can be milked profitably, calve manuscripts regularly, and be replaced easily should they fall short of expectation. This is understandable from a business perspective, healthy for the herd, but it can be dehumanising and cruel to the writers whose individuality, artistic freedom, and dignity might well have been stripped in the process.
Yep, it’s that old balance between ‘integrity’ and ‘success’. Where do you lie? To what should you aspire?
I’m not a savvy businessman by nature. Money does not breed in my hands. It would perhaps serve me better to seek a full-time editorial position at a publisher. I’d get so much work! I’d also have a regular wage, paid holidays—hell, I might even get free eye-tests. I’d certainly be able to leave my current job. But then there are other effects, other consequences of putting myself in harness. Most publishers are centralised in big cities and, for some reason, they seem to prefer editing to happen on-site. I don’t want to uproot my family. And should the business go bust? (Let’s face it, we’re not living in stable economic times.) I’d be knackered.
No. Independence is the way for me. Or agility, at least. Manoeuvrabilty. The free lance and the open road.
So, how do all these observations interact?
(In other words: where is this dreadful screed going, and what difference does it make to you? Sheesh. Writing is hard.)
My business is built on the relationships I develop with my authors. If the bedrock is trust, the foundations are made of respect and mutual understanding. Writing this blog goes some way to letting new people know who I am, what I think, and what I value, but there are also other ways I hope to strengthen and develop these foundations. One pillar I’ve set up recently is the Flashes of Inspiration contest. It’s a way to encourage writers to step forward and show their stuff – fripperies in length, easily manageable, but also deeply craftable. At the same time, it’s a way to force me to write on a regular basis – because let me tell you, I find writing hard. (I know. Shocking.)
But it’s also deeply rewarding.
And if participation brings us closer together, I’m all for it. I need to make sure I don’t get jaded. I need to keep my mind focused on The Fine-toothed Comb’s most important goal: helping writers be the best they can be. So don’t just think of me as an editor, think of me as a writer, too. If I have to roll up my sleeves and start hammering away at the word-face alongside you to fully appreciate your processes, your hardships, your artistic needs, then so be it. It’s an investment that can only benefit us all.
This has been Dion – grimy, bleeding, yet happy – patting each and every one of you on the back, and offering a helping editorial hand whenever you need it.