Musing on the nature of Ego

Hayley has been suffering a severe bout of pharyngitis (no, I don’t know if that’s the correct spelling, but it ain’t ‘laryngitis’. The pharynx is that connecting passageway between the nose and mouth) and therefore gross head infestations have plagued the household for the last week. Consequently I missed Lee & Lyn’s party (not that they knew of course, it was more a ‘see how I go without my brain exploding’ type of thing). However, heffed up on goofballs, I did drag myself to the KSP SF group monthly meeting – primarily because I’d already agreed to facilitate the meeting.

Boy, facilitate I did! Those goofballs had some magic in them, or maybe it was because I was away from the sickzone and had a red pen in hand, but the evil editor from hell made an appearance. Not only did I lull the group (including a couple of intrepid newbies) into a false sense of security through leading a pleasant conversation on conventions, but we managed a writing exercise before the mid morning break. I restrained an evil laugh knowing I’d ask one or two people to write their excerpts up on the whiteboard so we could then dissect these excerpts with the aforementioned red pen and discuss editing practises. In all seriousness, the editing was received really well, it appeared no feelings were hurt, and the group was relatively equally involved in making suggested improvements.

I think it’s part of the Clarion South experience lingering on. I must infect people with fastidiousness! Mind you, any CS 2005er’s out there – not once did I mention commas! However, I’m sure there are ten hapless KSP SF writers out there reading their old stories shouting to no one in particular “that’s a flag – what do I do now?” or “Yee gads! So many narrative questions and unnecessary adjectives!” Fortunately in my household Ange was a born perfectionist, so my increased fastidiousness is just bringing us closer together! That trait makes her the ideal editor, and in many ways I’m only just catching up. And I’m supposed to be the writer!

Full of the following experiences: Editing Shadowed Realms submissions, completing my Advanced Diploma of Writing & Editing, completing Clarion South, gaining two Tin Duck nominations, being asked to judge a story competition, and now running what seemed to be an enjoyable KSP SF meeting editing session, my ego as writer/editor has hit a critical mass.

Oddly, this hasn’t resulted in a huge ego trip. Quite the opposite. I’m humbled to know I still have such a way to go, but also that I’ve come so far in understanding the true nature of storytelling, editing, and the publishing industry. All of the above has given me a Phoenix-like appreciation of everything that has gone before. I feel the excess falseness – the overconfidence and belief in my work based on an intuitive level only – has burned away and I have risen from these ashes as someone whose confidence is justified by real experience, genuine insight, and knowledge. I walk the tightrope of wankerism here, but I feel genuinely revved up to tackle writing and editing, and to tackle challenges I’ve only ever put off before.

Part of this enthusiasm is having the confidence to run an editing and/or writing workshop. I’m seriously eager to discuss the idea with a few writing centres, or else scout for venues in the upcoming months. Hell, the whole writing gig only gets better from here.

On a slightly different ego topic…

It has recently come to my attention (I’ve resumed cyber-stalking again, or at least a little) about a writer of apparent experience who demonstrated the most inappropriate behaviour in dealing with a rejection from a local webzine (and no, not Shadowed Realms – we’ve been blessed so far with reasonable and generally professional submitters, especially the published contributors who’ve been nothing but a pleasure to work with). Now, I know I’ve been very free with my opinions on the ole ‘Online Journal’ here, but not to the point where I’ve slagged off an editor or publication for their lack of insight or taste. I can say without hesitation that I’ve never even remotely felt the need to email an editor who has rejected a story of mine and argue the point because they missed the brilliant intent of my piece.

For any writer out there who feels the need to slag and/or rebut an editor (and I’m stating in general here), especially publicly – DON’T DO IT! I have two words for you if you do: PROFESSIONAL SUICIDE.

The one thing the last twelve months have taught me is truly, it’s not what you know but who you know. Like it or not, the speculative fiction community (even if you’re a bit of an outsider like me, although with my Clarionite buddies, I have a rent-a-crowd to help me force my way in!) is quite tight, and dare I say incestual at times. If not in terms of actual relationships (friends, professional acquaintances etc), then definitely in terms of communication. For example, I’m a member of a number of discussion groups, several of whom I share with the same names time and again. The Australian SF population is too small for someone to remain unnoticed for too long.

I guess I’m just shocked at the attitude displayed by this writer, and how they must be so blatantly: a) caught up in their own ego, b) unaware of professional behaviour, and c) unaware of the damage this could do to their career given the nature of the industry.
No one, regardless of reputation, should ever expect an acceptance of a story or novel without some indication from the person buying said story or novel. It’s arrogance to the nth degree. Editors can reject stories based on nothing more than they’re publishing too many similar stories, or they find the story great in every way except it’s incompatible with the rest of that issue.

There are too many Mark Barnes’, Suzanne Church’s, Jun Aras’, Kenrick Yoshida’s, Nathan Burrage’s, Tessa Kum’s, Rjurik Davidson’s, etc. out there to step up and fill the void once occupied by some petulant ‘somebody’.

That says it all really.

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