…I’m an asshole.
Now, to be perfectly honest, I really don’t think that I’m an asshole. I mean, like most folks, I have one, but I don’t think that I am one. Of course, as a general rule the majority of assholes don’t actually think that they are assholes. Given that I have been told in no uncertain terms that I am a waste sphincter of the highest order I may just be deluding myself in the belief that I am not.
To that end, I thought I’d take a minute to explain exactly why it is that I’m an asshole, just in case I actually am.
Not a week goes by that I don’t receive an email from some fresh-faced, idealistic, energetic individual with dreams of becoming an author. Problem is, said fresh-faced, idealistic, energetic individual is contacting me and asking me not only for advice, but for me to read their unplaced manuscript.
Advice I will give. Usually it involves telling the person to run the other direction and become a particle physicist, attorney, or something else that garners a decent paycheck. This whole authoring gig isn’t what it’s cracked up to be in the movies and TV, so unless you simply can’t help yourself but the write, don’t.
That’s not usually what they want to hear, but it goes over okay. Sort of.
Where I suddenly become an asshole is when I tell them I cannot read their unpublished manuscript for them.
9.99 times out of 10, the fresh-faced, idealistic, energetic individual turns into a tantrum throwing three-year-old, letting me know that I am a big doody head, and yes, an asshole for not reading their work. Why? Because I should help them. All they want is my honest – and they do mean honest – critique of their work so that they can become a better writer and reap all of the wonders of success that I have been privileged to enjoy as an author.
Well, the first thing I do is laugh at that last part. Then, I say no again. Here’s why…
No they don’t. The critique that is. They really and truly do NOT want real input from anyone. If they did they would be members of a writing critique group and they would already be getting that input. You see, what they REALLY want is for me to say: Holy Crap! I am a mere poser in relation to you. You put Hemingway to shame. You put all other writers before you to shame. There will never be another writer as great as you!
Now, before you say, “But Murv, aren’t you exaggerating?”… And I can see why you would say that, because I often do (supposedly), let me just say, “No. I am not exaggerating.”
You see, I used to say yes. Any other authors out there reading this are now shaking their heads and saying, “You big dumbass.” Well, I’ll accept that moniker with no objections. Why? Because I WAS a dumbass to be doing such a thing.
Never – and I mean never – did I read something for someone who really and truly wanted an honest critique. In fact, the majority of the time I would receive an email, with a file attached, and a note saying something ridiculous like: “Mister Sellars – (two paragraphs of blowing smoke up my ass)… So, please read this and give me your honest opinion. But, I’m sure you will just want to forward it on to your editor and recommend me for publication because it really is destined to be the next New York Times Bestseller.”
I’m not kidding.
But, I would read anyway, and then send my thoughts. Things like:
“You have a good idea here and I like your imagery, but I’d suggest doing a bit of research on police procedure so that you can tighten things up make the situation more believable.”
“Nice descriptions, but the prose is a little too expository. Maybe try using dialogue between the characters to get the information across instead of having them stand there staring at each other and thinking everything without ever saying a word.”
Those pieces of advice were categorically, undeniably NOT what they wanted to hear. And, they would tell me as much, often liberally peppered with expletives and all sorts of assessments of my intelligence and writing ability that were diametrically opposed to the smoke blowing they had done in their original note when contacting me.
So here’s what I decided. Why not stop wasting my time and just spend time with my family, or even read something that I actually WANT to read. I mean, if I am going to be an asshole either way, I should at least get to be an asshole doing what I want to do, right?
And there you have it. That’s why I’m an asshole.
Cue Dennis Leary. I’ll be happy to sing along.
More to come…