I was having a conversation with some friends in a private group about self-pub gurus and the amount they actually provide actionable information and how there’s often a lot more hype there than substance. (Or it’s the All-Star problem of people having inherent skills that most mere mortals do not possess and cannot emulate even if that would in fact lead to success.)
That conversation had me thinking about how the writing world in general and self-publishing in particular definitely has both cool kids and mean girls.
Some days it’s reminiscent of being back in high school where someone is standing in the corner whispering behind their hand and you don’t know what you did wrong today to get them talking about you but the pointed looks and rolled eyes or laughs make it pretty clear you did something.
(Which I react to about the way I did in high school: by giving a dagger look in their general direction, thinking, seriously fuck off if you’re that type of person who talks about others in petty little ways, and then I get on with enjoying a life that doesn’t include people like that.)
Of course that ties into one of the things I see make the rounds on Twitter every few months. Someone will get a publishing deal and suddenly someone else posts about how you shouldn’t be the type of person who drops their friends when you reach a certain level of success.
Part of me knows that there really are people like that, that think they’ve leveled up and can move past old connections. (Like in that horrible U.S. version of Downton Abbey they recently released.)
But part of me wonders if it’s just that the people bitching about no longer being connected to that person simply didn’t notice the person had walked away from the friendship until the person actually had something worth latching onto.
For example, I am an unfriender on FB.
Life is too short for me to stay “friends” with that person who was going to get their antibody test in early summer 2020 and then go join the white supremacist protestors with assault rifles at the capital to end the lockdowns.
Especially after FB had graced me with their anti-abortion posts for years.
Life is also too short for me to stay “friends” with the person who once informed me with all seriousness that they’re only friends with attractive people. And who recently name-checked a person that was at some event they fondly remembered while not name-checking me as the other person who’d been there. I figured if I either wasn’t attractive enough or wasn’t important enough anymore for this person to acknowledge my existence at that event that maybe it was time for that “friendship” to die, too.
I have no doubt if I ever signed some big publishing contract that both would suddenly realize we weren’t connected anymore and think I’d suddenly dumped them and make some comment about it. Forget the fact that it had happened years before and for vastly different reasons.
Which is why accepting some third-party’s take on a conversation or situation is a bad, bad idea. Hell, even accepting your own take is sometimes a bad idea.
Years ago I worked with a guy who really creeped me out. He followed me around at work the entire shift. One night I even thought he was going to follow me out to my car in a dark parking lot.
It was so bad I went to the manager about it and asked if she could please stop scheduling us together. I felt sick going in to work every day because I knew that guy would be following me around the whole time in this horrible creepy way where he’d poke my shoulder each time he walked by and say, “Hey you.”
It sucked. And I was firmly convinced it was him being a creeper. (I was 21 and had a number of experiences where men twice my age would run across the street to hit on me so I thought I knew what this was.)
The manager was his sister. And she asked if I really thought it rose to the level of sexual harassment. Me being 21 and having had to screw up all my courage just to bring it up with her, I said I guess not. So she kept scheduling him with me on every single shift for the entire shift and I kept feeling more and more sick to my stomach each day I had to go into work.
Which is how I came to lose my shit with her and him about a week later over my not being allowed to wear shorts at work even though he was and we had no dress code.
Which got me fired from that job. (That turned out to be a secret blessing, really. I’d taken the first job I could find when I got to school and when they fired me it turned out I’d been earning vacation time all along that they had to pay me. Not only that, I was able to get a better-paying, easier job for the last couple months of school.)
For years I would’ve told you that guy was a creeper. And I could’ve described for you all the things he’d done that proved my point.
Until my weird little brain finally put together an offhand comment one of our co-workers made to me about how the morning manager (I was the night manager) had been fired for stealing from the store a couple weeks after I was fired. My job was to collect the money from the till and put it in the safe. Hers was to count it each morning.
It took me about a decade to put that together, but I finally realized that the weird dude with poor social skills who was following me around my entire shift wasn’t doing it out of some sexual attraction but because his sister knew someone was stealing from the store and thought it was me so had set him to keep an eye on me.
And she wasn’t concerned about him sexually harassing me because she knew what he was really doing.
So, yeah. Sometimes what we think we heard or experienced isn’t even what happened because we filtered it through our limited knowledge or skewed experiences.
Doesn’t change how it made us feel even if we were wrong, of course. The stomach clenching feeling I felt going into work every day was very, very real for me.
But since I worked that out (after ten years) I try to keep that in mind as a reminder to myself that maybe I don’t have all the facts. Or maybe what I perceived in a word or an action isn’t what was intended, consciously or subconsciously.
And if I’m getting that information through a third-party who has their own limited knowledge and skewed perspective? Well.
That’s an even bigger moment to proceed with caution. Anyway. Random thoughts thanks to too much free time. Time to feed the dog.