Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Writers Gone Wrong

So here it is, the month of May already. How's that possible, I wanna know, when it seems only yesterday I packed up the Christmas decorations!

So lemme tell ya a story....

A pal called me yesterday, in tears over what someone she'd considered a friend had done to her. Brokenhearted, she didn't know how to react to what she called 'blatant betrayal'.

"I held her hand through every stage of her career," my pal said, "took her under my wing, introduced her to others who helped advance her writing career. And what did she do? She stole an idea I'd been working on for years and passed it off as her own. Now, if I use it, it'll look like I stole it from her." On the heels of a shaky sigh, she added, "If not for me, she wouldn't even be a published author!"

I didn't have the heart to tell her she was dead wrong: This so-called friend would have found a way to get into print even if she had to fork over tens of thousands of bucks to do it. She's the type who'd have taken advantage of anyone, anwhere, willing to help her. It's a darned shame it had to be my pal but, as the sages say, if it quacks like a duck, it's a duck...

...or a seasoned hunter, tootin' a duck call to lure prey....

No doubt about it. If this "friend" hadn't abused the kindness and generosiy of my pal, she'd have screwed somebody else. I'd bet my next book contract she has abused somebody else...probably dozens of somebody elses. Why am I so sure? Simple: Narcissists and parasites both bleed their hosts white, then drop off once they've had their fill. (It's no accident that when we whisper the words "narcissist" and "parasite", they sound kinda similar....)

Most writers are by nature giving, sharing, helpful people. We remember all too well the hard-scrabble struggle it took to get our books on the shelves. If we can spare somebody a few bumps and bruises as they make the same trek, we're gonna do it, even though there's a chance we'll get our butts kicked up 'tween our shoulder blades in the process.

My pal? Oh, she'll cry a while, grieve at the loss of this so-called friend. She'll cuss a little, beat herself up a bit, call herself a sap. Stupid. Naive. Say stuff like "I'm not as mad at her as I am at myself, for letting her take advantage of me!" But in time, she'll get over it.

And y'know what? Next time a fledgling writer asks for her help, she'll willingly, happily give it. I've known this gal for a couple of decades. She's not the type who'll allow "a deliberate knife in the back" to turn her sour on would-be authors. She'd be the first to say it wouldn't be fair to judge 'em all by the behavior of one narcisstic parasite.

In a few months, when she's feeling stronger (less stupid, naive, and sappy), I'll tell her about a similar experience I had not so long ago, and how I consider myself doggoned lucky, because in nearly twenty years in this wacky business, I've only been kicked in the teeth once. Amazing, considering I've mentored literally hundreds of hopeful writers.

'Lucky' is the operative word here. I didn't get all savvy and sophisticated because that one painful event taught me something about myself, about human nature, about parasites and narcissists. Like my pal, I went right back to doing everything in my power to help new writers; I have their decency to thank that I bear just one scar from a painful 'backstabbing incident'.

Those of us who've been fortunate enough to write the right story at the right time, submit it to the right editor under the right circumstances are, for the most part, gonna keep right on sharing learned-the-hard-way writing and publishing lessons, because that's they kind of people we are. And the writers with whom we share those lessons are, for the most part, good and decent people who wouldn't dream of biting the hand that's feeding them helpful information.

My pal learned a tough lesson this week, one of the toughest: There are a few bums out there who'll don whatever costume is required to get 'em what they want. Some will need to honk duck their calls quite a while before they can walk away, backpack fulla limp foul in tow. Others are such masterful 'honkers' that they'll lure their prey in no time at all.

One thing's sure: The narcissistic parasites out there have built-in radar that leads them to straight to suitable hosts. So here's hopin' when they zero in on us--my brokenhearted pal, you, me--we'll have so much information in reserve, there's no way they can bleed us white.

A word to all you narcissistic parasites (and you know who you are), I hear your life cycle is frignteningly short. Enjoy your phony balonie success while it lasts, cuz it's only a matter of time before the publishing world realizes what you already know: If not for your lies and thievery, you couldn't make it on your own.

The rest of you? Write on!

3 comments:

Joe Novak said...

Loree: I can relate. I'm not a bestselling author, but I have helped my share of newbies. Like you I can only think of a single occasion when one of them turned out to be a backstabber. In my case, a guy in your home state of Maryland.

I haven't mentored a newbie since, but after reading your Blog (not fair to judge them all by the bad behavior of a few) maybe I will reconsider.

Thanks for you insightful articles. I learn a lot every time I visit here.

Joe

Sandra Bergman said...

Dear Loree,
First, I am so sorry that your friend and you had to go through such a terrible ordeal. I have just one book in print yet I can already see the likelihood I could join you both in this unpleasant experience. My dear departed husband was fond of saying Forewarned is Forearmed. With this knowledgem, I shant feel guilty about holding "newbies" at arms length!

Thank you, my friend, for your willingness to share your hard-earned wisdom.

Your grateful former student,
Sandra Bergman

Robin Bayne said...

*narcissistic parasites*

Well said!