I’ve written some about clients I’ve worked for, one in particular that was a client from hell, but during the course of this business I’ve encountered many that are tolerable yet seemed to lack any sort of empathy whatsoever. Now, everybody has a job to do, and we do it like it or not because bills have to be paid, food must be eaten, butts must be wiped and so on, but in a specialty service job like mine I get tired of explaining myself all the time, in particular to certain clients who just don’t have a clue about anything that doesn’t pertain to their own life. That said, in addition to that, one thing creative people have to constantly deal with is non-creative people’s perception of them, and the lack of understanding they so readily employ. You know these types; they are the people who think that writers like Hemmingway and King were destined for greatness, regardless of what they did to get there. They think Eric Clapton popped out of the womb with a guitar in his hands, ready to shred scales and blow minds. They don’t appear to understand that movies were first a screenplay, and that hundreds (thousands) of people worked hard to put those ninety minutes on screen for their enjoyment. No matter what kind of tell-all they read, they focus on the lurid details, not the hard work that went into creating the star persona they so identify with.
While writing my debut novel The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the world I found that the only way I could make any consistent progress was by getting up early almost every morning to have time to write before doing the job that paid me. To do so I had to go to bed earlier at night. I had clients (one in particular) who would consistently call after nine (to get up at four a.m. I was going to bed around then) and when I returned her call the next day would tell her I went to bed very early and if asked would proceed to explain why. She never got it, seriously, it just never clicked. She’d continue to call after nine and her message would always include some snarky remark about how early I went to bed. Something to the effect of: ‘Of course you’re probably already in bed, after all it is after seven.’ After I finished the novel and allowed myself to stay up past nine on work days again (for a few months, until I began my next novel) I’d take her calls and when she expressed surprise that I answered I would patiently elucidate that I was no longer writing my novel, hence I didn’t have to get up so early. This explanation truly never elicited any type of response, like she actually thought EVERYONE was in the process of writing a novel, so why should it come as any surprise? The only thing she ever asked was: ‘Would I like it?’ She never asked me what the title was, what the subject matter was, what I intended to do with it…nothing, just ‘Would I like it?’ Knowing she read romance novels exclusively I simply said no and that was the end of it. She never asked about it again, and to this day continues to remark upon my early bedtime as if I’m some jerk-off who needs ten hours of sleep a night (when I get by on six and a half).
Another client expressed interest when I told him I was writing a novel and, being a self-professed writer himself, had a shitload of advice for me.
‘If you are going to write you have to go all in,’ he’d tell me, as if I were just dabbling in this creative art form and would soon fold faster than Superman on laundry day. ‘You have to do it constantly to acheive perfection.’
Now, I am no stranger to artistic devotion. I was a performing musician for over a decade and all I did was live, eat and breath music (between all the sex and drugs). When I shacked back up with my first love, writing, it was the same deal. No one had to tell me to be obsessed; I’m waaaaayyyyy ahead of you on that one. I’ve sacrificed EVERYTHING for this; I don’t need anybody’s unsolicited guidance.
The kicker here was the look on his face when I told him the book was finished and I self-published it. I answered all his unasked questions: the title, the subject, where it was for sale, how much it cost, etc. He never bought a copy, and he never asked me about writing ever again. The subject didn’t exist between us anymore.
As writers (to be good writers) we have to have empathy, to understand people and their motives and how they think so we can create realistic characters. It is a shame that the majority of people taking up space on this planet have no ability to do so, and I can never expect them to understand why it is that we do what we do. All we can hope is that they leave us alone so we can get some work done, period.
I Love Your Pet But I HATE You!