Extremely scattered reflections on the topic of earning and deserving and giving respect

I’ve gotten really into journaling and using pens and planners and diagrams and post-its and guided prompts. It’s a horrific waste of money, but much less so than my usual hobby of buying electronic junk. It also doesn’t really do much for you organizationally, since you spend so much time using the paper—as one anonymous online commenter once noted about Bullet Journaling, “The point isn’t to be organized or to do something, the point is the journal—being organized is itself the hobby.” They noted it as a negative: paradoxically, being organized takes up more time and energy than being disorganized would.

It’s a good point! I think there’s a reason so many highly effective people live in such chaos: it’s a way of delegating—it forces people around them to pick up slack, and it’s a way of prioritizing—anything that NEEDS to get done will get done. It’s like my advice to writers: if you really care about writing, it should literally be the first thing you do in the day. If you leave it to last, it’s too easy for it to slip away.

But you know what? Hobbies are fun. I like hobbies. I’ve never had them before—I only had semi-professional activities, like writing and reading, and total wastes of time, like video games. Now, for some reason, I’ve gotten way into hobbies. Like drawing, journaling, seeing paintings, etc. I think to a certain extent it’s because, with the sale of my third book, I’ve started to feel like, wow, this writing career is something approaching a profession for me! It’s a really weird thought.

Like people online are like, “Writers should get a living wage!” On Twitter someone was like, “A book from a major publisher should always get the equivalent of at least a year’s salary at [some minimal level, I forget what it was]”. And I’m always like…sure, but…there’s always someone else willing to do it cheaper. And the publisher loses money on my books anyway. But with WATN, I’m not 100 percent sure they did lose money. The book seemed to do fine! And they did pay me something approaching that minimum figure the Twitter commenter wrote about, too. So I have no complaints.

No stability, obviously, but I’m growing up.

Now where was I? Oh yes, something, something, something, journaling. Anyway, the prompt in one of my journals was like, “What do you need to thrive?”

When you write on these topics, something always pops up that you’re not expecting. In this case, amongst ten other things, I wrote that I needed “Respect.”

I was like, hmm, that’s odd! I’ve never thought that before.

It’s a very Ancient Greek idea. To any writer or thinker who lived in one of the ancient democracies it would’ve been intuitively obvious, even if Aristotle hadn’t written about it explicitly, that gaining honor is a major part of life. It was the backbone of their entire political and ethical system.

As Nietzsche noted, Christianity killed that ancient ethical system, but I still think it was getting at something. A person wants to be honored. They want to be acknowledged for their attainments.

So as I was thinking, how do I get respect, I started to think…”Do I give other people the respect they deserve?”

And I think in a lot of cases, the answer is no. I think a lot of times, I assume people are stupid or emotional, unless they’ve proven otherwise, and it comes through in some of my communications. And I think that uncertainty, running through how I write and talk, comes back to me as a lack of respect. I don’t talk to people as if I respect them, and so they don’t give me the same respect.

And often they’re right not to! I can be pretty emotional and irrational, especially when people give me their honest opinion. I think it’s easy to want respect if you imagine it means the same thing as praise. But it’s not. Someone can respect you, but not like you or your works or even think they have much value. There’s definitely a way people can be blunt and dismissive and disrespectful, but I don’t think it’s respectful to lie and sugarcoat your opinions. It definitely made me think!

In a similar vein, I’ll say, it’s nice sometimes to switch agents or editors or publishers, because you get a chance to do over all the things you did wrong the first time. I deeply regret all the times I was really emotional in situations when I shouldn’t have been.

When you sell a book, you have to grow up fast. And oftentimes, you don’t have many good role models. You don’t see examples of how real professionals—real old hands—communicate with their teams or handle adversity. I would say that in the sci-fi world there’s actually a little more of this, because it’s less hierarchical. I really value the outlook on life and publishing I got from Michael Swanwick and Joe Haldeman, in particular, at Clarion. As well as the similar lessons I gleaned from reading essays by Asimov or Heinlein or others from the Golden and Silver Ages. Although for a long time I thought I was too precious and artistic for that stuff to apply to me, I’m glad it was germinating inside me.

In a similar vein, I’ve been lucky to know Tess Sharpe—who I met at a literary retreat held by our then-agency back in…2013? 2014? My book later sold to the same editor as her debut did, and we were dropped by that publisher at the same time. Tess is a real pro. She’s actually amazing. I’m so happy she’s so outspoken on Twitter, because she’s teaching a generation of girls how to be flexible in the marketplace without sacrificing their principles.

But yeah….what was I saying, blah blah blah, something about respect…I don’t know. I’ve been SUPER emotional lately due to hormonal changes. Crying, mood swings, etc, but I haven’t let that hurt any of my professional or writer-type relations, which makes me happy, and is, I think, worthy of respect.

I don’t know. I think maybe what I didn’t grasp is that just being a good writer doesn’t make you worth of respect. Nor does simply being a kind or interesting person. You also need wisdom and integrity. It’s those two things that command respect. Like, if you have two writers, and one is a genius but is kind of poop when you meet them in person, and the other is a hack, but they act with dignity, then you’re always going to respect the second person more. You like or dislike the work, but you respect the person.

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