Musings of an Inappropriate Woman

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waxlions said: How important is ‘party charm’ to getting assignments? I do neither… :(

It has had next to no importance in my career to date: I’ve gotten all my assignments based on pitches, clips, and prior reputation. I did find my agent though through a woman I met at a dinner a couple of years ago, who had looked at my portfolio website before we met, and thought we’d be a good match for each other. She was right.

To sum: I think that to some degree, people like to work with people they like, but you can be likeable by doing things like using a personable tone in your emails, meeting up for coffee when you’re in the same city, and turning in your work on time. Or just generally not being an asshole. Doing good work is the most important thing, though, and any editor who hires based on who they met at the bar the other night is not a good editor.

Personally I like taking a prima facie “lame” or “done that” assignment and researching it, sometimes for three days straight, until suddenly the light catches on another angle.

Me too, SNP.

Yes also to getting assignments based on previous work, rather than on ability to charm at parties (I do enjoy charming at parties, but trying to charm people who have the ability to hire me makes me nervous unless they’ve hired me already). And yes too to the awful tendency to want to write “smart” things densely rather than simply because it makes them seem more profound and philosophical. Or something like that.

"The manuscript was delivered ahead of deadline and the editorial turnaround was quick."

Surely the most remarkable sentence in this highly interesting and informative essay for anyone interested in books/writing/the publishing industry.

“I read an essay on n+1 this morning, and it featured a writer who turned in their manuscript before deadline,” I told Mr Musings when I arrived home this evening. He was equally incredulous. “That can’t have been a real writer!” he declared, with more than a smidge of irony. “It must have been a book-shaped product.”

Not because “real writers” produce all their work in Hannah Horvath, last minute, “I’m going to write a book in a day” style (although yes, sometimes that too), but because we don’t like to let go. Even when the manuscript is essentially complete, we can still find improvements to make. And as long as there is time left on the clock to make them, we’re going to use that time to make them. Because as Megan McArdle put it in The Atlantic last week: “As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good.”

A few years ago, I bought a painting by an artist friend of mine, who now runs an incredible gallery in NYC. When I went to pick it up from her house a few days later, she asked if she could keep it a little longer. There was so much wrong with it, she said, so much that could still be improved. “No,” I told her defiantly. I had purchased the painting because I liked it, and I wanted to own it as is.

I let her go over a few of the lines with black paint before I took it, and the painting is still hanging on my lounge room wall; I am looking across from it as I write this post. I still love it, and I can’t imagine what my friend would have changed about it.But let’s just say I have a whole lot more empathy for her now in that moment, than I did four years ago.

Subtract the word “publisher” (since most of these “problems” have hinged on my state of mind, rather than anything in the physical world) and I feel like this sums up my social media engagement over the past year and a half. 

Subtract the word “publisher” (since most of these “problems” have hinged on my state of mind, rather than anything in the physical world) and I feel like this sums up my social media engagement over the past year and a half.


Comments I have scrawled in the margins of the chapter I am currently editing

(Which, incidentally, is the chapter that earned me my book deal in the first place…)

"lame examples"
"vague - since when?"
"not convinced of the relevance of this section"
"blah blah blah"
"and here I finally return to material that actually belongs in this chapter"
"this is dreadful!"
"reaching a bit here"
"intellectually feeble"

And in a rare flash of positive self-reinforcement: “Great point, if I do say so myself!”

Related: She who tries, wins.