If you have disdain for what you do, but are getting paid to do it, should you tell the world how you feel or should you keep your feelings to yourself?
Here’s an example: Before I had Brianna, I worked as an Occupational Therapist with adults with mental illness. First in the community and then in a state hospital. I’m sure most people would agree that it is a professional job. And that I should have conducted myself as such. I wonder how my employer would have viewed it had I publicly, loudly, and repeatedly stated how what I did was a waste of time, the patients were just fucking crazy anyhow and really, are they going to change? What if I’d said I was just in it for the paycheck, yeah, it’s an entertaining job but it’s not like I’M going to make a difference. But hey! If you’re a potential employer, you should consider hiring me anyway because I’m sure it would be different at your place of business. I’d be much more professional and take things more seriously there. I’d do my hardest to convince people that our tax dollars are going to a good cause and that health insurance companies that it’s not a waste of their money to pay for someone to be hospitalized there. I promise, that’s what I’d say if I worked for you. But since I don’t work for you, I’ll tell you- it’s a waste of time and effort. Save your coin.
Now, before I go any further with this blog entry and someone sends me offended hate mail, let me just emphasize how exaggerated and made up the above example is. I loved my job and was good at it. And I’d like to believe I really did make a difference. But moving on…
My example is, to me, the equivalent of a romance author- or an erotic romance author- trashing their genre and/or their publisher across the internet and at public functions (I’ve already blogged about the appalling behavior witnessed at Celebrate Romance). Okay, maybe you don’t think you’re writing a literary classic. And chances are, it might not be shelved with William Shakespeare’s work. But does that make it any less of an artistic, creative endeavor? Does that mean that you should dismiss all works of romance, erotic or otherwise, as “fluff” or “purple prose” and suggest that they are easily forgettable? I’m sure that some of your peers out there would take offense to that.
Is a book, whether its romance, poetry, or classic literature, so easily dismissed as forgettable if it has touched the imaginations, the heart, and the emotions of its readers? And if you, as an author of that genre, are saying it’s forgettable, than you are insulting me, the reader, who thinks it’s infinitely not. I have read books in every genre that made me cry, made me think, and set my imagination to soaring. Perhaps they weren’t on par with Mark Twain but they were just as important to me. And besides, as Eloisa James said in a speech, an entire reading life of Mark Twain would be boring beyond belief (loosely paraphrased).
Writing is a form of creative expression and, as such, how people view the finished project is entirely subjective. That’s why trusting a review can be a sketchy deal. But I am appalled when an artist can lump all works into one category and suggest that they are easily disregarded. It insults not only the artist’s peers but also the patron’s who have paid money for that art. And it makes potential consumers take a step back and wonder why they should invest money in something that the artist herself doesn’t believe in.
Trashing your genre just isn’t good business. And it isn’t very professional either. I doubt any publisher would thank an author for creating that kind of negative publicity. And I have to wonder if they wouldn’t think twice about further contracts as well. I wouldn’t expect a potential employer to hire me- or a current employer to extend my stay- if I keep telling people about the “fruitcakes” I treat and what a waste of time it is. Of course, for me it falls under ethical conduct. I can’t imagine that the writing world should expect any less of a sense of professionalism from its “employees” and it wouldn’t surprise me if more publishers don’t go to a behavior/code of conduct clause in their contracts as I understand some, such as Harlequin already have. And why shouldn’t they? It seems that some authors need a little more incentive other than love of craft, desire to represent their publisher well, and belief in their and their peers’ work to limit what they say in public.
When I see behavior such as this, I’m saddened. And I know other readers of the romance genre don’t always take such opinions lightly either. We want to read the work of someone who is proud of what she- or he- writes and who takes pride in the effort, creative abilities, blood, sweat, and tears that went into crafting a finished product that they are terrified- yet excited- to send into the world. We want to read the work of an author who will defend the genre against naysayers and those who think it’s only for lazy housewives who eat bon bons in their trailers. We don’t want to read the work of someone who’s joining in with the naysayers- and sometimes being heard even more loudly. If this isnt you, well, feel free to shout about it across the internet but don’t be surprised if your books aren’t the first on my to be bought list and your name isn’t the first on my lips when it comes time to make a recommendation.