I offer you the wana (pronounced vahnah preferably with a cigarette holder in one hand).
The sea urchin. Phylum Echinodermata or "spiney skin."
Don't get close and do not underestimate him. He is small but mighty. Clever at hiding. Positively brilliant at being in the wrong place at the wrong time for this diver. I found the shot of a lifetime. Hovered carefully. A male and female frogfish in the same frame. My leg bent and lowered onto the ocean floor directly on top of forty spines, which were instantly injected deep into my skin. I know there were forty because I counted each puncture as I soaked my leg in steaming bath water to deactivate the protein toxin.
Clumsy of me.
Just like a writer delivering a back handed complement.
Or are they?
3:30 pm and 80 degrees.
The back handed complement. We've all gotten them.
As writers, we seem to get more than our share. There is a perception by some that success is finite. If one does well, another will have to falter. There are fears and traumas that only writers know deep in their souls.
The fear that someone will steal your idea -- that you can't write well enough -- that you'll never be published -- that all the time you spent will go to waste.
In workshops, you see evidence of this in the glances, the licking of the lips, a curving smile hid by a hand when an instructor points out a problem in another's manuscript.
The words might as well be transcribed on foreheads for all to see.
Is my work good enough?
Is it better than his?
Is it better than hers?
I have been the recipient of these barbs.
"Well," I am told. "I mean it's easy enough to write what you write, after all it's just commercial fiction. How hard can that be? I, on the other hand spend hours crafting one sentence. You just jot yours off and you're done."
There are the writers who tell you that they plan and determine exactly what would be more likely to sell and write appropriately. Sometimes luck intervenes but other times not. You see, the passion is missing from their words.
So what then?
I think back handed complements need to be dealt with. Confronted head on like a bee loose in a car. Don't ignore them or they won't ever go away.
"Oh, they are just doing it to be supportive. To be kind. To be honest," you say.
But I ask you what point does it serve?
I have come up with a few phrases that can be used in response. Save them for just these moments, use them wisely. Never let another writer's arrogance put you in your perceived place.
"Could you repeat that please?"
"What exactly did you mean by that?"
Please donate phrases to the common good and make your contribution, today.
I will share my own personal favorite:
"And your point is?"
Kudos to the lovely, bristling sea urchin.
Hip hip hurray!
NOTE: I am extraordinarily jealous that Holly has held TWO (count them, TWO!) contests to great response, so I am holding one of my own.
Offer your best retort to a "writerly back-handed" comment over the next TWO days.
I will evaluate the entries with my friend MARY and have her select a WINNER (You hear that Mary?) so everything is above board and fair.
I will send you a signed ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of Lottery --
Now how arrogant is THAT?