By Dr. Amy Marsh
As a writer and in my career as a sexologist, the situations I find most personally challenging are the “hurry up and wait” experiences. These are usually the times when I’ve found myself courted (often out of the blue), urged to produce something which will be published or presented in what appears to be a desirable forum, and then once I meet the deadline—nothing. Time and again I’ve experienced a flurry of communication designed to elicit my favorable responses—plus a solid piece of work—and then, somehow, there are no longer any reciprocal exchanges from the person or persons who so avidly sought my acquaintance and professional expertise. Even brief, patient emails a month or two later may go unanswered. Phone calls are not returned. The publication dates, or other matters which have an impact on me and my ability to strategize, bootstrap, and promote, are simply left dangling. And I am left to twist in the wind.
Have I been dumped after putting out? Am I just another notch on an interviewer’s belt or a social media website? Or has a cascade of life crises interrupted the process and the reporter, publisher, or agency representative really will get back to me as soon as the carnage clears?
Sure, “sh*t happens,” but why does it so often happen after I’ve turned in a piece of work?
It’s very hard to know what to do in this case. Do I “squeaky wheel” it, become annoying and persistent in a way that is frankly foreign to my socialization and inclination? Or do I assume a Zen-like exterior of uber-professionalism while patching up my slightly shredded self esteem in private? Or is it just that people have lost the art and etiquette of following up?
Writers need aftercare and check-ins, too! It’s not just for BDSM anymore!
Perhaps there should be a self-help book titled Writers who Write Too Much… and the People who Exploit Them. If there were such a book, I’d be most interested in learning how to keep my sense of plucky optimism while still waiting for all those blogs, books, and other promised projects to come to fruition. I’d like to learn how to professionally and constructively convey my desire to know publication dates and other key pieces of information, and to be informed about delays in a timely manner, so that I can—you know—twitter and blog and facebook about it. In other words, do my share of promoting the whatever-it-is, which usually also includes promoting and boosting the company, website, or whoever is hosting the whatever-it-is…
Did I mention that much of what I’m talking about are writing projects almost entirely done on spec? Sometimes with a promise of a modest bit of change coming along later (always welcome in my pre-divorce world)? Did I mention that it’s awfully hard to know just how to separate the truly wonderful opportunities, chances to collaborate with people who have struck my fancy as creative, marvelous individuals, from those who are simply out for as much free content as they can get? And instead of choosing me for my expertise, do some people see me as a reliable fallback because they think I’ve got nothing much else going on?
I have been operating on the assumption that acting professionally would elicit professionalism in return. Sometimes it does. A couple of writers interviewing me for books actually do send me a copies when they are published. On the other hand, that New York writer who wanted a free session in order to write about it has yet to communicate clearly about when his article is appearing in that hip, happening fashion site. And there are other matters left hanging out there, ones which baffle me in strange, painful sort of way.
To redeem this blog post as something other than my own personal lamentations and frustrations, here are a few cautionary words:
1) Don’t count on, or wait for, the publication of an interview to handily coincide with your self-promotional efforts. Occasionally an interview will come out just at the right time, and you can use it to promote your classes or create more buzz about your book—the operative word here is “occasionally”; even if the interviewing party has promised its publication by a certain date, don’t build your marketing or other schedules around that interview ahead of time. Create several different promotion strategies for your projects so that when the promised article fails to appear, you won’t be crushed or left without options.
2) Remember that everyone is far too involved in pushing their own agenda and advancing their careers to focus too keenly, or sometimes even care, about yours. Even people working in good faith will often have so much on their plate that memory lapses and communication gaps are an inevitable part of the process. Find a way to accept that gracefully, and again, create a few different strategies for dealing with situations on a case-by-case basis.
3) If you are able, try to find out as many details as possible before committing to create content, especially for people and organizations you don’t yet know and trust. Not every opportunity is a good opportunity; if someone wants a large chunk of your time for free, you may be better off investing that time elsewhere.
4) If you haven’t seen a response two weeks after emailing or phoning the person who courted you, you’ve probably been dumped or the project has been shelved. Pick yourself up and move on. Be civil if they actually do get back in touch at a later date. Any delays may not have been their fault. Maybe there really were extenuating circumstances.
5) Don’t become obsessive about checking the places where you think your interview or work may still be published. Just do it every now and then, and then forget about it (or try your best to forget about it).
There are probably harsh industry realities which exacerbate these problems for writers and other creators of content. And we—being on the outside—may never know what they are. All we can do is carry on, stay fresh and frosty, and above all, never become excited about something that looks like a big break. It’s probably no such thing, and you may be better off looking for the little breaks to be found with trusted professionals.
Amy Marsh, EdD, DHS, CH, CI, is a clinical sexologist and AASECT certified sex counselor, certified hypnotist and hypnosis instructor, and an associate professor of human sexuality at the world’s most radical sex school. She is a former Carnal Nation columnist. Learn more at dramymarshsexologist.com or follow @AmyMarshSexDr on Twitter.