How Not To Treat Editors (and people!): A Documentary

At some point, you are going to clash with people.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s part of the human race. People will disagree with each other over everything from the merit of a hipster coffee blend to the superiority of political stances. This is completely fine. I’ve disagreed with countless people in my time, spanning best friends to complete strangers on the interwebz. Again, this is perfectly fine, and it’s always good to be exposed to alternative ideas and opinions, if only to reaffirm your own. Not everyone has to like what everyone else likes. Ain’t nothing wrong with it.

…except when it gets ugly.

To put it in perspective, I’ll sketch an example: a month or so ago I had a submission for StarShipSofa (they didn’t follow the guidelines at all, but that’s irrelevant). I politely declined, saying the story just didn’t work for me and thanking them for the chance to see it.

Oh boy. Big, big mistake, mister Szal.

In response I got a faceful of acidic spite, this individual telling me how I “had no idea what I was talking about”, that I was stupid and shouldn’t have been on the internet, let alone editing a podcast if my tastes were so out of whack. Then came some very personal insults that showed clear evidence of prior thought. This was all accompanied by a selection of very specific four letter words in the vein of Goodfellas. I am not the first editor to receive responses like this, nor will I be the last. I can’t even imagine the amount of acid that has crawled into the inboxes of other more experienced editors, especially the sexist kind that female editors get. And this is just what we actually see.

But as for this individual, the gates are locked and the key is thrown down a bottomless well. Their name is branded into my brain. I wish them the very best with their writing endeavors, but I am completely certain that this person is not ever welcome at StarShipSofa.

People say stupid stuff. People do stupid stuff. We’ve all been there, we’ve all had a few too many drinks and taken a few too many hallucinogenic mushrooms of the alien kind and proceed to do something we regret when the sun rises. People have rough days. I understand that. But it was crystal clear that this individual had absolutely zero respect for me as a human being, and had zero respect for the podcast. With extremely rare exceptions everyone has treated me with respect on either side of the submissions fence, or in writing communities in general. But not this person.

It’s very, very difficult to offend me. I have skin that would make a komodo dragon jealous. But if anyone can’t muster up the energy to treat me like a human being, then I’m in no hurry to associate with them, on StarShipSofa or otherwise. It’s toxic, and I really don’t have the energy to combat it. People will scream at your from the sidelines. People will always make it their god-given duty to stick their nose into your business and pull you apart. People will wait for you to fail, for you to be humiliated, for you to give up. I’ve had it, and so have much better writers than me. I’ve had people laugh at me for spending time with a “retarded podcast” (yep, that’s the word). I’ve had folks twice, three times my age talk down to me and my efforts simply because they can. But you squash it down and you carry on with your head held high.

A while back I had someone (let’s call them Strawman1â„¢) tell me that being a pleasant person was a subjective, ambiguous act. It’s a very interesting theory, but holds absolutely no water in the real world. Ask anyone with a shred of experience in customer services. Showing respect to someone as a human being takes no effort and doesn’t cost a cent. Going out of your way to belittle them? That takes concentrated time and effort. That age old rule we all used to roll our eyes at as kids? Treat people the way you want to be treated. It still applies and always will. I’ll get off my high horse now.

The moral of this story? I’m not sure. I will say that it’s enough in the writing world as it is without us trying to tear us apart. So make up for it. Subscribe to a magazine. Write a review for a book you enjoyed on Amazon. Write fanmail to an author. Listen to a podcast. Make it a little easier for our great community, yeah?


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