Precious Cargo

Refreshingly Bitter And Twisted Observations On Life's Passing Parade.

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Location: Valley Village, California, United States

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Why Josh Olson (and John Scalzi) Can't Say No Politely And Leave It At That

Josh Olson recently wrote an ostensibly humorous article for the Village Voice explaining why he no longer wishes to read and provide free critiques of the screenwriting strangers foist upon him.

Now, science fiction writer John Scalzi has weighed in. I haven't commented on this before because it didn't raise my hackles sufficiently to warrant a comment, but reading a portion of Scalzi's piece posted at Lee Goldberg's blog prompts me to comment.

Olson is simply trading on his reputation to sell a short piece to a national publication. He turned a pet peeve into a writing opportunity. Olson's piece was meant to be funny, but many readers missed the humor and felt insulted.

Scalzi's piece is, I think, worse than Olson's. It is dishonest and arrogant. Scalzi writes:

1. The job of a writer is to write. So, I’m looking at one of my book contracts. It says that I need to write a certain type of book (science fiction) of a certain length (100,000 words) by a certain time (er… Hmmm). In return, I get paid a certain amount of money.

Here’s what’s not in the contract:

4. That I do any damn thing, in fact, other than write the book I’ve agreed to write.

The job of a writer is to write.

So? Everyone except children, the disabled and retirees work hard to fulfil their job obligations, sometimes for more than one job. We all have time pressures to contend with. Does that leave no free time for anything else?

Whether one helps someone else by giving them the benefit of one's expertise depends on a variety of circumstances.

Some people will contribute their time to others without expecting anything in return except, one hopes, gratitude. That's the essence of volunteerism.

If you don't want to do it, don't. You have no obligation. But save me the excuses - I can't spare an iota of my time, otherwise I won't fulfil my contract and I'll end up homeless. As long as you fulfil your contract, you're free to do anything else you want to.

Does Scalzi do nothing but write 16 hours a day? Everyone has some leisure time. You can give some up, if you want to. And I'm tired of the slippery slope argument, i.e. if I give someone a little solicited advice, they'll expect me to sell their novel, etc.

So say no, gently. It is the established author in this relationship who has the power and draws the boundaries, and they can decline any request any time they want.

It just so happens that I received an email today from the press representative for a well known film producer, who is still very active, asking me when I would like him to call me to conduct an interview about an actor he once cast in one of his films whose life I am researching.

This producer could buy and sell Scalzi. Yet, he is willing to take the time to speak with me.

Really, what both Olson's and Scalzi's pieces reveal is how self-important some writers feel.

Here's a nice antidote to Olson and Scalzi. Robert Elisberg pays tribute to the late Larry Gelbart by relating his story about how Gelbart went out of his way to make a relative stranger's wish come true.

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Blogger Franzine Kafka said...

i wrote about this topic on my blog:

1:18 PM  

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