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Hating Confrontation


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I hate confrontation when it’s writing-related business. 

In fact, I’m stalling right now and it’s not even a face-to-face situation. It’s an email. But I’m agonizing over this email—and I’m annoyed at how much time this problem has ended up costing me in both hours away from other work and the space it’s taking up in my psyche. 

Years ago, I walked by our home office and Mister Man was on the phone to an associate. He was, as we say in the rural South, “giving him up the country.” In other words, he was speaking harshly to this gentleman. When I passed by ten minutes later, Mister Man was cheerily working away, not a sign of distress. I was amazed. 

 “How,” I asked, “can you sit there so calmly after all that fussing? That poor guy! I’d be a wreck if someone lit into me like that!” 

My husband smiled. “He’s fine,” he said. “It wasn’t personal, Cathy. It was business.” 

And that, friends, in a nutshell, is why confrontation is so hard for me, at least when it comes to my professional writing side: I can’t help making it a whole personal thing. And I wonder if this is just me or if other writers struggle with this problem as well. 

Mostly, I wonder if it’s something inherent in a business like writing (or perhaps anything in the humanities). There are measurable elements to a writing business but there are just as many aspects that can’t be defined. Imagine something as simple as accurately calculating the hours put in to writing, say, a column: 

Coming up with the idea: 13 hours
 *Includes the moment when I first thought up the idea and the eight hours or so I slept on it and the four more hours when I was running errands and thought up supporting ideas.) 

Writing the column: 4 hours**
 ** Includes when I first started writing and didn’t finish because I had to take a call and then came back and had to remember what I was writing about and then needed to eat lunch because who can think when they’re hungry and finally came back and finished writing the column. And then re-read it and realized the beginning had nothing to do with the ending and revised. 

Of course, sometimes an idea comes to me in a flash and within an hour or two, I’ve finished it. But when I send the invoice, I bill for an agreed upon fee whether I’ve spent an hour or three days. That’s fair, of course, but then how does one ask for a raise? I may feel that my work has more value (based on time involved and skill level) but confronting my employer (likely another professional writer/editor who, let’s face it, is in the same boat) feels a bit…pretentious. Am I worth more money? Am I that accomplished as a writer? Who do I think I am, the reincarnation of Erma Bombeck? Do people buy the magazine just to read ME?

 See? That feels a lot personal. Not so much business-y. 

Conversely, and what I’m dealing with presently, is confronting professionals in the publishing business who, in my opinion, are doing a less-than-stellar job after quite a few back-and-forth emails explaining what I need. Communications, I might add, that I have labored over in order to be as clear as possible. But—and here is where it gets personal—is it my lack in communicating or that I don’t understand the skills involved? I mean, is it really a badly done project or just me, the suddenly highfalutin art critic? I don’t want hurt feelings, but I also don’t want an expensive, crummy cover. It’s so hard to quantify writing and/or design when you are paying for…well, evoking feelings

So I am stuck in this space of confrontation related to my writing business that feels way too personal. What I wouldn’t give for Mister Man’s fast and pragmatic handling of the situation. But if anyone in the land of the living has thoughts, I still have a few hours of stalling left.

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