Sometimes I look back on the person I was before I became a writer and I shake me head. If I met that person today, I wouldn't want to hang out with her. I would think she was mean and bitchy and tremendously callous. I wouldn't want to be her friend.
Of course, me being me, I have access to all my memories and experiences. I can psychoanalyze myself and explain away certain tendencies and behaviours. But part of my establishment of Self involved getting a job in business... in downtown Toronto... right out of university. As other Canadians will freely tell you, a lot of people in business in downtown Toronto are not so nice. Maybe we're talking on a Canadian scale here, but nevertheless, working in business plunked me right up against some crazy critters.
I figure there are only two directions you can go when your clients are jerks. No, I just changed my mind. There are three:
1) You can become meek and submissive, just hoping if you keep your head down low enough and don't stop apologizing, they might not yell at you today.
2) You can have a complete emotional shut-down, so that you just don't care if you're being chewed out every day.
3) You can become a jerk too.
For me, it was a combination of 2 and 3, I think. Maybe I'm being a touch hard on myself, and of course there are always other factors at play, but before I started writing, I just wasn't a very nice person.
Let's skip ahead a few years to the days when I've just started writing and submitting my work to publishers. No, let's skip even further forward to the days when my work has been accepted for publication and I'm started to get those "join our author yahoo group" links.
I came into publishing quite naively, but I distinctly remember thinking, "Everybody's going to be ruthless. Everybody's out to get me. Everybody wants their book to sell and mine to fail."
I don't believe that anymore. Sure, I'm aware of those few and far between authors who will trash competitors' books on Amazon, but from what I've encountered, authors in the romance/erotic fiction genres are the absolute best and most giving people... ever!
When I was a novice, just coming into writing professionally, I had no idea what to expect. What I found, at every turn, were other authors willing to help. No, WANTING to help. Because we all remember what it felt like to know nothing and feel insignificant. I couldn't believe how at home I felt with other writers. I thought they'd be mean, because I was used to people being mean to me. Instead, I found I'd stumbled upon the most giving, loving, generous, and caring people I'd ever encountered.
And other authors' generosity encouraged me to be generous too. As soon as I'd established a blog I opened it up for interviews and granted authors lots of free promo opportunities. So many people in this industry went above and beyond for me. When you're not used to "nice," "nice" can be a thing of inspiration.
My change in attitude has extended out into other aspects of my life too. As an author, you're bound to get some bad reviews along the way, and god knows I've had my fair share. I know how it impacts me when somebody out there in the world, somebody who doesn't know me and maybe doesn't even realize I'm a real person, says something scathing or cruel or just plain... mean.
That hurts. As a result, I'm now very careful how I talk about other people, even if they are celebrities to some degree. Twitter makes it very easy to hear what others are saying about us, and I would never, never want to make another human being feel as down as I have felt at times.
I think about other people now. I really didn't do that before I started writing professionally. I care about people I've never met. I want other authors to succeed. I want other people to feel happy and proud of their accomplishments, not depressed or ashamed.
I care about other people. I'm excited about other authors' projects. I want them to have great sales and great reviews. That's how writing made me a better person.