It’s funny, the longer I spend on the Internet, the more I forget what a truly terrible place it can be. This goes doubly when you’re working for clients that don’t realize how difficult it is to intuit their intent from a few pointed words. Most of the time, these clients are corporate or working on behalf of corporations.
For example, I have done a great deal of work for a particular window manufacturer that I won’t name (but there’s a cartoon Martian that has the same “goes by”). When those suggestions and edits come down the pipe, it feels like a ballistic bean bag to the heart. Every time. Even though I know this is the way they do things.
This is probably why so many freelancers avoid corporate clients like the fucking plague.
Rub Some Dirt In That Wound
As painful as it can be, those edits are semi-solicited comments. They’re included in your content package. You told them to bring you comments, in not so many words.
I mean, you still pray to God and Dog and whoever else ya got that you don’t hemorrhage during the process, but you persist because you like having a roof over your head and whatnot.
You do the thing because that’s your job and you are the adult in the room.
But it’s not kind, it’s often not fair and frequently very confusing. When six people are editing your work at the same time, they will end up contradicting themselves. Then your head explodes.
Of course, corporate clients aren’t the only people in the world dropping buckets into the Ocean of Negativity that is the virtual world. Sometimes it’s smaller clients — or worse — your social network.
I Get By With a Little Help…
Last night, a thing happened in the Tubes that shook me up more than it should have. And I did eventually walk it off, but it took me by such surprise that it took the breath out of me for a minute.
I posted to my social network something kind of personal about how this calendar I bought in — who knows, let’s say the 90s — profoundly affected my outlook on life and whatnot. It was called “Nuns Having Fun.” Literally, this is a calendar series full of nuns having fun. What could be less objectionable?
Apparently we can’t have nice things because it wasn’t long before someone came along to shit on my parade. Because there are bad people in the world and a few of them happen to be nuns, we can’t secretly spy on the joy of those nuns that aren’t doing bad things and enjoy it.
This was the lesson. Or, so it tried to be. Several of my very clever friends came in with sarcasm and sharp wit and potentially ruled the day. If anything that happens online can be considered to be real.
Face That Ish Head On
I realized in that moment that the two things, the edits we endure as writers and the slings and arrows chucked at us by online moral purists aren’t really all that different.
Edit-By-Committee means to weed out all the imperfections in short editing rounds by involving every person who might be remotely attached to a project; Online Moral Purity seeks to weed out all the problems of society by raising awareness, even if that means shitting on everything you love.
Now, as to what to do about it.
Face that ish head on. Here, have five ways to do that:
- Remember that you’re in control. Even when you aren’t in control of the situation, you’re in control of how you respond to it. You can cry, you can freak the fuck out, you can punch a pillow (not a person), but do it in the goddamn closet. You rule the day, keep a handle on yourself.
- Bitch loudly to your friends. Get that poison out of your system, but not where there’s anyone in your professional network to see. Tell your friends, who almost certainly don’t understand what it is that you’re upset about, that your client is squirrely. Just saying it outloud can give you some perspective.
- Sleep on it. Seriously. This makes all the difference for me. When I have a good night’s sleep after an edit, I wake up with an improved outlook. I can see those comments in their very best light, as awful as they may have felt the day before. Sleep. It’s really awesome.
- Address the offense. Hey, that’s a perfectly valid point about your stupid windows, you dumb window making people. Or, hey, boot makers, guess what? Women work construction, too, so don’t be telling me that only a man can review your dumb work boots. Because you’re all dumb. (but be more eloquent)
- Get down to business. Look, you’re a pro or you at least want to be one. There’s absolutely no reason to act like anything but. Don’t let them see you sweat, just clean up the mess of comments in your working document and move the fuck on. They’re paying for it, so if they want something changed, just do it. Let them kill your darlings. You can make more.
Social media and clients can both be full of malaria and alligators, much like Florida, but you don’t have to spend your life bogged down in the fucking swamp. Remember that you are amazing and that the swamp is also a great place for orchids, which really makes some of the malaria pretty tolerable.