I like to say that I don't have an ego about my writing, and that's mostly true. For one kind of writing. My articles that I'm hired to write and send off to editors who are asking for them? Totally no problem. I send, they say "Change this!" or "I changed this!" or, well, they just change it, and pretty soon it hits the stands.
I barely look at the finished product until I put it in my clip file. I've compared my poor, abandoned/finished articles as discarded lovers to my Casanova: adoringly attended to, researched, fussed over, then forgotten as the next assignment looms into view. Once safely ensconced in my clip file, they can complain about me and find solidarity, I suppose.
When I give one of my articles a look-see, like when I'm about to post it here, I scan it for any sign of something I might have written – one phrase? A couple sentences? Whatever I find beyond my solid reporting is a bonus, and if that cute lede stayed in there, I'm over the moon. But there's no equivalent feeling of loss for all the phrases that didn't make it in. If there's something unbearably adorable that I feel must be seen, I'll send it to friends in an email or post it online here.
I do feel bad when I see a paragraph full of facts I didn't gather, guiltily imagining my editor Googling up some hard numbers after hours. And I never – NEVER – complain to an editor about something I think should have stayed. If an editor is kind enough to show me, pre-publication, what she's done with my work, I'm not going to crap on her by raising a stink over my now-lost agonized-over metaphor. Again, I know what it's like to have higher-up editors making their changes on top of yours, and I know how impossible it is to go back to them and say "The writer REALLY wants to keep XYZ." What? Are you kidding me? Tell that writer to take a fricking hike. Next time hire a kindergartener. Fuck no, thank you kindly!
But when we switch to the subject of my fiction, all bets are off. Probably because nobody's paying much for my fiction, even the writer-for-hire variety that paid my bills for so many years. (Books in which my name never appeared, which I was contracted to write according to storylines generated by committee.) Since I'm not taking orders in the first place, my feelings become much more involved, like veins through organs. Like veins through organs when you're about to get your period. LIKE LOTS OF VEINS IN ALL YOUR ORGANS. Okay, like testicles.
Why would anyone have to edit me, anyway?!
Anyway: Here is a sad tale of my ego and my fiction. A gal I worked with, and had a sort of girly-crush on, began shining her attention-lamp on me. She said, "You write fiction? I want to see what Amy fiction is like. What is it like? I must know. You have to send it to me. Send me your fiction! I MUST SEE YOUR FICTION!"
I got, like, an email every two hours on this subject. "Have you sent it yet? There's nothing in my inbox. I want to see it. Please? Don't print it out, I've got a printer. I'll print it, just send it!" I didn't want to send it! I told her: It's not quite done. It's not really ready. It's a work in progress. It's crap! But she wouldn't hear of it: "Oh for god's sake, just send it already! I don't care, I just want to see it!" So I attached it and hit "send."
And then, silence.
Days, weeks, a couple months of silence. Finally, swooping out of the clear blue sky, she called to say she'd been invited on a press trip, she needed a pal, she knew I needed cheering up, I had to accompany her. (She can be quite the demanding gal, can't she?) I went on the trip and on one particularly chummy (read: drunken) night, we were out with some other journalists, and she made some sideways comment about the fact that I write fiction, and I teased her about never writing after she read my book, and she rolled her eyes and said, "When I asked to read it, I didn't realize it was going to be a young adult novel."
Italics hers, and dripping with disdain.
I am ashamed to say I was absolutely devastated. I didn't think of that novelette as YA! And what's wrong with YA? And what the HECK?
I've had people call my articles stupid, silly, fluff, sexist, and a raft of other insults. I've been the subject of a months-long thrash on the Ms.com bulletin boards regarding an article I wrote in Maxim. (Or Stuff, I forget which.) I am usually spoiling for a fight when it comes to that sort of thing, and happily wave my paycheck in the face of all who mock me. But any word about my fiction makes me pout like a second-string cheerleader. It's so weird and stupid! But it may explain why my fiction's been on the back burner. Why stick my neck out when I have so much else to do?
Oh, but that back burner is bubbling and boiling, the more I try to ignore it. I can't avoid this forever. Shweee.