A guy walks into a bar and sits down. Based on his body language it is apparent to the bartender that something is wrong. The barkeep offers the downtrodden a drink and asks why he is so despondent.
The man takes the drink and replies, “Today I have not been insulted, berated, disrespected, or even physically abused.”
The bartender is surprised by the revelation but suppresses his response, and asks, “So what’s the problem?”
The guy replies, “I’m a writer. It’s part of the job.”
In general writing and writers get little respect because they don’t want respect, and my experience as a Writer proves the ugly truth.
More than a few years ago I was contacted about rewriting a screenplay. The reason I was contacted was because I had previously made the rather flippant remark to a producer of independent films I know that I am “fast and cheap.” When the screenplay I would be contacted about came to his attention I came to mind and he contacted me about editing the script – known in the industry as a ‘POS’. (The opinion the screenplay needed work was an understatement.)
And then there was a caveat or two where my involvement as a screenwriter was concerned: I had to meet with the director who owned the script. (I later learned that he had written the first draft, and several drafts later he had decided to return to his draft.) I had to agree to all the changes he wanted and I would not, under any circumstances, challenge or question the edits dictated. I would also be available day and night for the duration of the rewrite – ninety days –because inspiration might strike him at any moment and I, the humble scribe, had to be available to document his brilliance.
There were other conditions of my employment, but they would be known during the course of the meeting with the director who was, politely, eccentric. The producer who had contacted me about the possible employment instructed me to go to an address not far from where I lived on a specific day at a specific time. I knew the area: Mostly large, expensive horse properties featuring pastoral landscapes and magnificent rock formations.
Save one – which turned out to be the address I wanted. As I navigated the unpaved road leading to the house (which could understandably be presumed abandoned) a bad, dark feeling grew in my gut and I gave thought to turning around. The fact that the road was narrow and there was no room to turn around kept me from doing so. As I approached the house a ruined car, blotted with cancerous-looking rust, loomed in front of me. I made my way to one side, parking in swatches of unmoved grass and weeds, and got out. As I did, a large, black dog with a graying face lunged at me from the high grass, slammed into the side of my vehicle, and stumbled away.
“He’s almost blind.” I turned. A man who almost matched the dog with gray hair and several days’ worth of graying stubble on his face stood on the porch of the house, both of which easily fit to the description of ‘swayback’.
I looked at the man for a moment and started to walk toward him. He raised a hand and I stopped. He looked at me, nodded toward the road, and said, bluntly, “I decided I don’t need a ***ing writer.”
Without hesitation I turned, got into my vehicle, maneuvered my way around, and drove away, never looking back.
As I thought about the experience I thought about why I had even considered undertaking the project and decided as I arrived to my home I would never again allow myself to be treated in such a way. I also decided that to ensure such experiences were not repeated I would do what few writers do – I would produce writing that merited respect. Without exception.
To this day I do so, and I have had more than a few people tell me that they respect my writing and they respect me as a Writer. Writing and being a Writer is more about just picking the right words. It also about making the right choices to earn due respect.