Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Squeaky Wheel

As a parent, I've spent a good part of the last 7 and 5 years trying to instill in my boys that whining won't get them what they want.  I find myself saying over and over that life isn't fair, but that doesn't mean it's bad: they just have to deal with it the best way they can.  But I often wonder if what I'm telling them is wrong.

Several years ago at work, my coworker had an issue about something, and it involved how I was doing my job.  I honestly don't remember the details of what it was, but I remember it was something that was written as policy and had been done long before I worked there.  I was following the rules, so I was confident that I would be right and things wouldn't change.

This person went to the boss and whined about how they didn't like this policy, so it was changed--just that one time to accommodate this person's complaint.  I remembered being shocked, surprised, and angry. Apparently, since this person complained loud enough, they got their way.  And trust me, this wasn't the last time I'd seen this in action.

Lately, it seems like I've read numerous articles about authors acting badly.  It certainly isn't the first time they've done this, and it won't be the last, but what I find fascinating is how we deal with it.

The most recent article dealt with an author who went on a Twitter rant about how she was snubbed from a prestigious list (I'm purposely not linking to it).  She was whining that her book was as good or better than the vast majority of the others on there.  Personally, I don't know.  It very well could be.  My point is that her whining got her exactly what she wanted: attention.  Articles, blogs, and opinions were written about her.  People are talking about what she's done.  Who cares if the attention is negative?  What's that saying about bad publicity?

Her rant probably won't get her on the list, and sure, she may lose some fans, but she may gain some too.  She may make people think:  "Hmmm, that was unfair for this poor girl.  I'm going to buy her book and read it and form my own opinion."  No doubt she has her supporters who are also crying foul play.  Either way, people will remember her.

I get it.  I really do.  I've never been snubbed from a prestigious list, but I've dealt with agents/editors/publishers who won't answer emails, who just don't seem to "get" my work, and who have rejected me for the dumbest reasons possible.  I've had reviewers give strange and unflattering reviews, and I've totally taken to my blog to "vent" about it.  And I was looking for the same thing as this other author: attention, validation, and support.  And I got it.  For whining.

We're all human, and we all get frustrated.  And technology makes it easy for our voices to be heard and for people to instantly react--whether good or bad.  She's right: as authors, we do pour our hearts and souls into our work, we dedicate hours and hours (sometimes years) to getting it finished, and when it's done, we want to be recognized for our hard work.  We want the world to pat us on the back and tell us how amazing we are.

But we have to realize that the world probably isn't going to recognize us the way we want it to.  And that sucks.  It's not fair.  But when has life ever been fair?  Like I tell my boys: we have to deal with the unfairness the best way we can.  And yet, if you complain loud enough, long enough, you may just get what you want anyway.  The squeaky wheel does get the grease.

The biggest complaint people made about this author was that she was acting entitled and like a spoiled brat.  They said she needed to be thankful for the praise she had already received on the book.  Basically, she needed to focus on the positive things that had already happened for her.  And maybe she should.  I know I definitely try to do that in my own life, but for some, that's just not good enough.

You can't fault them for wanting more, for striving to be the best.  Again, it's what makes us human.  Fault them for trying to attain those goals in the wrong way--and for the way we react to it.  Even kids learn at an early age what will get them attention and what won't.  Even if it's negative attention, if it gets a reaction, they'll continue to employ those tactics to get what they want.  Perhaps the next time an author starts whining and throwing a temper tantrum, we should do the same thing we do with kids: ignore them.

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