Favors Followup

A couple of thoughts in follow-up to the “Asking Favors of Established Writers” piece:

* Some people are concluding based on the piece that I think a) one should never ask favors of writers and b) writers should never say yes to favors when asked for them. In fact, neither is true. Writers get asked for favors all the time, and from time to time we do say yes — if we have the time, interest and inclination. The problem isn’t really asking of favors, it’s people being offended when, after asking for a favor, they are told “no.”

That said, I do think it’s useful for people to think about the appropriateness of the favor they are asking for, particularly if the person being asked is a stranger to them. I mean, think how you would respond if a stranger came up to you, claimed some random commonality between you and then asked for a significant imposition on your time or professional standing, an imposition designed to benefit them greatly and you not at all, save for a bit of karma. Chances are good you’d pass. Same thing with writers.

* As for me in particular, sure, I occasionally have done favors for writers, both newer and established, and probably will do in the future. But it’s my call which favors to consider, and I have categories of things that I don’t do, or do only under specific conditions. One of the reasons I write about them in detail here is so when people ask, I can point them to the document, which shows that I have a policy of long standing regarding what they’re asking, and it’s not personal when I turn them down.

Of course, even then it sometimes backfires. I have a policy of not accepting blurb requests directly from authors, because it’s awkward to say to a fellow writer “dude, I don’t like your book enough to have my name on your cover.” Occasionally a writer will still ask, and I forward them the link above. Most understand; a couple have been madly offended. My response to that is also uniform: Oh, well.

Be that as it may, again, the point is not in the asking; the point is how people respond to being told “no.” Most people do not have a problem with “no,” but some really do. Those people need to get over themselves.

* To the people who have responded that I could have just said “no,” rather than writing 2,000 words on why I say “no,” well, no. First: duh, I’m a writer, writing to length is what I do. Second: it’s worth taking a bit of time to help people understand that the “no” they get is rooted in something other than writerly arrogance, and that the people angry at being told “no” are usually a bit jackassed. Context is important.

* Bear in mind that the sort of person who will get angry at being told “no” is often unreachable; the entry is addressed to them but I’m not under the impression they will understand it, even if they read it. But other novice writers who are not dicks but are wondering about the etiquette of asking for a favor from an established author might read it and learn there are often reasons behind the “no,” so that if they ask, they will understand if the favor is turned down.

* People from other fields have noted that they could swap out the word “writer” with the name of their profession and have the screed work for them as well. I say: of course. Any profession or trade has the same basic dynamic going on. And in every situation, the real issue once again isn’t whether the favor is asked; it’s how people respond to not having that favor granted.

* Some people still think I’m a dick, regardless. See the point two asterisks up. Beyond that, you know what, I’ll live.

73 thoughts on “Favors Followup

  1. This is the article that I wish you had started with. Frankly I am surprised that so many professional writers who are weighing in on this topic are failing to express themselves very well. This piece redeems that, as it gets to the core of the problem without making sweeping generalizations. While those might feel good and cathartic to make, they apparently left a sizable portion of the audience with the wrong impression of you and your fellows. So wrong that you have felt the need to at this point make 2 follow up posts to try and explain your actual positions. Which, now that it is finally here, is clear concise and the people it is aimed at will get the point. The people the prior rants (by you and the other authors) were aimed at will continue to miss the point, but not much help for that no matter how good a writer you are.

  2. Frankly I am surprised that so many professional writers who are weighing in on this topic are failing to express themselves very well.

    I thought they’ve expressed themselves _very_ well. That you didn’t _like_ the expression is not quite the same thing.

  3. Silbey, if so many people are missing their point that even Scalzi felt the need for not one, but two follow up posts to clarify what he meant…then they did not express themselves very well originally..

  4. Colin Lamb:

    “This is the article that I wish you had started with.”

    However, it’s not the article I wanted to start with, which is actually the important thing here. I do find some people will not comprehend what one writes regardless of how one writes it. That’s the nature of writing, and of people putting their own spin on what you write.

    Also, of course, I’ll let you know when I need your advice on what to write and how to write it.

  5. Say, I’m a dick, too. We have that in common. Maybe you’d like to look at these notes I have for a book I’m writing about a tractor factory worker who becomes the president of a small republic after the split up of the Soviet Union.

    Did I mention that he’s a cat?

  6. Scalzi, as I said before, making such sweeping generalizations feels good. Not always constructive, but they feel good to make.
    So far as asking for my advice on what to write, can I point you to your first rant on this subject.

  7. It was really helpful and quite hilarious, plus I did get to call you bastard in that last comment thread, so I got more than what I bargained for. So sad I started following your blog only this month. *sigh*

  8. Colin, you must think this is a democracy. And I don’t think that you understand what kind of volume Scalzi deals with in terms of how many times a favor gets asked from total strangers. It’s easy for people who are not in that bubble to say “you should be nicer” or “you should read this” when you’re outside of the experience. I would attest that if the roles were reversed, you might be singing a different tune.

    John, I wanted to thank you for the post yesterday as it was one of the funniest comment threads I had read in a long time. Plus, it literally filled my reading queue for the rest of the year. Brilliant stuff.

  9. You are not a dick. No one is a dick for saying no. Hell, I’ve been asked to prepare taxes for free because I went to school with them or grew up in the same town. I had a guy threaten to shoot me because I wouldn’t stay open late on a Friday night when I had a wedding to attend. The friendly guys in blue got involved in that one.

    You are a hell of a writer and speak out on a variety of subjects. Some folks think they own your soul because they spent twenty bucks on your book.

    I am curious if you have been threatened or if an idiot ever showed up at your front door. If it happens to a tax guy…

    I am grateful you share your time here. After reading your books, it is fun to hear your take on life. Thank you for sharing with us.

  10. Colin Lamb:

    I suspect you’re not following the “That’s the nature of writing, and of people putting their own spin on what you write” bit in my last comment to you.

    Also, you know. I do follow-ups on lots of highly-trafficked articles. It doesn’t mean the articles were widely misinterpreted; it means I found it useful to follow up for any number of reasons.

  11. If there’s one guy who has seldom worried about appearing to be a dick to anyone, it’s legendary writer Harlan Ellison. And Olson, being sent a Dr. Seuss satire poem version of his essay by pal Steve Jarrett, decided to have pal Harlan Ellison read it for an audio version. I figured you might want to have this Scalzi, if you haven’t been sent it several dozen times already.

    http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/archives/2009/09/harlan_ellisons.php

  12. Scalzi,
    Sorry no I do not follow you. I was pointed to your blog by people talking about your post, and other authors, about not reading other people’s works.
    For the record I do think that saying No is legitimate, and the real dicks are those who get upset at receiving it as an answer. Working in the tech industry I would hazard a bet I get as many if not more requests for “favors” from friends of friends as most Authors do.

    “* Some people are concluding based on the piece that I think a) one should never ask favors of writers and b) writers should never say yes to favors when asked for them. In fact, neither is true.”

    I am sorry if I took that statement the wrong way, but it seemed to indicate that a large enough number of people were missing your underlying point from your first article that you were clarifying your position.

    I did not mean to come into your space and kick dirt at you. I was simply trying to say that I found your recent post on the subject to the the clearest of the crop of such articles by many Authors on the underlying issue. I meant to give feedback on that, not insults.

  13. I don’t see any lack of merit or skill in your three postings on this topic. You start with something of a Rant, and work your way down to a more kindly explanation or _apologia_, refining points some people misunderstood or unwisely ignored. All of these presentations are reasonably well-done (more casually-written than For-The-Ages, as should be expected) and appropriate to their categories.

    None of this, as far as I can see, reflects at all upon the quality of your dickitude.

  14. I’m with Keith. Being a public employee has taught me that some people will not understand the polite no. Then they will complain when the friendly boys in blue show up. I did try to warn them off nicely.
    Thanks, John, for the 99% of awesome you put out here, I am more than willing to support the occasional “This is how it is, people”. People need to be reminded every now and again. Some of them even get it…

  15. I’m just going to agree with Tim @12. That insult thread had me in stitches, and I think I’ll need to start some kind of excel sheet to keep track of all the suggested books.

  16. Colin Lamb:

    No worries.

    I do think most people got the gist of it; in addressing the folks who worried about the interpretation I was following up on a minority concern. Even when one is clear as possible there is going to be some ambiguity, especially when (as with the Boing Boing synopsis of what I wrote) there’s a spin on the writing I didn’t put there myself. It doesn’t hurt to address that.

    It’s also the case where (as Don Fitch notes above) each piece has different rhetorical aims. The issue may not be imprecision, just that the style and goal of the piece is different. I do a fair amount of ranting about writing here, specifically as “rants,” because they’re fun to write, engaging to read, and spur conversation. The followups, as you note, are generally more sedate.

  17. John, if you keep posting about the same topic — it’s going to make cliché jokes and puns a lot less fun to leave in the comment section.

    So in the words of Ghlaghghee, “Bring me some tuna.”

    (I’d actually prefer the tuna to be sashimi style, whereas Ghlaghghee probably doesn’t care either way…)

  18. For all those who read “Oh well” and “get over yourself” and think that John just doesn’t care at all about how people think and feel (and from the posts around here, that seems to come up regularly on topics like this) – its’ not that he doesn’t care, its’ that he cares ENOUGH that he actually thinks it through ahead of time.

    Honestly now, show of hands, how many of you actually put a few thousand words worth of forethought into mundane daily activities?

    If you think John doesn’t care – the odds that you’re a dick are extremely high.

  19. Random thought for a follow-up.

    So we know that new writers should not ask established writers to critique their work. The natural next question is: who should they ask? Critique groups (IRL or on-line)? Creative writing class participants/teachers? People they pay to do critiques of their work? Blog commentors? Someone else? Or should they just send out manuscripts and/or query letters and hope for the best while preparing for a 99.44% probability of crushing disappointment?

  20. Over the years, I’ve had two midlist writers – one about to break through once a couple movies come out – refer me to agents. Three more critted manuscripts while one SF writer who shall remain nameless but is known for feline Photoshop abuse offered, though our deadlines did not sync.

    I’ve come to learn there’s a word for people like me who can get not one but two agents and some manuscript crit for free.

    The word is not entitled.

    The word is lucky.

    If someone does, in fact, say no, don’t be a dick and move on. The reason they said no is likely they’re busy being the writer you respected enough to ask in the first place.

    If someone says yes, remember to pay it forward.

    And no, I will not read your f***ing screenplay.

    Well, I will.

    It’ll just cost you $40 an hour.

    $50 an hour if you’re a dick about it.

  21. @MasterThief

    In order:
    1. Yes, because that’s the purpose of the critique group.
    2. Yes, because as a teacher or cohorts in the exercise of writing they may want to see you improve.
    3. Yes, because that’s, theoretically, their job.
    4. Yes, sure, though you get what you pay for when asking random strangers for feedback (YMMV).
    5. Maybe, unless that someone else is someone who doesn’t want to read X piece of work.
    6. Yes, because sometimes editors and reviewers will give feedback.

    I think all of these are fine alternatives towards hounding a professional author to read a person’s work and putting them in the uncomfortable position of having to tell you no.

  22. For the record, I don’t think anyone has done that on THIS thread.

    Hey John, I was ambiguous, we now have something in common!

    Now about this book….

  23. Only a fool is offended when their request for a favor is turned down. Favors are, pretty much by definition, special actions not normally taken; a request for a favor is asking someone to set aside their normal rules and make an exception. Questioning the favor-granter’s judgment is both unjustifiable and quite rude.

    However, there are many foolish and unthinking people who think that “asking” is just a social ritual that precedes their being given what they want. There’s no way not to offend such people other than giving in to their demands, and not much reason to want to avoid offending them if they don’t have power over you.

  24. it seems somewhat counterproductive if the goal is to have people not get pissed off for getting a “no I won’t read your book” but they end up getting pissed off because of the wording of the premptive explanation of why authors say no.

    Unless the assumption is that no matter how you say it, the same number of people will get pissed off, maybe different people, but the same number. In which case, I’m not sure what the goal would be.

    Otherwise, if the goal is so that people understand and to minimize the number of people who get pissed off, it would seem that some explanations are better than others.

    And could someone explain why Harlan Ellison has some kind of reputation as a tough guy? I’m not familiar with the history. Did he punch someone in the nose or what?

  25. I think that your essay applies to other fields as well is a feature, not a bug. It makes it easy to explain why I will not draw your D&D character.

    (I feel bad because sometimes I’ve said yes to requests, only to have life get in the way. Moves, classes, work, etc. I need to live by your favour ethos.)

  26. My $0.02:

    I thought the screenwriter rant was cute, and I enjoyed it.

    Here’s what I thought when I read your earlier post:

    I host an interview podcast called Copper Robot. We’ve talked once or twice, and I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs and books over the years. And I’m a big fan of the Stargate shows. So I sent you an e-mail earlier in the year, asking you if you could connect me with the show’s creators so we could interview some of the folks on Copper Robot. And I invited you to be a guest as well. And then you didn’t respond, so I sent a follow-up e-mail later. And you didn’t respond to that e-mail either, so I just wrote the whole thing off and moved on.

    So when I read the first essay you did in this series, I kinda felt it was directed at me. Or that I was one of the people it was directed at. And I almost responded then. Because I am not some louche fan demanding a big chunk of your time out of a sense of entitlement. I am a journalist making a legitimate request.

    I think posts like the “fucking screenplay” essay, and your occasional posts laying out the rules for how other people should talk to you, run the risk of backfiring, of making the person doing the posting look like a jerk.

    I speak from experience on this. I have about 50 people a day contacting me trying to get me to write about what they do. I have been in that position for most of the past 20 years. It often gets frustrating. But I bite my tongue and try to remember to be grateful that I’m in a position where people want that much from me.

  27. Actually, Mitch, I’m not sure saw either e-mail. It’s certainly not ringing any bells. When did you send them?

    Beyond that, eh. As anyone who reads the site disclaimer knows, I’m not particularly concerned by what others think.

  28. Silbey, if so many people are missing their point that even Scalzi felt the need for not one, but two follow up posts to clarify what he meant…then they did not express themselves very well originally..

    Actually, no, it doesn’t necessarily mean that. People being unable or unwilling to understand what someone says often reflects badly on them, not the writer.

  29. The thing I thought was missing from your previous screed was an idea of how *often* this happens. I gather it is a lot, but you don’t really say.

    Because I probably *would* grant an equivalent favor to a stranger – once. Maybe even once a year. But if it’s every week . . .

  30. I sent the e-mails July 4 and Aug. 1 to … um, well, I’m not sure you want the e-mail address posted here, so I won’t. Subject line is “Interview request–Copper Robot.” I’ll be happy to re-send if you send me a better e-mail address. I’m at mitch@wagmail.com. I’ll append some other contact information at the bottom of this comment.

    Of course, you should do whatever works for you (hey! I used the word “whatever” in my comment! Hahahahaha!). I’m just saying how I reacted to your earlier post. And also that I have written posts exactly like the one you did (well, not as clever as yours) and for pretty much the same reasons, and later came to regret it.

    I don’t claim to be a superhuman soul of graciousness. Just yesterday, I nearly bit the head off a woman who came to me trying to convince me to write a story about a project she’s working on. I nearly bit her head off because I still remember that she said some nasty shit about me on her blog a few months ago, and now she wants *me* to do something for *her.*

    But I bit my tongue, in part because one day she may ask me to write a story that I actually care about, and in part because I have gotten in a million pissing contests with strangers on the Internet and I’ve come to find it a complete waste of time, and in part because I remember periods of my life when *nobody* was coming to me for favors because I was too low and mean and insignificant to have any favors to give out.

    In conclusion: I am not disagreeing with the sentiments of your earlier post. In fact, I agree with them 1,000%. And I’m not telling you how to run your blog. I’m just saying I’ve posted things like it myself, and later come to regret it. Also: I would love to have you, and the folks behind SG:Universe on Copper Robot, probably separately. And I’ve actually tracked down the publicist for SG:U so that just leaves you I’m worried about.

    And now my contact info:

    [clipped because I don’t want to be responsible for creepy people stalking Mitch — JS]

  31. Melendwyr, yep. There are also many foolish people who think a professional writer “owes” amateurs a read, feedback, introductions, etc. That we “owe” this because -we- “got” it from some previous pro. Which isn’t the case–but people who are erroneously convinced that’s how the business works WILL NOT LISTEN to that, WILL NOT BELIEVE that, and are POSITIVE that =writers= have lots to do with who sells a book and who doesn’t. Whereas, in fact, we have nothing whatsoever to do with it.

    The “you’re a dick” reaction to declining to read a MS (which a friend of mine is dealing with this week after declining the emailed request of a complete stranger who has responded with repeated verbal abuse in public and in private) is also always accompanied by the paranoid delusion that we’re trying to keep aspiring writers “down” and prevent them from becoming published. Whereas, in reality, our influence over who DOESN’T get published is identical to our influence over who DOES get published: NONE WHATSOEVER.

    LauraR

  32. Oh, plus, writers aren’t scared of competition, because this isn’t a direct-comparison business. Whether or not “you” sell a book has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not -I- will sell my next book. Whether or not “you” get stellar reviews has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not -my- next book will get stellar reviews. Whether you’re considered for an award or a six-figure advance has nothing whatsoever to do with whether -I- will be considered for an award or a six-figure advance. And so on.

    LauraR

  33. I rolled my eyes at the post, somewhere around here, from the guy who thinks Johnm is “whining” about receiving “a couple of requests.”

    I’ve already mentioned that I have a friend who, upon declining an email request from a total stranger, has been repeatedly (and obscenely) abused in private emails and public posts as a result? That request was, as my friend pointed out to that person when declining, the 21st request he had received THAT DAY.

    Laura

  34. For what little it’s worth, my own opinion is that John has done all of his posts on this subject about as well as they can be done. I suspect they’re going to be bookmarked and people are going to be pointed to them for a long time, unlike similar posts I could point to, but won’t.

  35. Colin Lamb @5: Nonsense. He wrote about it quite clearly. There was nothing ambiguous at all in the first post. Maybe it’s not been your experience with the Internet, but it certainly has been mine that there are quite a few people whose reading comprehension leaves much to be desired. As many folks as evidently read this blog, it’s no surprise that some of them missed the point.

  36. Mitch, he couldn’t have been writing about you, even if he had seen your requests, because you took no (or no reply) for an answer and moved on, you didn’t get all abusive and self-centered about it.

  37. Don Scalzi,

    I need a favor and will be in your debt. Write more of the Old Man War series. Perhaps I should ask this on the day of your daughter’s wedding.

    Mil Grazie

  38. Colleen@42: And I thought you might appreciate this post by Lee Goldberg, who feels much the same way.

    Wow. Guy asks for a read. Lee says no and includes a link to a trash-talking article titled “No I will not read your fucking script”.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  39. Well done! And of course it applies to different professions.
    I am always explaining that we illustrators work through publishers and not authors.

  40. viabaja @47: Bear in mind that Scalzi’s daughter is only ten years old — she won’t be getting married for at least three or four years. ;-)

  41. Mostly, though, I think there are just a lot of really rude, really silly, really wretched, ignorant, FOUL-mouthed people with an internet connection and a keyboard.

    This whole “we’re not dicks for not reading your MS, and we’re not fuckface asshole dicks for explaining that we’re tired of being called dicks for not reading your MS” topic that’s circulating this week (with replies along the lines of “you are a talentless, whining, cocksucking fuckface asshole dick for boring us with why you don’t think not reading our MSs makes you a dick when it DOES make you a dick”)…

    …It’s reminds me overwhelmingly of the George RR Martin topic thread a few months ago, when some readers who’ve become, er, overly-anxious about the eventual release of George’s still unfinished next big fantasy novel decided that the long wait entitled them to attack George’s character, motives, intelligence, looks, lifestyle, habits, and talent.

    I was flabbergasted by the raging illogic and BAD MANNERS of this approach. There are all sorts of reasonable reactions one might have, from losing interest in a series where the next book takes a long time to be written, to re-reading the earlier books, to seeking other books to get interested in, to decided not to read any more cliffhanger series until after ALL the books in the series are compelted and published, etc., etc.

    But what kind of idiotic lunatic decides that publicly abusing the writer is an acceptable and appropriate thing to do?

    Oh, wait! I know!

    The same kind of idiotic lunatic who thinks that it’s appropriate and acceptable to abuse a writer for not wanting to read your manuscript.

    Which leads me to the conclusion that, despite their ocacsional misleading references to jobs or hobbies, etc… actually, ALL OF THESE people are inmates in a prison for the criminally insane, with a LOT of time on their hands… and they have SOMEHOW GOTTEN ACCESS TO THE INTERNET.

    That’s my new theory, anyhow. (Whereas my previous theory blamed Hollywood.)

    LauraR

  42. But what kind of idiotic lunatic decides that publicly abusing (someone) is an acceptable and appropriate thing to do?

    That is a most excellent question.

  43. Here’s a question – Say someone attends a workshop. Maybe VP, where they are instructed by a published author. This is a clear business relationship.

    After the workshop, the attendee finishes a new project and is hoping to get feedback from their favorite instructor.

    Dick move to ask?

  44. Laura, no need to bring in Olsen. We’re discussing a general principle here: I changed your sentence to reflect the notion that “publicly abusing” someone is a terrible thing regardless of who does it. It’s a question of what was done, not who did it. Do you not agree?

  45. Dick move to ask?

    I did VP. VP has a “members only” email list that is for current and past VPer’s. I think if someone did VP and wanted a critique, their first thought would be to try some of their fellow students on the list.

    During VP, the instructors talked a little about life after VP, namely that they’re not your instructor anymore and they won’t have time to do critiques. If you did ask, my guess is they wouldn’t be quite as harsh in their response as others. But the answer would probably be “no”.

  46. well, I don’t recall any horror stories from instructors about the student who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. The “post-VP” talk was pretty short, pretty reasonable, and pretty straightforward from what I remember.

    So there’s that.

  47. Scalzi @51: Sorry about that, John. I was just in one of those snarky moods where I like to kid fathers about how fast their kids are growing up.

  48. I don’t try to bother celebrity writers unless I know them very well myself, because mostly I think they will forget about me. The last author I asked a really big favour from was for Neil Gaiman to sign my copy of Good Omens which already had Terry Pratchett’s signature in it, plus give me Dream-King insomnia managing advice. But that’s another story.

    John Scalzi, I appreciate that you take the time to have these discussions even though you haven’t replied to any of my responses. Because you have the right to say “No”.

    I doubt my path to being a professional writer will be the same as yours, because in Australia the publishing industry places just as much importance upon which editors you know and which local publishers market and sell the work your genre fits in. At least we don’t have it as bad as the comic book artists and the video game designers here – they get censored on a regular basis under an emasculating kiddie fascism. Writers by comparison have a lot more freedom here, or maybe I’m just being naive.

  49. The reader’s digest condensed version: “If you really think you’ve got something worth selling, get yourself an agent and stop wasting my time.”

    It might help a little if these wannabes were willing to pay your going rate for a short essay critiquing their work. The effort of reading their stuff would probably be comparable to the amount of research you have to do for your own writing anyway. It might at least bring in a paycheck, but I’m sure it’s not the kind of writing you would enjoy doing.

    It’s a good thing people don’t try to pull this kind of stuff in the real world. I can just see some small silicon valley startup sending their business plan to Intel or some similarly large company asking them to critique it so they could become better competitors.

  50. Not to extend this conversation (God knows it doesn’t need it!), but this topic came up on another writer’s board. I quote part of his response below; the second to last sentence seems very telling.

    “… on any given day, I have at least a dozen galleys or manuscripts on my desk, sent by editors, for jacket comments, for books that are already accepted and are going to be published and I started saying NO to all requests well over a year ago. They still send them, thinking themselves the exception. And these are people who are in the business and know better. I don’t even have time to read all the books my friends write.”

  51. melendwyr 30: However, there are many foolish and unthinking people who think that “asking” is just a social ritual that precedes their being given what they want.

    Hear, hear. And nicely put, methinks.

    Yeah, I’m agreeing with melendwyr. He’ll probably change his mind now.

    Mitch 33: Is a Copper Robot like a Robocop?

  52. Mitch, it was an attempted pun. I assume your title refers to a robot made of the metal copper, whereas ‘copper’ is also the old term of which ‘cop’ is a shortened form.

    Don’t mind me, I’ll be over here.

  53. I quite agree with you regarding these articles. Part of what killed a friendship for me was that a guy wanted my help doing farm labor– right down to moving horrible-smelling materials– on my precious time off. Oh, and I could drive my father’s farm’s liquid manure spreader 30+ miles and empty out an otherwise unused pit as a favor, right?

    The things we all think we have coming just because we kindasorta know someone can be amazing.

  54. I think that part of the reason people have unrealistically high expectations is that for many professions, you are part of a team or group working together, and if those above you in the chain don’t provide help, they are actually not doing their job. Still, you always end up with the occasional nutjob that expects way more from you than you can possibly give, but nobody holds it against you if you just blow them off. One approach that seems to work well is to simply tell them that what they are asking for is proprietary, and for contractual reasons you cannot share what you know. Crazy people get the “I am a victim” thing, especially the paranoid ones!

  55. I’ve been out of the loop doing Army stuff, and am just now catching up on this series of threads.

    Hmmmmm…..

    Off the top of my head, I’d say JS is addressing the so-called ‘entitlement generation’ wherein all things are expected — nay, demanded — and anyone who dares say, “No,” is a cretin of the first order.

    I grew up with a different sensibility: beggars can’t be choosers.

    As has been noted (to death) in these threads, it’s not the asking that’s the problem. It’s the poor reaction that results when the asking yields declination.

    I’ve been fortunate enough to network with a handful of pros who have been more than generous with their time and their knowledge. I think half the battle there has been a) not getting PO’d when someone says they can’t or won’t hand out free candy and b) showing an abundance of appreciation and respect for those who are willing to hand out free candy and c) displaying — via the work itself — that I’m not a complete dunce.

    The last may be the hardest pill to swallow, for many aspirants. Because the truth is that many aspirants simply have no business trying to break into the business. They’re just no good at it, have no talent, and probably won’t ever be worth reading, and it’s this group which — I suspect — generates a large number of very unhappy, very bitter, very frustrated people; the kind who call you a dick if you say, “No.”

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