Better than the sum of our parts

The stereotype of a writer is the starving artist pulling his hair out, scratching at parchment with a quill pen deep into the night by the light of a single candle, crumpling page after page at the typewriter and tossing them onto the floor, staring in despair at a blank screen with only a blinking cursor to mock him.

But writers need stimulation. Writers need other writers. From my earliest days as a wide-eyed member of Washington Independent Writers (RIP), I always came home from meetings energized, full of ideas and tips and leads. Even if we didn’t talk about a project or assignment of mine, I was inspired to plunge into it after sitting with other writers over soda and chips, discussing problems and solutions and hashing out whatever came up in conversation.

This afternoon’s ad hoc “no hype, no dues, no bull” writers gathering on Hope’s deck was the updated version. We talked social media, business cards, payment rates, promoting subjects, promoting ourselves, conferences, staff work versus freelance work, taxes, contracts, and more. I mentioned my class discussion about contracts and bafflement at the way they’ve seemingly morphed in the past year and asked whether others have seen the same trend.

Specifically, I mentioned my partial success at changing one magazine’s contract to reflect what I could realistically promise to deliver (see my post of February 29). The editors had agreed to insert the (italicized) term “Author represents and warrants that to the best of her knowledge” the article I was submitting would not be libelous or obscene and would not invade the rights of privacy, violate any law, or violate the right of any person, firm, or corporation and that any directions contained in it would not be injurious in any way to the user. Unfortunately, they made that change in my contract alone, not in anyone else’s.

Someone said she’d had a similar experience and had asked a lawyer’s advice. The term she’d gotten was “commercially reasonable efforts.” As in, you merely promise that you have made commercially reasonable efforts to ensure all of the above. Interesting! Almost everyone on the deck got out a pen and wrote it down: “commercially reasonable efforts.”

Now, we still have to get a meeting of the minds with editors. But my point is that a group of writers is stronger and more creative and more interesting and fun than the sum of its parts. Or at least equal to it. I’m inspired by new perspectives, a new setting, an exchange of views and experiences, and some good food. And we all learned something, too. Yay us!

Copyright 2012 Ellen M. Ryan. All rights reserved.

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