by Kim Kelly

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TO THE YOUNG AND IMPOSSIBLY BRILLIANT

A very wise writer by the name of Kim Wilkins recently said something somewhere about the importance of cultivating and maintaining good relationships in the publishing industry, if you’re serious about your work – particularly if you want to see your work in print.

It’s good gristly food for thought – and absolutely true. A piece of advice that should be given from the outset to all bright and bushy brained new players.

In short: apart from working very hard at learning how to write, be nice.

You don’t have to be a push-over or a brown-noser or a nodding Neddy to get published. Au contraire. You need one thoroughly robust ego, for sure, even if you must walk across miles knee-deep in the jagged shards of your own fragility to get to it. But you also have to be aware that, especially in Australia, our industry is small, and if you say unsupportably mean or dismissive things about others or their work as you’re jostling for contention, word will get around. And, unless you are a mega-selling bona fide genius, your intellectual generosity will be questioned.

As a writer, your intellectual generosity – your capacity to think, feel and behave in a way that is both disciplined and expansive – is your back bone. The rod that holds everything else in place. The font of nerve and will from which all good shit comes. That precious and most useful structure of character which you might fall back on when your writing fails you – and your writing will, if you are diligent about your business, fail you at some stage. So, spend more time exercising that backbone than the jawbone then.

Publishers want writers who can go the distance, withstand the slings and arrows, and keep digging and digging for stories. Smartarses, whingers and wankers tend not to recommend themselves well in this respect.

It’s easy enough, though, in the trollish argy-bargy of social networking and all the mirror-gazing of bloggery to get carried away with the sound of our own voices, the look and style of our words. But there’s a difference between your opinion of another writer’s work and your analysis of it. It pays to learn that difference.

If you are a writer of any fair dinkum ambition and want to criticise another’s work do it thoughtfully and intelligently. Substantiate your arguments with actual textual evidence, insights into the author’s execution of intent and knowledge of the context in which they write.

Or simply shut up and get back to your own opus magnus, to show the world how clever you really are.