"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Are There "Cliques" and "Politics" in the Field of Writing?

Ask any freelancer what he most enjoys about the freelance life and no doubt you’ll hear things like freedom, escape from office politics, and not having to deal with favoritism.
Think again. Although the dynamics are a bit different, writing as an industry is not totally void of cliques and politics.

Since freelancing many moons ago, I’ve found the creative community to by and large be a place with groovy people, great support and a spirit of generosity.
But, much to my surprise, politics still exist. I won’t bore you with the details of who, what, when, and where…but trust, sooner or later it rears its ugly head.:-)

So, for the purpose of testing this theory, I do what most writers do: I conducted some research, consumed some chocolate and polled some people, and here’s the 411 on what other creative souls had to say. Read and heed!

"The only time you won't encounter politics in this life, is when you're not in this life." ---Elaine C.

"A resounding YES! From writers to soccer moms, from husbands to wives; no grouping of two or more is immune from playing the ugly game of power."---N. Brill

"Yes, I think to an extent politics may play a part in the writing world. While I do believe that editors are willing to give new writers a shot if they like a query or submission, I'm certain that they will deal with -- or even reach out for -- a writer they've worked with in the past who has proven himself\herself and that they can trust before considering new writers.
That's maybe NOT political, but logical -- at least to me."---Steve

"I personally think politics exists everywhere. As long as there is jealousy, envy or any other negative feelings, crap will arise."---Anonymous

Pen and Prosper welcomes your perspective and your comments. Do you think that politics exist in writing? Should they exist? Has this dynamic ever impacted you in your career personally? What lesson did it teach you?


  1. You can truly see it at work in Writing Awards wherein authors are pitted against authors and at times it can come down to a handful of votes to win or lose a prestigious award. Has less to do with the writing than the voting.


  2. Jennifer Brown BanksMarch 6, 2010 at 1:07 PM


    Good point. As they say, sometimes it's not what you know but who you know that counts. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

  3. I think I'd say that, while one can't avoid humans being human, a freelancer still avoids most of the politics of the corporate world, simply because, as an outsider, people on the inside don't see you as threatening their jobs. You are not competing on the same playing field, and therefore, you don't run the risk of the same "injuries." Which is not to say one does not still need to be "politic," working to meet the expectations of a client -- and occasionally deciding if a client is worth keeping, based on what is needed to meet those expectations. But it still isn't like being on the inside, where your next promotion or raise or even job can be on the line every time you go to a meeting.

    That said, if you start talking book publishing, rather than freelance assignments, then you've jumped into a far more political realm. If you don't have that platform (i.e., enough "votes"), it can be difficult to be heard.

    As for the comment on using tried and true writers, I'd say that's more a safety issue than a political one. In my occasional capacity as an editor, I've seen stunningly bad writing from people who thought they were ready for the big time. If you're on deadline and you need a story, you don't want to risk it on someone who might turn in some of the horrific work I've been seeing with increasing frequency of late -- dreadfully written, riddled with errors, or sometimes simply plagiarized. So as much as I'm often saddened to not be able to break into some new market, I definitely understand why editors are hesitant to trust untested writers.

  4. I definately think politics is involved in everything, because politics is about choices. And we choose who we'll vote for... listen to... respect... even read. Many people will choose to quote a famous person who says the same thing they heard from a friend, even if they heard it from the friend first. One such example is the number of people who are talking about NOT talking on cellphones while driving... now that Oprah spotlighted it on her show.

    Meanwhile, I believe that 'that' people get their message, is more important than who they get it from. So the most credible writer will continue to be chosen according to the audience targeted to be reached.

  5. Jennifer Brown BanksMarch 7, 2010 at 4:50 AM

    Interesting observations here, Sporty.
    I especially like your comment about the importance of people ultimately "getting" the message as being more important than from whom they receive it.

    Thanks for your time and input.

  6. Good forum, Jennifer.
    Politics often enters writing in the area of endorsements---blurbs. As in government politics, the code is "you scratch my back /book, I'll scratch your." Nothing truly evil about it, unless one considers a good blurb for a bad book to be so. But then, who believes blurbs?

  7. Thanks Art and Cynthia,

    Both of your comments provide useful food for thought. I never even considered the political aspects of endorsements.