Thursday, February 4, 2010

Just Saying No

I've been writing a grumpy post in my head for a week or so now. But I realize if I try to voice the grumpiness I'm going to sound like an ungrateful asshole. See, I realize that for the past thirty years I've been working to get my writing noticed, to garner attention, to shout PICK ME louder than everyone else. And now I am suffering from a great case of Be careful what you wish for. These days, my inbox fills regularly with so many requests I just can't handle it anymore. Garreth is suggesting I outsource, hire someone in India to send out form letters saying, "No." Because whenever I get a request, almost always, even if I want to say "no," I think that wouldn't be very nice. Or I wonder how I might fit one more thing in. Or I remember the good turns others have done for me. And then I think maybe I should say "yes."

For now, I'm letting this post be my blanket "no" to all requests for the foreseeable future. I am declaring 2010 the year of utter selfishness. Any good deeds I do I will do on my own, when I feel like it, and they will be of the small-good-deeds variety, where I open doors for people, and try to use good manners, and say nice things to dogs. Beyond that, I am politely requesting no more emails imploring me to read manuscripts, volunteer my time, give copies of my books to silent auctions, or emcee events for groups I've never even heard of. Last week, I got a note from someone who doesn't know me, who heard that maybe I run fashion camps, and asked me to come on out to a junior high school to teach girls not to let their thong panties hang out of their jeans. I am not exaggerating. Yes, an administrator made a thong-related request. I suppose I could've said yes, and gone and shared my secrets of how to dress comfortable, like a seventies lesbian, which is always going to be my favorite style. But I had the good sense to decline.

Along these lines, I also resigned as a theater reviewer for the Austinist. Part of me felt very reluctant to put in my resignation. There's an awful lot of good theater here and I love to spotlight shows worth seeing. I've decided that from now on, I'm going to just see shows I want to see and, if I like them a lot, I'll recommend them here. If I hate them, I won't say a word. Being a reviewer-- a responsible reviewer-- is proving just too tricky. Because I really do believe that, overwhelmingly, the majority of folks who stage a show are truly putting their all into it. I do not want to be one of those gleeful reviewers who looks for opportunities to bash others, to point out the flaws, to get all haughty. Then again, I don't want to recommend a show that I really don't think is worth seeing, no matter how hard folks worked to put it together.

Now, here is something haughty for y'all: something else that made me reluctant to give up that post is that I think there aren't enough good reviewers in this town. Or maybe I should say there are enough bad reviewers-- pompous jackasses so in love with their own words and self-important belief that their own shit doesn't stink-- that I liked to think I was counter-balancing that in my attempts to highlight the good parts I was seeing even in mediocre performances. I read an interview with a local theater reviewer recently in which this guy went on about how great his own performances are and then dismissed, out-of-hand, EVERY performance at a particular venue here. Really, with an attitude like that, he needs to recuse himself from all reviews. Okay, so everything is not everyone's cup of tea, but if you're going to flat out admit that you hate a show in advance of seeing it, by virtue of the physical location in which it's performed, well... just shut your piehole and send another reviewer to those shows, okay?

No really, I do apologize for being so cranky lately. And I am grateful for all of the good words people offer me for my own efforts. But I am really weary of getting dozens of weekly requests to be the publicist/editor/mentor/whatever. I've said yes a million times and it is cutting into my own writing time. And to those of you I'm actually still working with-- you know who you are-- this isn't addressed to you. This is for the rest of you, who want me to do your work for you. I'm sorry, I can't.

And that is all I have to say for today's cranky, selfish, bitchy installment. I wish you all well in your endeavors to banish thongs, sell your manuscripts, and get thousands of people out to see your show. If you have something coming up that would genuinely fit into my JetBlue blog, by all means send me a brief press release and I'll see what I can do. But for the foreseeable future, I'm holing my cranky ass up over here and I'm going to ignore the unsolicited requests, get my ass back on the meditation cushion, and work on my own shit.

Thanks to all six of you for listening.


mcoker said...

Rock on! 2010 will be the best year ever!! Love you just for you :-) muah

Michael said...

In my double allegiance as one of those six listening and a reviewer of Austin Theatre, can you drop me a short note identifying the arrogant reviewer you mention? (send it to I know it wasn't me! But I don't recall reading anything along those lines.

When you do review something here, I'll be putting up a link on

Keep cranking, lady! MM

Monica said...

Good luck. I know how hard it is to say no.

teriannek said...

You got it.

Bob said...

Wow, you reached exactly the same conclusions that F. Scott Fitzgerald (FSF) reached in 1936, in his famous "The Crack Up" article in Esquire magazine.
You are idea for idea saying the same things he said, though i imply no plagiarism, just two people who've reached the same conclusions on their path as writers.

I quote, and give the URL. Fascinating reading.
"The decision [to stop correspondence] made me rather exuberant, like anything that is both real and new. As a sort of beginning there was a whole shaft of letters to be tipped into the wastebasket when I went home, letters that wanted something for nothing -- to read this man’s manuscript, market this man’s poem, speak free on the radio, indite notes of introduction, give this interview, help with the plot of this play, with this domestic situation, perform this act of thoughtfulness or charity.

The conjurer’s hat was empty. To draw things out of it had long been a sort of sleight of hand, and now, to change the metaphor, I was off the dispensing end of the relief roll forever.
The heady villainous feeling continued.

I felt like the beady-eyed men I used to see on the commuting train from Great Neck fifteen years back -- men who didn’t care whether the world tumbled into chaos tomorrow if it spared their houses. I was one with them now, one with the smooth articles who said:
“I’m sorry but business is business.”

Christine said...

I hope this doesn't qualify in your "giving up" category. I'm just wondering if you are going to offer a writing camp for kids again this summer. (Not for free. We're happy to pay.)


Carol Ramsey said...

That is funny that you write about this because I was just going to ask you if you could read my blog and give me some suggestions....

Just kidding.

Good for you for saying 'No!'