Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club – Lesson #20

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #20 Integrity in all actions creates confidence

A question that comes up among writers fairly often has to do with how much to tell an editor/agent/client about potential conflicts of interest, challenges, and concerns. This is actually a lot easier to answer than it sounds. The more transparent you are, the fewer problems you’ll encounter in your career. But more than that, you’ll be more confident about your work. You don’t have to worry about Editor A finding out you also write for her competitor, Editor B, and wondering how she’ll react because you’ve already told her.

While I think it’s important to be honest just as a general practice, it’s also a practical matter. The internet has flattened the world and pulled down the walls that separate one thing from another. Fifteen years ago it was possible to write for one publication and not have an editor at another publication know it unless you told her. That’s no longer true.

Not long ago, a client of mine talked about wanting to use a pen name for his memoirs, since the work was likely to be controversial. I said that was unlikely to fly with editors but also that it would be hard for him to keep his anonymity. To prove it, I had an accomplished journalist take a few facts from his memoir and do some research.

Later that day she came back to me with his name. “Is this the guy?” she asked. And it was.

The best way to protect yourself is to be willing to own what you say, to own who you are. This isn’t about never making a mistake (if you make a mistake, admit it, apologize, move on.) It’s about giving people a good reason to trust you.

No, you don’t need to go into detail about why your toenail infection is going to make you miss your deadline, but you need to admit that you’re going to miss your deadline, and not let it come as a nasty surprise to your editor.

Have you ever had an experience where you’ve had to own up to a mistake with a client or otherwise have a difficult conversation you’d prefer not to have? How did you feel after having it?


Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available on Amazon in print and ebook! (Nook and other ebook versions here)
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

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