Hating Confrontation

Thursday, November 17, 2022

I hate confrontation when it’s writing-related business. 

In fact, I’m stalling right now and it’s not even a face-to-face situation. It’s an email. But I’m agonizing over this email—and I’m annoyed at how much time this problem has ended up costing me in both hours away from other work and the space it’s taking up in my psyche. 

Years ago, I walked by our home office and Mister Man was on the phone to an associate. He was, as we say in the rural South, “giving him up the country.” In other words, he was speaking harshly to this gentleman. When I passed by ten minutes later, Mister Man was cheerily working away, not a sign of distress. I was amazed. 

 “How,” I asked, “can you sit there so calmly after all that fussing? That poor guy! I’d be a wreck if someone lit into me like that!” 

My husband smiled. “He’s fine,” he said. “It wasn’t personal, Cathy. It was business.” 

And that, friends, in a nutshell, is why confrontation is so hard for me, at least when it comes to my professional writing side: I can’t help making it a whole personal thing. And I wonder if this is just me or if other writers struggle with this problem as well. 

Mostly, I wonder if it’s something inherent in a business like writing (or perhaps anything in the humanities). There are measurable elements to a writing business but there are just as many aspects that can’t be defined. Imagine something as simple as accurately calculating the hours put in to writing, say, a column: 

Coming up with the idea: 13 hours
 *Includes the moment when I first thought up the idea and the eight hours or so I slept on it and the four more hours when I was running errands and thought up supporting ideas.) 

Writing the column: 4 hours**
 ** Includes when I first started writing and didn’t finish because I had to take a call and then came back and had to remember what I was writing about and then needed to eat lunch because who can think when they’re hungry and finally came back and finished writing the column. And then re-read it and realized the beginning had nothing to do with the ending and revised. 

Of course, sometimes an idea comes to me in a flash and within an hour or two, I’ve finished it. But when I send the invoice, I bill for an agreed upon fee whether I’ve spent an hour or three days. That’s fair, of course, but then how does one ask for a raise? I may feel that my work has more value (based on time involved and skill level) but confronting my employer (likely another professional writer/editor who, let’s face it, is in the same boat) feels a bit…pretentious. Am I worth more money? Am I that accomplished as a writer? Who do I think I am, the reincarnation of Erma Bombeck? Do people buy the magazine just to read ME?

 See? That feels a lot personal. Not so much business-y. 

Conversely, and what I’m dealing with presently, is confronting professionals in the publishing business who, in my opinion, are doing a less-than-stellar job after quite a few back-and-forth emails explaining what I need. Communications, I might add, that I have labored over in order to be as clear as possible. But—and here is where it gets personal—is it my lack in communicating or that I don’t understand the skills involved? I mean, is it really a badly done project or just me, the suddenly highfalutin art critic? I don’t want hurt feelings, but I also don’t want an expensive, crummy cover. It’s so hard to quantify writing and/or design when you are paying for…well, evoking feelings

So I am stuck in this space of confrontation related to my writing business that feels way too personal. What I wouldn’t give for Mister Man’s fast and pragmatic handling of the situation. But if anyone in the land of the living has thoughts, I still have a few hours of stalling left.


Sue Bradford Edwards said...

It is so hard to tell someone that they didn't come through without it feeling personal. Especially when you feel like you put so much effort into communicating clearly and now you are left wondering how it went wrong. I hope you got it all worked out!

Renee Roberson said...

Cathy--I am in a similar position right now and it sucks! I hired someone to do photography/branding and a separate website for my podcast and it just hasn't materialized AT ALL. I learned a few things. I should have had the designer put a deadline for completion on the contract, and I didn't. It's been almost six months and has set me way back in marketing. I've sent multiple e-mails, received one or two excuses, and now I'm flat out being ghosted. I'm about to send one final note saying "forget about it" and design the thing myself through Wordpress. In your case, you've probably already paid a lot more money and need better results for your investment. I also hate confrontation with people so I feel your pain. I hope it gets worked out for you.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

That's horrible! I hope you haven't paid them anything yet.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Cathy ~ My husband is also all business and has no problem with confrontation, and he even thrives on it. I think it's the way we were raised (I used to go to cotillion, after all!); but over the years I've learned to treat things as business, unless it's a good friend I'm working with! Lol. I've been on the other side of the table as a designer, and if you don't like the cover, it's important to voice your concerns, but I know that's hard when you aren't a designer yourself to be able to explain it. Recently, a friend of mine was shown her book cover, and she straight out said, "I'm sorry, but that's just gross." Lol! Then told the designer at the publishing house what she wanted and she ended up with a striking cover. If you haven't done this already, screenshot any book covers you like on Amazon, and list what you like about them (fonts, image, colors, placement of title and name, etc.) and give them to your designer. Sometimes it's the communication, but other times it's a case of style, and maybe that designer is not the right one for you. There should be a number of revisions specified on the contract and terms for if they don't satisfy your needs. The thing is, the designer should be leading the show and provide a questionnaire, images, mockups, etc. to make the process easier on you. Let us know what happens!

Renee ~ I know about your story, and can't believe it's been six months! I'd demand a refund at this point.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Thanks so much for your feedback and support, y'all! And Ang, I always believed that Mister Man thrived on confrontation! :-)

Also, Renee, yes, I am now behind on my pub date and will have to wait till after the first of the year. Can't blame it completely on the book cover snafu--there have been other setbacks beyond the book--but now I know to allot more than 3 months for a book cover design. (My schedule called for 6 to 8 weeks. Clearly overly optimistic there!)

There have been developments, though, so stay tuned!

Linda O'Connell said...

Being a southern belle, I am sure you know how to dicker with a smile in your voice. Simply sandwich your comments. "I see you have worked diligently on designing... I am interested in a more
(whatever your preference is) cover. I have faith in your abilities and know you can come through and we can negotiate." Then sit back and sip a glass of sweet tea.

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