Monday, June 7, 2010


A betrayal is the breaking of an allegiance, a deliberate reneging on a promise or previously professed devotion. Every time we speak ill of a friend we are at risk of betraying the covenant of friendship. Every time we speak ill of ourselves, we are making it easier to betray the image of the self as an instrument of integrity, creative reach, and consideration for the integrity, creative reach, and wonders of imagination we find in others.

Before even considering such aspects as craft and conventions, a writer needs to take some stand with regard to the health and well-being of the writing self, establishing a code of ethics and behavior, paying some form of dues to the concept of curiosity, as in What are the things I need to know, What is the Self to which I am being true, and How can I hope to judge the work of others if I cannot judge my own?

It was comparatively easy to have ideals in your own early years because much of your experience came second or third hand, from books, from classroom examples, from the teen and twenties equivalents of moot court proceedings in which you had long, argumentative conversations with peers, lubricated by massive doses of the cheapest red wines available. One of your favorite affirmations was an emphatic avowal of what you would not do: I would never compromise my ideals. I would never--ah, the bugbear of the teens and twenties, selling out, the betrayal of ideas for money and/or political gain. You, who worked in the television industry long enough to accrue points for membership in the Writers' Guild, learned how collaborative and product driven television is, gained practical examples of the things you disavowed in your earlier days, doing in practice the things you'd previously sworn you would not do. The cost was learning more extensive and useful dramatic techniques, without which there was nowhere for you to go, a fact you realized to the point where you returned to what you considered your more proper sphere.

Cutting to the chase--one of the things you needed to learn--you learned what you felt you needed to learn through a series of less traumatic betrayals, which is to say you wrote an extended series of novels and short stories, at first with no plan, then with a growing sense of plan to the point where the betrayals were reminders that what you seek is a lifelong process, that to a degree each finished project is a betrayal of what you most hope to achieve, and which you recognize you will, if you are at all to progress, need to continue betraying such things as pride, humility, hubris. It might work.

At the moment you are sitting in a lofty perch of having a project out in submission, represented by an agent who is solid behind it, requested by a number of potential publishers. You note the fact that publishers tend to hold editorial meetings in the middle of the week; most publishers you worked for had meetings on Wednesdays, one or two others you know of had those meetings on Thursdays. There is a chance you will have to betray some ideals; editors have notes and thoughts about the best form of a work. As an editor, you have had such notions about the potential for a work. It comes to you that this form of betrayal is not covert, not back stabbing; it is done to move yourself through an association of trust with individuals you respect to a point where you have learned a tad more than you did when you first finished the project and sent it forth.

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