It is a truth universally acknowledged that writers can be cantakerous gits.
Used to working alone and with set ideas about what they expect from their work, some types of writer can view with suspicion or hostility those coming to them with ideas that don’t fit their current take on the world. I admit it, that’s certainly true of me! So, it is not entirely surprising that our early attempts to draw writers in to this genuinely exciting but unique offer of free training was greeted with scepticism in some quarters.
Just so when Roy left a message on Portsmouth Writers’ Hub’s facebook group explained he was looking for writers to come in on a fascinating project. The mistake he made was using a phrase along the lines of “unfortunately we can’t pay you”. This was red rag to a bull.
One or two writers on the hub page kneejerk responded to this invitation to collaborate, projecting their own experience of being approached to do free work and responding with snide comments that we were offering them “free exposure” for their work. This really wasn’t the deal. World-leading industry experts were being invited to Portsmouth to give valuable training that participants would receive for free, and participants would then be invited to practice that training by taking part in a real-world event. The potential for acquiring new skills at no charge completely bypassed most writers after something of an onslaught from one or two voices.
Ouch! We got that wrong!
It was an early setback and quite disheartening.
I reviewed Roy’s approach and could see that it hadn’t been sold properly, with the emphasis on the opportunities and free training missing from the announcement. Even so, the outcry from some quarters was disproportionate in the face of what was actually a real opportunity. The negativity and suspicion suppressed the energy of excitement and forward momentum needed to draw people in. Just a few suspicious words were now playing out in those who viewed the post’s message – and the writers who had complained and started an argument were simply not amenable to discussion, seeking to defend their position when presented with the possibilities the project offered. The approach fell completely flat.
After all our work on preparing this offer, I will admit I took it personally that a few people in the Writers’ Hub should be so negative about something that was genuinely exciting. I felt sabotaged.
However, that said, perhaps it was for the best. It sort of sifted out the people with a negative attitude straight away. So they wouldn’t be on the team with their mindsets later on.
On the other side of things, one or two writers did start to say they would come on board. The fact that we lost so few of the initial team over the coming months was a testament that the at times unreasonable exchange on the Hub had weeded out the self-obsessed, half-hearted and uncommitted. It would be a real commitment that we required from the writers, as I was to discover later on.
As for now, with a few weeks to go before the training was due to commence, where would we get the writing team I envisaged?
Thankfully I had an idea, as the next blog shows!