The Professional Side of Writing

What’s on the iPod: Running on Empty by Jackson Browne

Isn’t life full of little ironies? That song popped up on my iPod today after what felt like Marathon Monday. I’m working on three projects simultaneously and two more that are due this month. Plus my suspicion is I’ll be hearing back from another client the minute I get steeped into one of the larger projects. I’m tired and it’s only Tuesday.

You know what happened — I allowed myself to plan a week off. The minute I thought about it, the client work came pouring in. I thought I had it made. July is slow, right?

No matter. My plans are flexible, so I’m putting clients first.

I was clearing up an email issue (I have three different emails) on my least-used email. It’s an issue that’s been going on for a while, but since I rarely see any mail at that address, I didn’t rush to get it sorted. Seems that was a mistake — someone on one of my other blogs had commented, which went into moderation. For a month. Yikes.

Yet here’s where it gets a little weird. The person commenting came back a month later and chastised me for not moderating his comment sooner. He said that blogging was about reciprocity, implying I’d failed miserably. I’d failed at something — I didn’t get to his comment in a timely manner.

But the reciprocity thing? I’m not buying it.

See, blogging isn’t about reciprocity. I like to reciprocate because I think it’s just good manners, but it’s not a requirement of running free blog. In fact, nothing about it is required, including my showing up here or at any blog on a regular basis. As annoying as that may be to some readers, it is the truth of the matter. No one can hold another person’s feet to the flames and force them to write, respond, or whatever you think they should be doing for you on their blog.

But you see the ironic part yet? This man was telling me how rude I was by being rude himself. Instead of asking if the comment had been lost or forgotten, he went straight from zero to bitching.

Way to act professionally.

That’s what really stands out in this little scenario. There were at least a half-dozen other ways for him to find out what had happened to his comment. Instead, he took the self-righteous stance — the “how dare you” tone of someone implying his entitlement. I hope he’s much better in dealing with clients than chasing down bloggers and browbeating them over why his comments weren’t published. Maybe it’s just me, but is it a little weird that someone would be looking for a month for this comment?

To be fair, he did make some good points in his original comment, so I published it. Also, I went to his blog and apologized in person. Frankly, it’s the last I intend to communicate with him, for a professional relationship should never be based on one person’s tantrum and the other person’s constant state of trying to please. It’s too codependent for me.

So how can you, freelance writing professional, exercise the “professional” part of your title? Let’s use this instance as an example. Here are some better ways to handle it:

A polite checking-in note. I’ve used this one many times, especially when I bust my tail to get a client’s draft out to them and hear crickets for a week. A quick “Hi, I haven’t heard anything or seen my comment up — is everything okay?” is so easy.

A cursory check of the blogger’s other blogs. I’m not hard to find online. While that freaks me out slightly, it would have taken nothing for this guy to look me up and send me a tweet, an email to any of my other two email accounts or hell, even call me. It’s not stalking if you think it’s important and you keep it cordial and brief.

An assumption of Spam Filter wonkiness. While it was my oversight this time, it could just as easily have been a spam filter that dumped the comment into the wrong folder. I’ve had that happen on this blog too many times to count. Each time, the commenter has contacted me either in the comments or at my email to tell me. And not once did I get told how badly I’d screwed up by not having my hands sewn to my keyboard long enough to moderate everything.

Remove the links back to your blog and try again. Oh yes, he did. Not only did he assume it was okay to link to his own blog without permission (on his first comment, no less), he didn’t think for a second that his link could have sent him straight to Spam. It wasn’t, but he was one of the lucky few.

Practice what you preach. I commented on this guy’s blog a week ago. Twice. No reciprocity. Seems it’s a terribly one-sided world he lives in. The same applies to you, freelance writer. If you expect others to live up to a certain standard, it helps if you live up to it, as well.

Less of a focus on flame-war traffic. See, it’s really fishy to me when someone makes inflammatory comments right after leaving a link to their own site. If you need traffic, it’s an easy (sleazy) way to get an argument going and traffic spiking, thinking I’ll let you have it on my blog. Not on that one, I assure you. I’d much rather apologize for a mix-up and not go there. Or bitch on a totally unrelated blog and in anonymous terms so as not to embarrass you or get you any traffic.

A detachment. It’s a free blog. Seriously, the blogger is not paid to write it, you’re not paid to read it. I have to question the neediness of someone who comes back a month later to look for comments, but that’s another story. If it’s not there, stop obsessing about it. If you are, maybe you need more things to occupy your day?

Writers, how do you handle unprofessional communications with either other writers or clients?
Have you ever had a flame war erupt around you? If so, how did you deal with it?
What’s your policy on someone including links to their site?

About the author




  • Cathy Miller July 7, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    I avoid flame wars. I don't have the energy for it. If it's a client and I see emails escalating, I pick up the phone. It typically snuffs out the heat when you speak live.

    If it's someone I don't know, I typically don't keep links back to his/her site – at least not without thoroughly checking it out first. And even then, I'm gun-shy.

  • Lori Widmer July 7, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    I don't blame you, Cathy. Sometimes it's just better to hare a voice than to hide behind the words.

    In this instance, I went against my own judgment and let his link live only because his blog did have some useful info.

    It's just strange how we've morphed into a culture that feels it's okay to call ourselves professionals and then rip someone open over a minor thing like that. I wouldn't have brought it up here, but it's a learning moment. We need the reminder that our image requires our constant vigilance.

  • Anne Wayman July 7, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    You know, this sort of thing happened before the 'net too… it just wasn't as public. When I helped my father run a real estate office back in the day, we'd occasionally get letters – snail mail – chastising us for stuff we'd done or hadn't done… as I recall we mostly ignored them… the wackos that is.

  • Paula July 7, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    I've long enjoyed the irony that the rudest people are always the ones blaming someone else for being rude. If something was unintentionally rude, it's not nearly as bad as someone like that being intentionally rude in return. It's petulant.

    As for him not responding to your comment: He probably thinks he's punishing you with the silent treatment. I've always wondered how anyone thinks they're punishing people – or even making a point – by clamming up. It's usually a treat not to have to interact with them!

  • Lori Widmer July 7, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Anne, I'd believe it. I remember receiving a scathing phone call from a woman when I couldn't locate her house to show it to a couple (I was an agent in a former life). Since it was all before Internet and cell phones, I had to drive back home to call her agent and apologize. I got the owner's number and called her. She acted like a flaming ass toward me, calling me useless, wanting me to grovel or fight back, I suspect. I apologized, let her vent, then wished her well. Nasty people exist no matter what the medium. Doesn't mean we have to feed them.

    Paula, I know. Passive-aggressive behavior is so pointless. I think it's like a kid holding his breath trying to make you bend to his will.

    I suppose one could say my post is rude, but I don't think it's that similar. I'm not naming him, nor am I going out of my way to tell him off. This is a teachable moment for us all, I think.

  • Jenn Mattern July 8, 2015 at 2:41 am

    While this was an unfortunately situation all around, the part that really bugs me is the entitlement attitude. This reciprocity BS needs to stop. No, you don't deserve reciprocal comments, links, or even have a right to have something approved on someone else's site.

    Yes, it's nice that you want to comment or link to someone. And yes, it's nice when they take the time to check out your site in return. But it's not always possible. And it is NOT something you're entitled to just because you did something that was ultimately about your own exposure and reaching someone else's audience.

  • Lori Widmer July 8, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    Thank you, Jenn. My sentiments exactly. Building connections would be a better focus. For me, blogging is about sharing. It's not about "You owe me because I bothered to show up."

    My personal attitude is I do want to please readers and I do want to make a connection, but that's my personal obligation. It's not my duty enforced on me by others — it's self-inflicted, so to speak. 🙂