Taken aback, they usually mumble something and the conversation ends soon after.
On days when I have nothing better to do, I remember this and wonder what they mean by ‘things’. Could it be the camaraderie between colleagues? Was it office politics? Could it be that both require me to write?
Here are some of the more common things between the two industries. First, if you’ve made it, your life is a glamourous round of parties and fun. If you’re still struggling, you’re going to learn what it means to work hard and get paid very little.
Similarly, there are friends you’ll make that you will go out of your way to help. I still have friends I made when we were chambering students last century. There are people I met when I first published The Banana Leaf Men who became very close friends.
On the other hand, one time, when I was still in practice, a former classmate called me because she wanted me to put in a good word with my bosses so that her sister could get a job in the firm. Once the phone call was over, I never heard from her ever again. There are people who wanted me to collaborate with them on books because of the success of The Banana Leaf Men. When the project was over, they badmouthed me and I never heard from them again.
Another thing that’s common between the two industries is that everyone knows everyone. So, if you say something about one person, say it knowing that the recipient will hear about it. You’re lucky if the recipient hears your words and not some convoluted version of it.
Something along similar lines happed a few weeks ago. I was told by friend that someone, let’s call him ‘Mr X’, has an aversion towards me. This was enormously perplexing because I’ve met Mr. X once in my life. I attended a dialogue with a writer and Mr X was facilitating that dialogue. When the dialogue session was over, all I said to him was, “Hello. I enjoyed the talk. Thank you.”
He dismissed me, but I wasn’t so fazed by this at all. He was busy and so on and so forth. And all this was about 10 years ago.
I decided to ask others who knew Mr. X if this was true and I got three different answers:
“Mr. X hates you.”
“Mr. X is repulsed by you.”
“Mr. X can’t stand you.”
Hate. Repulsed. Can’t stand me. Three different emotions with equal weight.
I wasn’t quite sure what the intention was in this whole scenario. Should I feel hurt that Mr. X has such negative feelings for/about me? Should I confront him? Should I analyse what I’d done wrong? Then again, this seemed to focus enormously on what I’d done … or not done.
I decided to cyber stalk Mr. X for a few days and I began to see a pattern – any woman who published something was shamed. If it was a popular and commercial book, then it was, of course, terrible. He was quite dismissive of celebrated writers the world over. Maybe, there wasn’t anything wrong with me after all.
If it was not me, it had to be him. What was going on inside his world that made him appear so negative? What was going on inside his world? Was he really so damaged that he could hate this much? In the end, I found him and what he was saying very amusing.
Now, if he’d said he hates my work or can’t stand reading what I write, that’s a different thing altogether. That wouldn’t be so ridiculous.
And here’s the thing about being part of two different industries. In legal practice, one of the things that we always focused on was the intention of the perpetrator of a crime. Did the defendant intend to commit the crime he is accused of?
Similarly, when someone verbally/literally abuses a writer, what is the intention of so doing? Is it to highlight what they feel is the substandard work of this writer or to shame the author? When someone says they hate you, what does that mean? And is there really a thin line between love and hate?
Towards the end of all this analysis done when I have nothing better to do, I wondered, why hate at all? Isn’t it better to spend one’s energy looking for something good in each day. Isn’t one’s energy better spent being kind and loving?