unsolicited-advice

 

Over the last month, there’s been a surge of D in the indie romance community. And not the fun kind of D either. It’s that dreaded D word. The unholiest of words any author can find themselves privy to.

Drama.

I’ve largely kept silent, because a big part of The Drama is contributing to The Drama. But I’m finding it’s harder and harder to stay quiet because, at the end of the day, this all contributes to a much larger problem.

Professionalism.

Take this all with a grain of salt. I realize that every situation is more complex than I’ll likely make it seem here. There are two sides to every story, and it’s never really black and white. But for the sake of simplicity, I’m going paint it as such — at the heart of the matter, it’s really pretty obvious and direct.

The Stigma

I don’t think that anyone would argue that women have a hard time being taken seriously in the work place. There are legitimate, founded reasons, however unfair they are to be judged by them. And I in no way condone any lack of equality.

But.

Women are notorious for making business decisions more emotionally than men. It’s one of our strengths — it leads us to being compassionate and sometimes much more flexible than men — but it’s also one of our weaknesses. Because many times, decisions are made emotionally which end up hurting their business.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for twelve years, first in web and graphic design, and additionally for the last four years as an author in the indie romance community. I’ve worked with women who are starting their own businesses, entrepreneurs helping other entrepreneurs, women helping women. I’ve seen women thrive, grow, succeed, and I’ve watched them make destructive decisions that burn their businesses down and tarnish their reputation irreparably.

We hold the power to eradicate this stigma — in fact, we are the only ones who can. If we want to change the way women are seen in regards to professionalism, we hold the key. Here’s what I’ve learned over the years.

It’s not about you.

It’s easy to forget when you hear something that absolutely incenses you that you should keep your mouth shut. As a writer, I find myself writing posts in my head, thinking about the soapbox from which to expend my anger and very important opinion. But 99% of the time, it has nothing to do with me. And it’s none of my business. So I try to keep my opinions to myself, or share them only with the very closest of friends who I know lock down everything discussed in the vault. It’s okay to have opinions. It’s not okay to jump into the middle of a fight that isn’t yours. Because chances are, you only have a fraction of the story anyway.

Don’t gossip.

We’re all nosy. Everyone, to a degree. As much as none of us want to be a part of The Drama, we want to have access to the details. We want to know. But when you contribute to the gossip, you become a part of the problem. It’s okay to want to know. It’s even okay to find out. But it’s not okay to spread the gossip along with your opinions on the very small amount of information you have to go on. Because not only do you hurt the people discussed, but you end up looking like a jerk (for lack of a prettier word). And that will reflect on your brand.

Don’t judge.

Whatever story you’ve heard, there’s another side that you haven’t heard, and likely, never will. So when you hear the latest juicy gossip, don’t be so quick to judge. Perspective is everything, and as wronged as one person feels, the other likely feels just as wronged, if not worse. The questions to ask yourself is this: Why do I care so much what someone else says or does?

Very rarely will anything that someone else says or does affect you personally. And if it does, then it becomes an actual problem for you to address. But if you jump on the bandwagon — any bandwagon — you put yourself at risk. A follow up question to ask is: Is this worth the consequences? Because I’d be willing to bet that 9 times out of 10, it’s not.

Loyalty is good. Loyalty to a fault is bad.

Find your tribe and love them hard. Ride or die and all that. Except — what about when you start to realize the bitch you love so hard is going down like the Titanic and is hanging onto your leg while she sinks? What about when you’re put in a position to have to pick sides or get involved in drama that isn’t your own?

Be loyal. Unless it’s going to hurt you. A real friend wouldn’t put you in that position in the first place. A real friend would do everything in their power to protect you from it. Remember that.

Stay out of it.

As much as you want to speak up — don’t. Keep it to yourself. Keep it private. You don’t help anyone by contributing, you only draw a deeper line in the sand. And that’s what ‘we women’ do, isn’t it? Choose sides. She said, she said. Me or her. Except it doesn’t have to be that way. Feel what you feel. Form your opinions. But keep it positive. If you do feel the need to speak out, turn it into a positive. Make it about something good. Be kind. Make people laugh. Don’t contribute to the shitstorm. Make a rainbow instead.

Be professional.

“But what about my very important opinions?” you ask. “What about my best friend who so and so said bla bla bla, etc. ad infinitum?” you say. It doesn’t matter, because this is your brand. What you say, how you’re perceived — this all affects you on a career level. If you’re known for being a ragey vaguebooking gossip, that is not going to help you achieve your goals. Present yourself professionally. Make professional decisions — not emotional ones. Be smart. Be kind. Be compassionate. But above all, be professional.

Support others.

This is hands down the best advice I can give.

This is not a competition.

I repeat. This is not a competition.

I don’t know where this came from, the cut-throat, competitive in-fighting. We are in a community where books are devoured so quickly that the industry keeps growing, not only with readers, but with new authors.

I have witnessed first hand the power of helping other women. Teaching them to fish. Sharing knowledge. Sharing struggles. Building a community of women who not only do everything they can to contribute to a positive environment, but who genuinely care about others more than themselves. This love, this giving nature — this is why women should be fiercely labeled as positives in any environment. It doesn’t mean judging other women and cutting them down. It means building them up. It means contributing to their success. Because by helping others succeed, you succeed too.

So think about where you fit into this great big machine. Are you the squeaky cog that can’t be assuaged, or are you the oil that keeps things running smoothly? Are you the wrench in the gear, or are you the motor, helping to push everyone to succeed? Because I know what it’s like to be on both ends, and I’ll tell you, hands down — being on the positive side of this will lend dividends unimaginable, and will fulfill you more than you could ever know.

3 thoughts on “Unsolicited advice from one ladyboss to another

  1. Elizabeth Barone

    *applauds*

    Great advice, Staci. This has been really bugging me lately, too. It’s so easy to join the mob or start one—all with a single tweet or blog post. My rule of thumb tends to be “don’t be an a-hole” and “do no harm,” which is why I usually stick to my very tight, drama-free circle.

    Reply

  2. Chrissy

    I realize you meant well and I’m sure you’re lovely, but I stopped reading at “I don’t think that anyone would argue that women have a hard time being taken seriously in the work place. There are legitimate, founded reasons …” Then I tried again and stopped for good at “Women are notorious for making business decisions more emotionally than men.”
    The internalized sexism in these comments is, more than anything else, disheartening. Do we tell our daughters, “You’re discriminated against at work, and though it’s unfair, it’s happening for legitimate, founded reasons because we women just can’t seem to control our emotions”?
    What sort of message is this to our community, especially given that we’re on the cusp of possibly having a woman run this country? (Your lines actually reminded me of misogynists who say things like “I don’t want a woman president. Women are too emotional to have the nuclear codes.” Though, obviously, I’m not attributing those thoughts to you. They simply came to mind.)
    While I agree the community has drama, positing that the basis of it is “emotional” women who are failing to think rationally about this business, is, unfortunately, sexist. Moreover, I recall quite a few recent “dramatic” incidents involving male authors, not females.
    I don’t expect you to change your mind or walk anything back. I just wanted to point out that chalking up various, multi-faceted issues to “emotional women” doesn’t help solve any of those issues and, instead, tarnishes our thriving, proud, woman-led industry.

    Reply

    1. admin Post author

      I totally understand where you’re coming from! I consider myself a feminist, but I also recognize that instinctively, men and women make decisions differently. That’s not to say that women can’t be pragmatic, because we can and are, often. But we use our head AND our heart, which makes us (I believe) uniquely equipped when it comes to business.

      Sometimes, it causes problems. And the men in the romance industry have issues with professionalism too, but that’s a separate post 😉

      I’m not saying that all issues in the industry (or any industry) stem from ‘making emotional decisions,’ and in fact, I think that our emotional decisions make us stronger, but we have to be professional above all. I see it as a strength, when used professionally. But because we tend to wrap our personal feelings up in our business decisions, the result is sometimes this in-fighting, salacious gossip, tearing others down to reinforce our own choices.

      Thank you for posting your perspective!

      Reply

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