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Posted by Priscilla on October 13, 2013

no-bullying-zone-md.pngParents fear many things. Many things anger parents. But nothing hurts a parent as much as finding out that someone bullies his child. We wish we could shield our children. We wish we could give them just the right weapon, or at least make them impervious to the oppressions of the bully.  We can’t.

Bullies inhabit every schoolyard. If a child does not want to be destroyed, he must stand up to the bully somehow, some way. He must stand up on his own.

Bullies inhabit every workplace as well. They inhabit every career path, every political group, and every school of philosophy. Bullies surround us. Perhaps we are the bully.

A bully believes he is right. A bully forces her ideas on others. A bully makes others follow his rules. A bully judges.

In order for a bully to prosper, he must have a victim.

A victim gives up. A victim would rather take up someone else’s ideas than have conflict. A victim succumbs to other’s wishes and desires. A victim believes the judgment of others.

I saw both bullies and victims among adults in the schools I taught at. I saw administrators rule by fear and teachers rule by scorn. I saw teachers stop trying and students give up. I heard the bully’s demand, “You’ll be written up if you…” I heard the victim’s fear, “They’ll never let you do that.”

I see bullying in the writing world.  The workshop leader who mocks the dreams of new writers –“How many of you think you want to write the Great American Novel (ha, ha, snort cough)?” – is a bully. So is the MFA mentor who convinces his students to copy his style and form.

Most of us meet the bully in our own critique groups. He has the face of our friend, our writing buddy, but he insists we follow the rules: “No backstory in the first fifty pages.” “No head-hopping.” “Write every day.” “Never start with weather.” “Always start with a hook.”

Writer’s Digest published an interview with Anne Rice this month in which she stood up to some of these writing bullies. I loved it. When the interviewer asked Ms. Rice about the rumor that she doesn’t write very day, she said

“I don’t write sometimes for months. Of course I write emails every day. I write in my diary every day. I may not touch the manuscript at all or anything pertaining to it…Very early in my college years…people told me I wasn’t a real writer because I didn’t write every day. Things like that should not be said. …you have to ignore them. You know, there are no rules.”

Hurrah for Anne Rice. Hurrah for standing up to writing bullies. The myth that you’re not a real writer if you don’t write every day –- and its evil twin, the myth that a real writer has to write, that it is impossible to do anything else – are cudgels wielded by the bully. It is time for us to not fall victim any longer to the bullies around us.

What does this mean for the writer?

  1. Hear your own call
  2. Find your own rhythm
  3. Stand up for your story

What do you think?



Michael Martone

I’ve been told he’s a postmodern writer. Whatever that is. I find him a hilarious lover of life and words.



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