A Look in the Life: Entitlement

I know there are plenty of people out there that likely get this a heck of a lot more than I do, but since this was my first run-in with this kind of behaviour, it really stood out to me. Now, your mileage may vary on this, but I’ve heard more than enough stories to make me think it’s more common than I’d like to believe. Here’s the problem: someone likes your work and has followed you for some time. Now that they’re delving into the field themselves…

…well, guess who they come to?

I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was about eleven years old. It’s a core piece of who I am, and what I love about myself. But before I was writing in my own worlds, I started out in fanfiction. I’m a major supporter of the fanfic world, and still write it on occasion. (Actually, I’ve just come up with an idea for a fanfic writing exercise of sorts which would end up being the oddest self-insert fic ever…? Not my usual, but I think it could be good…)

In any case, I have a decent library of fanfics that I’ve written over the years posted up online in one of the major fanfic hubs. On that site, I’m also listed as being available for beta reading. I’m always willing to look at people’s stuff and help them get better; that’s part of what I like about writing communities. But I got a message the other day which had this in the body of the text:

“I’ve read a few of your fics, and enjoyed them a lot, so it’d be really nice if you could help me with my writing too.”

Now…it may just be me reading into this, but that sounds…a bit presumptuous to me. Sure, you’ve read my stuff, and I appreciate that you liked it, but… That doesn’t give me any reason to help you or read your stuff. Would it be nice? Sure. Do you need to tell me that? Absolutely not. Leading the witness, Your Honor.

I’ve seen stories about authors being hounded by readers that believe that they’re owned something by them, because of the time and/or investment they put into the author’s work. Actors who are hassled and bothered because of their characters. Wil Wheaton posted in his blog recently that a fan once cornered him outside of an event (not an event he was attending specifically to be with people; just somewhere he happened to be) and demanded he give them the attention they wanted, and then berated him for not giving them what they “deserved” after “waiting all that time” for him. (That’s a bit of a paraphrase, since I don’t have Wil’s blog open right now, but it captures the feeling of the matter.)

This is awful. And under classic thinking, I read something like that and think, “Wow, celebrities have it rough. That’d never happen to someone like me; no one would care enough.”

And yet.

In the end, I worded a very careful letter back to the fledgling author, saying that I’d be happy to help but since I am a student and writer myself, depending on how fast she wanted results and how in-depth she wanted them, it might take a while. She was exceptionally nice about the rest of the ordeal, and ended up not asking me to beta because she didn’t want to chew up my (apparently) very busy schedule. We may work together in the future, but I don’t know what her plans are.

And in the end, I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on whether or not she wanted to sound entitled there. Given how nice she was, I don’t think she did–but it’s an interesting thing to think about, and something we all may want to take into consideration. How do we word things? How are we treating other people, especially those who we may have sunk a lot of time/money/emotion into? It’s good to remember that from the lowest on the totem pole to the highest, we’re all human. As Wil put it, “if you cut me, I will bleed.”

And hey, I bleed too.

Thoughts? Opinions? Personal stories about this kind of thing happening to you, or someone you know? Share in the comments! I’d love to hear.


6 thoughts on “A Look in the Life: Entitlement

  1. I’ve gotten this, too. When I posted about getting my short story published, two people contacted me to tell their children how to get published. I was like, well, I’ll let you know when I figure it out! My answer for that is “I have a blog on writing where I share what I know” and “I started a writer’s group where we critique work.” If they reject both ideas immediately, they’re not that interested in actually learning. But yeah. It’s kind of annoying. Small glimpse of what agents must get in any social setting!

  2. I love this post. On one hand, your “fan” may have just been looking for some help, but so many people fall into the more dangerous category of entitlement. Just because I love King’s work (with all of my weird, twisted heart) does not mean he’s obligated to give me advice on my own writing–if I ask. One person figuring out how he/she can succeed doesn’t guarantee you have the right know everything he/she knows. Luckily, if you can find a writing community it’s a mutual relationship of sharing and learning. You handled it well!

  3. Rather as with job interviews or religious proselytizing, I think there’s room for ‘hey, would you be interested in hiring me to do the thing?’ as long as you’re willing to take no for an answer. From the perspective of the person being asked to do things for free: you just have to remember that you can/should say no. For example, conventions will ask people to speak for free a lot, and that isn’t worth the time unless you really enjoy speaking at conventions and have money to burn.

    1. Asking me to do something is one thing. It’s the wording of their request that bothers me. Saying, “I really like your work; would you be willing to read mine?” is different from “I’ve read a lot of your work; it’d be nice if you helped me with mine.” The first is a request of someone you admire. The second makes me feel as if they think I have an obligation to help them because they invested time in me.

      But as I said, it’s possible they didn’t mean that. I’m speaking more of the concept at large, which I’ve seen evidence of it being somewhat rampant.

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