Aggressive Writers, Obnoxious Writers

In my experience, there are two kinds of writers in the world: the Aggressive Writer and the Chill Writer. Sure, there may be a group of people who fall somewhere in between—not quite aggressive, not quite chill—but in general, you’re either/or. I’ve always been the laidback type. What does that mean? Well, put simply, I don’t force my work on people. I don’t make my friends, family, acquaintances, or random strangers read my writing. Instead, I let them come to it organically. I wait until they ask to read something. I don’t pester them about it. I don’t send them excerpts of my novels unrequested, or short stories that aren’t really that short. I don’t beg, cajole, or demand. If they want to read something of mine, they’ll ask. And if they don’t, well, that’s fine too. Just because they know me doesn’t mean they have to read my work. I’d much prefer my readers be genuinely interested in my stories than feel obliged. This, in essence, is how Chill Writers see the world.

And then there is the Aggressive Writer.

The Aggressive Writer doesn’t give a fuck if you want to read their writing, you’re gonna read it, even if they have to jam it down your gullet. They will send you their work frequently, excessively, and randomly. What they send you may be sixteen poems, or upwards of twenty, thirty pages of prose, and you better read that shit fast, or else you’ll receive messages like “have you read it yet?” or “when are you going to read it?” It doesn’t matter if you’re busy. It doesn’t matter if you’re recovering from a triple bypass, or if your sister just died. They want a response. Only they don’t really want a response—not a nuanced critique response, or a balanced, even-keeled message that lacks enthusiasm. What they really want (whether they admit it or not) is empty praise, and lots of it. They don’t want you to their friend—they want you to be their fan. They want you jumping with joy over their clichéd action-adventure novel, or collection of dumb, poorly-written poems. They want instant gratification. They want an ego-stroking, and they want it quicker than a backseat blowjob. So you’ll respond, because you finally get fed up with them begging you to read it and figure you just need to get it over with. Maybe you’ll imbibe heavily and then make a scatter-brained attempt to peruse their equally scattered work, or maybe you’ll skim the thing because fuck it, you never asked to read it in the first place. Either way, you’ll come up with some pleasant adjectives, throw those nice words into an email or text, and then be done with it. Right?

Nope! Because then they’ll ask you “what else did you like?” or “what was your favorite part?” And even if your praise does, by some miracle, manage to satiate them for the moment, they’ll soon return with more of their writing, more work you didn’t ask to read, genres you hate, types of writing you dislike, and lengthy pieces you simply don’t have the time or patience to make sense of. And the pestering will start again. And the empty praise will be delivered. Rinse, wash and repeat.

The Aggressive Writer is the worst nightmare of every non-aggressive person (writer or otherwise). Who wants to be made to read someone’s badly-written writing, repeatedly? Who wants to be made to give effusive praise they don’t mean? The Aggressive Writer doesn’t care about the well-being of their readers, they just want to have them, collecting them like Pokémon through any means necessary. In this, they become singularly focused. It robs them of the simple joy of writing, because they are not writing because they want to, because it’s fun, they are writing with the ultimate goal of having fans and/or being exalted.

What they don’t seem to realize is that, in this day and age, it’s unlikely they’re going to achieve a rock-star status as a writer. It’s sad but true. Twenty-first century writers rarely reach that level of adoration and popularity, and when they do, it’s never because they forced their writing on their friends, family and acquaintances.

This sort of Aggressive Writer, in my experience, is often a straight, white man. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. The fragile egos and entitlement of straight white guys, combined with the need for approval present in many writers, makes for a perfect storm of toxicity that results in aggression and pushiness. To be clear, I’m not saying all straight white men are this way (they’re not) nor am I saying all Aggressive Writers are straight white men (they’re not). But there is a connection there, and I can’t say it surprises me that 90% of the Aggressive Writers I’ve encountered in my life have indeed been straight white men. Similarly, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it’s often women (like me) who are targeted by Aggressive Writers.

If you’re wondering how you can avoid Aggressive Writers, my advice would be to simply not respond. Don’t give into their demands—it’ll only lead to more down the road. You don’t have any obligation to read their writing, and if they can’t be bothered to consider your feelings, you might be better off without them in your life. Remember that you can say no, or even just ignore them altogether. If they have a problem with that, then that’s on them. There are plenty of websites out there where writers can get feedback, and if that’s what they crave so badly, they should go there. You are not in the wrong for not wanting to read their work, and anyone who says otherwise is full of shit.

For writers out there, you may be wondering, “How can I avoid becoming an Aggressive Writer?” Simple: Be considerate. Think about the feelings of others, how much time they do or don’t have, and ask yourself honestly, “Would they be interested in this?” On second thought, don’t ask yourself that—ask them that. Say to them, “Hey, I’m working on an [insert type of writing here] that’s about [insert topic here]. I would love it if you’d be willing to take a look. Would you have the time to read it?” If they say yes, only then should you send it. And don’t send them six things if they only expressed an interest in reading one; don’t send them something that is upwards of fifty pages if you know they’re busy and won’t have the time for it. Once they’ve read the piece, give them some breathing room before you ask them to read something else. Wait a few weeks or even months. And pick up on cues: if they’ve told you they’re busy and only read realistic short stories, don’t send them your epic fantasy novel. Be respectful. Be smart. Be reasonable. That’s the only way you’ll attract readers who are genuinely interested in your work. And at the end of the day, you’ll be a better writer—and better person—if you develop some compassion.