Yesterday, I went to the salon to have my hair done—it looks fabulous, by the way—but while I was there I had the most bizarre thing happen. A middle-aged woman came in and asked about having her hair done although she didn’t have an appointment. One of the owners, a very nice woman I have known for years, politely explained that they were completely booked for that day but that she would be happy to schedule an appointment for her.
Instead of scheduling the appointment like any sane person, the lady went berserk in a manner any Viking conquerer would admire. In a loud, demanding voice she went on a tirade about her boss letting her off from work early for this and that they simply must squeeze her in. As you can imagine, all eyes were glued to the drama unfolding. I was shocked a grown woman would act like that.
Again, one of the owners politely explained that wouldn’t be fair to the other clients who had booked their appointments in advance but that she’d be happy to schedule the next available appointment. The woman actually stomped her foot and ranted about how badly she was being treated and that she was taking her business somewhere else, causing a huge scene and slamming the door on her way out.
After she left, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it definitely wasn’t for the two owners of the salon to burst out laughing. When I asked, they both laughed and one said, “I can’t believe she was going on and on about her boss like that. That lady is self employed and works from home so she could have easily scheduled an appointment and come in anytime. But if you think that was bad, you should have been here in December.” They went on to share several tales of crazy, entitled clients from the holiday season, each one worse than the last. I sat in morbid fascination listening to horror story after horror story of middle-aged women acting like five-year-olds. Ranting and screaming, demanding that they get their hair done. Right then. Without any consideration that they didn’t have an appointment or that there was already a full schedule of clients with appointments waiting. To their minds it seemed perfectly acceptable that each stylist be working on three clients at once as long as they got their hair done when they wanted it done.
And what does all of this have to do with writing you’re wondering? Well, first I just thought it was a funny story but then I got to thinking about how we push ourselves and how other people push us to turn out stories faster and faster. It used to be enough for the big name writers to turn out one book per year. Then it was two. Now, it seems to be write-as-many-books-as-you-can-as-fast-as-you-can.
Over the last twenty years or so technology has grown at an astronomical rate. Authors used to be that mystery person behind that book you loved, but beyond reach. Now, with Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Tumblr, email, blogs, book tours, etc. authors are easily accessible to fans. That is wonderful because you get to hear first hand what your fans love and what they hate, but no matter how many books you have out or how fast you write them everyone still seems to say write faster, write faster.
Unfortunately, books don’t write themselves. Some stories just come together. For others, there are those elusive plot holes that take longer to resolve. And sometimes life just gets in the way, through illness, family or that damn day job. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is necessary to pull the all-nighter’s to meet deadlines, but I wonder at what point we are pushing the envelope too far and the quality of the work suffers because we are trying to get that next book out there?