Friday, 11 March 2011

Gibbon Wrangling for Beginners: Part 1

Dealing with the Patronage Delusion

It is an unfortunate fact of life that if you embark upon a career in writing that sooner or later you will find yourself dealing with a gibbon(1), sometimes a whole troop of gibbons. This can be a very disorientating experience so I’d thought I’d offer some advice for budding writers.

Because Gibbons are insanely status conscious they frequently see all professional relationships in terms of patronage. Because in the eyes of a gibbon a writer will always have roughly the same status as the cleaning lady this can lead them to exhibit strange behaviour which may cause alarm to the uninitiated.

Gibbons find it very difficult to deal with the fact that they are dependent on lowly writers for their livelihood. The fact that they must rely on talent to develop, produce and finally sell the product causes them a sort of constant low grade psychic pain. Like many people suffering from chronic pain the constant discomfort can lead to irritability, loss of temper and bouts of irrationality. To compensate gibbons frequently seek to recast straightforward professional arrangements as acts of patronage.

In this scenario they see themselves not as, admittedly high paid, media professionals contracting with a fellow professional but as Medici or Saatchi like patrons who have deigned to scatter their largesse on the mendicant writer who perforce must genuflect and kiss the feet of his betters.

Now - when you think you’ve got an agreement amongst equals and they believe that they’ve allowed the beneficent light of their countenance fall upon your unworthy form – it can lead to certain amount of cognitive dissonance. For example:

A SCRIPT DEVELOPING MEETING

YOU: I’ve knocked up a few sample scenes to test the concept I think it would be useful if you had a look to see if you thought I was on the right track.

GIBBON: No! I must not for it is written that in the beginning there shall be the pitch and the pitch shall beget the summary and from the loins of the summery shall come the outline which shall beget the scene breakdown and only then, when each and every one of these has been discussed yea unto the nth degree shall the script be written. So it is written, so shall it be. So say we all.

YOU: Wouldn’t it just be quicker if…

GIBBON: You dare question the wisdom of the ages, down upon your belly worm and beg forgiveness of the almighty commissioning editor before whom you are but a lowly dung beetle.

I think you’ll agree that such an exchange is not conducive to a good working relationship.

Remedy: unfortunately like most the problems associated with a gibbon infestation there is almost certainly no cure(3) but there are strategies that can help ameliorate the most unpleasant symptoms.

Firstly: don’t be an enabler. It’s always tempting to ‘go with the flow’ in the hope of having a quiet life but this would be a mistake. Enabling this kind of delusional behaviour is counterproductive in the long run and not good for the gibbons themselves.

Secondly: be firm. Always be firm and explain your position in clear measured tones. If you see signs that the gibbon has misinterpreted your position remain calm and restate your position again.

Thirdly: never lose your temper. Gibbons are hypersensitive to status and react very negatively to any suggestion that they may have offended or overstepped the bounds. The males in particular are prone to excessive territoriality which can manifest in chest beating, insults and feces hurling. It’s best to just to wait for these episodes to subside and then to continue as if nothing has happened.

Fourthly: do not be afraid to walk away. Ultimately you can do without them but they can’t do without you.

(1) Not real gibbons(2), see previous posts.
(2) Although that would be kind of cool.
(3) Many writers are pushing for a cull(4) but animal rights groups have objected.
(4) Can I reiterate that I’m not talking about real gibbons here.

3 comments:

Adaddinsane said...

The important question, that I know is on everybody's lips(1), is: Are there any funky gibbons?

I think your fourth point is the most important.


(a) Or the ends of their fingers*

[+] Or whatever

Yeah, baby.

Philipa said...

Love the Gibbon stuff :-)

Dennis Jernberg said...

Actually, if I'd written this, I would have called them baboons... ;)

I've noticed a strange phenomenon. The higher people (especially men) get in the various human social hierarchies, the more prone to giving in to primitive simian instincts (the pack, pecking-order, and territorial instincts) they tend to be. This is one explanation for Lord Acton's unfortunately true statement that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Even though I'm convinced TV can be superior to movies, I don't like the troglodyte conservatism of the industry. As for me, since I'm not part of Hollywood's notoriously inbred aristocracy, I've decided to attempt an end run through the ebook stores. I think it's worth the gamble, at least...