By Estelle Erasmus
As an adjunct professor for New York University’s College of Liberal Arts School of Professional Studies, and as a widely published writing coach and ongoing guest editor for Narratively, I want to say something important: I am getting tons of, “I broke the rules of quarantine” pitches, op-eds and essays from current and former students. As I posted on Facebook, and Twitter and Instagram, this is a fraught time and there are people suffering from the virus so please think twice about sending these kinds of pieces out into the world which open you up for all sorts of legal and emotional ramifications and attacks. I don’t want you to compromise yourself or your integrity just to get a quick clip. Find a different spin!
As a writing coach, I protect the writers I work with; as an editor, I do the same. I am never going to just let you get something out there that puts you at risk, even if you think it makes a great story.
As the former editor-in-chief of five national consumer publications including for Hachette, I have seen everything–and lives can be ruined by publishing a piece at the wrong moment in time.
I know that writers want to make an impact, but you would be better served to make sure that what you are putting out there is not putting your life and profession at risk. If you are admitting to doing something illegal and you have already had a run in with the law, what is to stop an annoyed cop on following up with your written confession?
If you are cheating on your husband or partner and write about it, you can bet that it will be used in a child custody case.
If you are trashing someone publicly without all the facts, you are just pointing three fingers back to yourself.
So, think before you hit send. That’s all I want for you. There are other ways to get a splashy piece published that has insight and intensity.
I even wrote about it and gave advice on what to do instead for Brevity where I write,
“We tell our kids with social media that once it’s up, it’s out there forever. So let’s take a slice of our own advice. If you broke the law, faced down a cop, stole money, betrayed your marital vows, or played a prank on someone that ended with tragedy, why would you want to advertise that? It can’t possibly benefit you or your family. People will get mad, and may want revenge. Whether they send your essay to the cop you proudly thwarted, testify against you in a child support hearing, or take action to have you pay what you took back to society, think twice about writing about it.” Read the entire piece here.
As I mentioned in the article, I believe the care I take with the writers I work with is a big reason New York University has entrusted me with teaching a journalism program to teens this summer. Here is the link to apply for the special program.
P.S. I’m not taking on any new private writing coaching students until September (mainly because my former and current students are continuing to take up much of my time). However, I am teaching a class for NYU starting next month, called Writing Parenthood. I will work closely with you on getting a piece (or two) ready for publication. The lessons I teach in the class are applicable whether you are a parent or not. You get a new lesson every week, videos, and I am available in our very interactive forum and working with you on your pieces. I am the type of teacher who stays in your life and who is on your side. You can see just a few of my testimonials here.
Sign up for the class here.
What I Wrote
For The New York Times When Your Tween Acts Up On Lockdown
For Brevity Don’t Blow Up Your Life For A Byline