I have just returned home from the first proper planning meeting that I had attended for over three years. A life as a sex worker and a writer means that I operate in order to suit myself; I decide everything from what to pitch to editors to what deductions to claim on my taxes. And this means that when I am in a meeting, the little piss-ant posturings of my colleagues – in this case, fellow members of a campaigning group – get under my skin in a way that is surprising in its intensity. I grimace, and look unhinged.
How can I help it? Writing an article is Platonic in its simplicity. One writes, edits and files, and the editor makes her changes and sends the work to print. When it appears on the page it has a weight, an authority, and no matter how deeply it has been cut, the work has the stamp of the writer’s identity upon it. How different this is from writing by committee. The simplest phrase must be tweaked and edited over and over, and what comes out is as bloodless as it is without meaning. I have emerged from today’s wrangle over words covered with a foul and angry sweat, that stinks far worse than the sweat I work up when thrashing a deserving arse; and at the end of it, the hapless committee and I find ourselves no closer than before to a truthful and persuasive statement of our aims.
The written word is a hell – a hell that I love, that has built me in its fire and brimstone. Through writing I am steadily burning away the foulest parts of myself, those that hate, fear and lie; those that would shoot and stab. As I sat in today’s meeting, wrangling over the simplest choices of word and tense, I did not yell or swear, but used every bit of persuasion I could muster; every trick that I have learned in a year of battling commenters and Twitter trolls.
And did I succeed? Did I persuade the committee with my Solomonic wisdom? No; I looked like a prat. I boiled and twitched under my calm exterior, like the bug-man in Men in Black. Sugar, in water, please; and give way or I will rip you to shreds. There is another review tomorrow, and then a conference call; and finally, our subcommittee will pass our words along to our booming, smirking, saccharine chair. And in the end, you might see some words that I wrote, some ghost of my identity, my wisdom and experience, between the lines. But you will not see my name on those words; and as God as my witness, I am never doing this again.