Are you really willing to take on any writing challenge?

Here I am posting about a non-event. I had a productive consultation. BUT.

We've talked about the possibility of encountering writers that are working on pieces that have viewpoints strongly opposed to our own, or writers that are developing skills that seem beyond our areas of expertise. I think I'm willing to take on any writing challenge. But I did encounter one that I hadn't anticipated.

The consultee, lets call him "Bob", warned me before our session began that his creative fiction piece was of a sexual nature and examined a social taboo. He asked if I would still be comfortable discussing his story with him, and was prepared to leave. I think this is when my retail customer service persona kicked in, and I thoughtlessly agreed as if I was, of course, totally glad to be of assistance.

Then I proceeded to get myself in deeper. We discussed how we were going to proceed and he left it up to me. So I told him that we usually read things aloud, and asked him what they had done when he had come in with an earlier draft. He said that he had read it aloud last time, so I suggested that this time I read aloud. Then there I was reading this, um, story describing a sexual taboo in a rather graphic way, aloud to a blushing Bob. And, really, I had brought it all upon myself.

After I had finished reading, we were actually able to discuss his concerns regarding the story with surprisingly few awkward moments.

There's not much to tell, and yet I feel like this is a situation that invites discussion. Is it because the nature of the story invites scandal? Is it because there was a possibility of things going hopelessly awry? After I'd jumped right into the session, I did feel like I was proceeding with caution, and that there were some aspects of his writing that I didn't want to delve too deeply into.

We often emphasize that the writer has choice. As consultants we have choices, too. Bob brought that to my attention by asking me if I would still be willing to consult with him after he told me the nature of the story, and by deferring to me about how to read the story. Although I was okay with this consultation, perhaps now I will be more aware of this choice if I do feel too uncomfortable during in a session in the future.

Any thoughts on my consultation with Bob?
Are you really willing to take on any writer with any writing?
And have you ever found yourself in a situation where this willingness was put to the test?


  1. It sounds like you handled it well. I think sometimes it is difficult to know where the line is until you reach it. But by then, you may discover that you don't feel comfortable at that point.
    I think it is perfectly reasonable to stop a consultation at any time if you feel like the subject matter is inappropriate. This maintaining of our own personal boundaries also benefits the writer as well. After all, I think the writer is much more likely to get a useful consultation if they are paired with someone who isn't bothered by the material.
    Thanks for bringing up this topic!

  2. David,

    Thanks for your response. I think you make a good point about the benefit to the writer. The writer will be the most comfortable with and get the best feedback from someone who is also comfortable with them.



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