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Are you as unflappable as a New York City traffic cop?

A couple of annoyances over the past few weeks. Nothing worth detailing, really, because I don’t want to spend a whole lot of energy on them, but let’s just say this: If you’re not as unflappable as a New York City traffic cop, you won’t last in this writing business.

The metaphor demands an explanation.

NYC traffic cops are a particular breed of human beings. They walk down the street, peering at meters, registration tags, and license plates with no visible interest or emotion. They work with a singular efficiency and dedication to their task, particularly when that task involves writing a ticket (or, now, using a little handheld mobile device to print a ticket. As an aside, this printed ticket ushered in the era of the virtually incontestable ticket, so if you plan on driving or parking here, consider yourself warned).

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed flustered drivers fly out of a bank or deli as if pit bulls were chomping on their heels, their rant going full tilt even before they start breathing–literally–down the traffic cop’s neck. “But I was only double parked for a second! There’s no goddamned parking in this city! Where do you expect me to park? This city’s eating me alive with fees! You can’t give me a ticket.”

Through the tirade, the traffic cop takes it all and appears completely unperturbed. And unmoved, because that ticket is going under your windshield wiper. No. matter. what. (Not that I have any personal experience with this….).

Maybe it’s because they deal with verbal abuse every day. Maybe it’s because they genuinely don’t care about anything other than collecting a pay check. Or maybe they really are cut out of some exceptional cloth that wicks away criticism.

I don’t know, but in a way, I’d like to be more like them.

And you- are you as unflappable as a New York City traffic cop?

How do you deal with criticism, rejection, or unfair experiences as a writer?

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5 responses »

  1. I don’t know about NYC cops, but I really like the word “unflappable” :)

    Reply
  2. Man, I’ve passed drivers yelling at parking meter attendants at least a dozen times on my way to work. Dudes, they’re just doing their job.

    Reply
  3. Haha. Loved this post. If only we could all be more unflappable.

    There’s always never-ending room for improvement when dealing with criticism and rejection. I recently reviewed my list of rejections vs. actual assignments in 2009 and it was about a 75%/25% split in favor of rejections.

    One thing I’ve tried to do is not to take a lot of online babble personally. For one, email (and twitter) can be a horrible way of communicating one’s tone and so can easily be misconstrued.

    There are many times I’ve gone down a 4-5 email “almost assigned” thread with an editor only to have them flake out last minute as well, wasting time.

    Personally, I’ve learned to stay out of certain time draining online conversations as well. I’ve also got strong opinions and strong views. I just assess the situation and evaluate if it would pull away focus from more important issues.

    With time, I’ve learned to dust off the shoulder and move on civilly.

    Faaaaar from unflappable, but I’m learning how and where to focus energies.

    Reply
  4. On the street is one thing but in court is another. I’ve seen many a New York City cop lose his or her composure at trial. New York City traffic tickets are answerable at the Traffic Violations Bureau. Because the TVB does not have any plea bargaining, all not guilty plea cases end up going to trial. At trial, the officer must appear and answer questions. If you can show the officer omitted something critical or was inconsistent, you can often win. Many officers take these cases personally and can become un-nerved when asked questions about their traffic ticket, especially if you can catch them in an error or mis-statement.

    Reply
  5. I’m an editor for my full time job and have my work criticized on a regular basis. But I’ve come to look at that as a good thing. Now I see it as more collaboration than criticism.

    One time I saw Peter Soros quoted as saying that he doesn’t mind losing money so much because it’s a sign that he’s taking risks and is in the investment game.

    Similarly, when people react negatively to your writing or ideas it’s a sign that you’re putting yourself out there and you’re in the writing game.

    The person criticizing your work has given you a gift. Now you know how to make it better.

    Feeling bad about negative reactions to your work is an occupational hazard. But after you’ve had time to cool off, the best thing to do is to get right back in the game.

    Reply

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