Tuesday, Tuesday, Tuesday, yeah yeah! Feelin’ mighty good—Oops! Sorry. Had a flashback to my days in the Marine Corps. But it’s Tuesday, and everyone’s here, so let’s get into some Bolts & Nuts, shall we?
This week, I wanted to talk about being discreet. It’s been said that discretion is the better part of valor, but I’m not talking about being valorous. I’m talking about keeping your mouth shut, pure and simple.
Eventually, there’s going to come a time when you sign a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA. (I’ve heard of those!) Basically, and NDA is given to you by a third party [either a person or a company], and it says that you will keep the information you’re going to be receiving confidential until such time as they say. If you don’t, then there will be repercussions. (Hey! That sounds like a contract!) [That’s because it is, but one that only says you’re going to shut up and keep shutting up until they say so. They’ll let you know when.]
I generally don’t need an NDA in order to keep my yap shut. Some people feel better with it. It makes them feel more secure. And I can understand that sentiment. When I first started out, I was very much into NDA’s, because I just knew that someone was going to steal my ideas. [Even now, I have concepts for examples that I use in these columns that I change around, because it sounds like a good idea.] I have since calmed down a lot, because there are too many ideas floating around, and the execution of those ideas are extremely small. People are working too hard on their own ideas to steal yours, and with that in mind, I’m much more free with the utterance of my ideas. [Not truly free, but much freer.]
(What does this have to do with keeping confidentiality, Steven?)
I love the movie Clue. You’ve got a Sweet Transvestite, Lenny, Elizabeth, Dr. Brown, and more. [I’m hoping most of you got those references.] I love it. In one scene, Wadsworth turns to Colonel Mustard and asks, “Can you keep a secret?” The colonel replies in the affirmative, moving in closer to hear the secret. Wadsworth then says, “So can I,” and steps away. Funny.
Confidentiality is about keeping secrets. About someone telling you something and you keeping the information to yourself, either because the information will be released later for someone’s betterment, or the information will be used to help you make an informed decision.
I have all sorts of information that flows to me, and that information will continue to flow because I’ve learned the lesson of keeping my mouth shut. If I didn’t know how to shut the hell up, I wouldn’t be seen as a trustworthy person, and information would stop flowing to me.
What type of information am I talking about?
Personal peccadilloes, publisher contracts, preview artwork, scripts, marketing plans, and more. Do you know what can be done with this type of information?
Let’s say you know something about Graeme McFreelancer, and share that info with another writer, Eric Pluribus Unum. The info you give to Unum about McFreelancer could be the difference between Unum hiring McFreelancer or not. Or imagine you were able to get ahold of a publisher’s contract, one you were considering going with. Think you might want to think again after seeing their terms?
Information given to you in confidence must be kept. Notice my wording here. I’ll say it again, because it is important. Information given to you in confidence must be kept.
Here’s the deal: if you go blabbing all around about how you have information on such and such, as well as how you got it, then you will be seen as a damned dirty blabber by your contemporaries [notice, I didn’t say “peers”], and the source(s) that you got your info from will dry up, possibly getting in trouble themselves for releasing info to someone they weren’t supposed to.
Being a damned dirty blabber is a great way to get people pissed at you, and for you to make sure you make no headway in comics, no matter your talent.
Like I said, I have a flow of and access to information that I don’t speak of, because that information is useful to me.
This is the real reason why you see very few people speaking candidly on subjects you very much want to know about. They’ll hint and tease, or they’ll speak around it, or come at it sideways, but they won’t tackle it head on. It could be timing, it could be an NDA, it could be something that’s detrimental to a person. The next time you read an interview or a press release, keep in mind what’s being said, as well as what isn’t.
So, in closing, I’m going to give you a piece of very useful, very candid advice. Something you’ll have to take to heart. Ready?
Shut the hell up.
Don’t say you were never told.
No homework this week. Enjoy it.