Patrick O’Neil is the author of the memoir Gun, Needle, Spoon and an excerpted in part French translation titled: Hold-Up (13e Note Editions). His writing has appeared in numerous publications including Juxtapoz, Salon, The Weeklings, Fourteen Hills, The Nervous Breakdown, and Razorcake.
Patrick is a contributing editor for the NYC-to-California-transplant-post-beat-pre-apocalyptic art, writing, and music anthology: Sensitive Skin Magazine. He is a regular contributor to the recovery website: AfterPartyMagazine, a two-time nominee for Best Of The Net, and a PEN Center USA Professional and Mentor. Starting in 2017, Patrick will be the Coordinator for Why There Are Words, a Los Angeles reading series.
Patrick holds an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles where he is an instructor for the inspiration2publication program. Patrick also teaches creative writing classes at various rehabs, and facilitates private writing workshops.
In today’s “Interview,” I asked him if he’d ever had to work with someone who didn’t like him.
I did, he told me. I worked with an editor that I think thought less of me because of who I was [as a former criminal who’d been incarcerated] and looked down on me because of that. And I don’t think I am making this up. He said some really harsh things about my writing to me. He told me I was taking literary shortcuts, I didn’t know what I was doing and I should take a few writing classes even though I had in an MFA. And I had to swallow it up because I wanted to work with him. It really taught me acceptance and how to be a little more humble with my writing. Because I can get a really big head; I can think I am the best thing out there and it’s hard to deal with people who are critical from a different point of view. It’s really easy to get a lot of cheerleaders that are saying, “Oh this is great, you’re really brave, you’re doing these amazing things” but there are people out there that come instead from the place of “I don’t like your subject, I probably don’t care for you as a person, I don’t care for the type of genre you’re doing.” And when you run into that, it’s really interesting to reinvent—or not necessarily reinvent but just recalculate what you’re doing so that you have a broader audience.
Everybody can’t like you. I want everybody to like me but they’re not going to. And if you work with an editor, even if they don’t like you, they’re never going to make your work bad. I had an editor once who just red lined everything and I thought, “Oh my God, she is ruining my work.” And then I said, “Okay, I am just going to go with it.” And I went through all her suggestions and the piece was faster, quicker, and more to the point.
When I did my book, my editor cut off huge pieces of it and it was like, “This part of your life, you don’t need to talk about it.” I thought, “Well, wait a minute,” but it still made the book better.