I rarely say “good morning.” Usually, it’s just “morning” because I anticipate a lot of it won’t be good. Yeah, I know that sounds so pessimistic, but one must understand the environment that I frequently find myself. Some may call this a rank post, but I like to think of it as a learning experience/tips post. Now, I will frame this as it pertains to writing, but these tips can be used in any area of life.
For persons hoping to become writers or established authors who may be feeling burnt out, it is critical to surround yourself by positivism. This includes a peaceful surroundings or environment. “Peaceful” means different things for different people. Some people require white noise/background chatter. Others prefer complete silence. While still others prefer the music of different genres or a person’s talking. For the longest, the first thing I did when arriving home from work or waking on a weekend was to flip on the television to hear voices. The silence drove me bonkers. A colleague lived on a busy street. He frequently worked on his balcony among the honking horns, dogs barking, and speeding cars. That is what he finds calming. Your writing environment should be one that allows you to be the most productive.
Don’t argue with folks who just don’t get you. This may be advised to take. If you’re like me, I always think certainly, I can engage in a reasonable conversation with everyone. But the sad truth is, that isn’t possible. I like to think about the conversation between Andy Dufresne and Red in the 1994 award-winning The Shawshank Redemption where Red explains to Andy (SPOILER ALERT!!!) why Brooks Hatlen committed suicide. Red uses the word institutionalization to describe the mentality a person develops after being in the same environment for an extended period of time. He explains how Brooks is unable to function in the outside world because he is has become accustomed to sameness. The same can be said about the writing world.
Most publishers and editors are professionals and have years of knowledge and experience. However, they are people, and times change. If a writer disagrees with a publisher or editor, don’t waste time bashing or arguing with them. Move on. They are not a good fit for that writer. Writers need to connect with their publishers and editors. That does not mean they have to be friends on a personal level. It does mean they need a working relationship and professional curtsey. If publishers always are correct, none would have rejected manuscripts by Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Dr. Seuss.
I frequently hear co-workers argue using rogue, circular logic. They say things like “That’s just how it is,” “It’s always been done that way,” and “I’m just following what everyone else does.” To me, that logic is dangerous. Not only does it prevent growth, it allows any imperfections or flaws to continue to exist. It fails to correct wrongs. In writing, it can lead to the oversaturation of a market. Remember when zombie books were all the rage? Standout books and movies were created using this subject/theme, and then other less stellar works were put out there to hop on the money train before it headed into the station out of steam. It became less about quality and focused on a quick buck. Good works in other genres were being pushed aside to make room for the cash-cow trend. Some writers who received rejection letters took personal offense and bashed the publishers and editors. That solved nothing.
Sometimes what happens isn’t fair. Sometimes, people are stuck in a modern institutionalization. It does not have to be a mental ward or a prison for this phenomenon to occur. Any industry that has many like-minded people supervising and never questioning policy or practices are at risk for developing an environment capable of producing institutionalization. Does every policy and procedure need to be questioned? Of course, not. That would be foolish. Should trends not occur? Trends will always occur. It is when matters become prolonged or extreme that problems are created. But when encountering a person who is in a position of power or supervision, sometimes it is best to find another person to deal with. This may mean changing jobs or employment. It could mean shopping around for a different editor or publisher or venturing into self-publishing.
The cravat here is that before moving on, one must have solid evidence that it is advantageous to break the old ties. If a situation is temporary, it may be worth it to wait it out. Or perhaps the supervisor will retire or transfer into another position. Maybe a new market will open or a trend will end. Some writers decide to jump in and trend chase, which can be disastrous if the trend one is chasing isn’t one that he/she is passionate about, but it’s an option. If what is being done is unethical, morally reprehensible, or illegal, one definitely should consider alternative options. If a person has other opportunities available, then consider taking those. No need missing out on something that could possibly benefit to stick around for something that makes one unhappy. I was asked when one goes with the flow “who does it hurt?” Well, I can think of plenty of people. It’s the old adage: if you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
There are plenty of publishers and editors out there. When a publisher or editor rejects a work, there may be nothing intrinsically wrong with the work. It may be a difference of opinion or a lack of confidence in what they think they are able to market and sell. But take solace in there being a market for everyone and everything. A “no” is not a dead-end but a detour. If you believe in your idea/story, that’s what counts. You do not need to convince the entire world of your worthiness. You do you, and the universe will fall into place around you. My motto at work is if someone does not want or respect my opinion, they do not get it. This usually upsets them because it comes to a point where my opinion is requested or needed. I like to use the line, “Nah, bro, you had your chance.” (BTW, I have no idea where I heard that line.)
Think for yourself and do not fear to be original. One of the easiest things for people to do is to stamp out the light of hope and creativity in another person. My parents unintendedly used to do this. I would ask for something, say a particular toy, and my parents would inform me that I didn’t want it. No, they didn’t want to buy it. I would have received the refusal easier if they had said to me that I didn’t “need” the toy. Instead, they projected their opinions onto me, and I was expected to accept it without question. As a young child, I did not have the language to voice my objection to the devaluing of my opinion and feelings. The unspoken message was that I shouldn’t think for myself. Looking back, as a teen, I encountered more self-doubt because of this, and sometimes, as an adult, it continues to be a struggle. There is a need to compare me to others and to seek validation. To me, this is unhealthy, and I must check myself when I do this. Not following the status quo may take one longer to reach the destination point, but likely the payout is greater and one does it on his/her own terms. However, there does not need to be a royal brawl or a nuclear war along the way. Keep calm and collect. Stick to your guns without being overly aggressive, arrogant, or insulting. Agree to disagree without incident and keep trucking.
On a similar note, shop around and do not accept the first offer because it’s the only offer. Let’s be real. Beginning and getting a foot in the door may be rough and frustrating. It may be tempting to jump at a contract but stop before sighing. Is it a good contract? This isn’t always about money. New writers or employees usually can expect to be paid much less than established writers and employees. If it’s a new business or publisher, they may not be able to afford to pay a lot. But set aside money for a moment and look at the rest of the deal. For writers, one should question who retains the rights to your work? Some contracts require authors to be exclusive to them or they have first dibs on the next project. A colleague signed a that gave a publisher the right to produce his work for ten-years. His complaint wasn’t about the contract duration. It was when he took a second look, he realized that he could not use any characters or settings in that book in future novels, as they would be seen as “competing” and part of the original work. That meant no prequels, sequels, spinoffs, or anything. The publisher was not obligated to purchase future works but they could seize the money from any books/stories related to the first one. After ten years, he was told he must purchase his rights back for a ridiculous price. Having a lawyer look over a contract truly is worth considering.
Finally, all egos should be checked. Even if you’re right, you need to be the bigger person. Professional reputation is everything. As my father said, when someone has what you need, you must be humble. Usually, every problem has multiple solutions and most are nonconfrontational and peaceful. Take your time to investigate all options before deciding. Being correct is not always the most important. Maintaining integrity and professionalism is.
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