Monday, March 12, 2012

In Praise of Insanity -- Writer Style

A friend told me about a novel she’s reading where the heroine – who happens to be a book editor – comments that all writers are crazy.

I remember hearing variations on that remark back in my own book editor days. When I began on that side of the business and was still trying to fit in I kept my mouth shut on those occasions. Further on in I had a stock response.

“I’m a writer and I’m crazy for sure.”

At first that was just a comeback accompanied by an unbalanced leer. Then it became a point of pride. Eventually I grew to recognize it as a declaration of necessity. How could any of us do this thing from the middle lane of the mental road?

Our best work is accomplished in an altered state. Sometimes we occupy the consciousness and life specifics of a being not ourselves – human or otherwise. Always we are lifted out of what non-writers consider the reality of daily time and space.

Also – many of us tend toward the emotional extremes of experience at least part of the time. That is only a bad idea when we forget to write down the details and dialogue afterward.

To be fair to those who doubt the stability of a writer’s wits – it’s tough for a civilian to understand that we sometimes do our work by staring blank faced at the wall. Such are the delights of being divinely deranged.

There is another side however to this shiny coin. And that’s the reason I resent editorial comments about authorial madness. It is the editor’s world after all that dominates the non-shiny side.

If anything can drive anybody to distraction – and not in a good way – that thing is the publishing business. I won’t attempt to list the crazy-making scenarios running rampant there. I would have to write a book length post and then some.

Suffice to say this. Any setup that renders an adult professional pretty much powerless over her work life pretty much most of the time is unhinging to the max.

All of us who wander the winding byways of the writers’ community get this basic truth. Enduring publishing world crap is the price we pay for admission to the ya-ya scribblerhood. Mostly we wade through and scribble on and love what we do anyway.

What could be more lunatic than that? Or what could be more lusciously sane?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Not Quite Phone Sex - But Almost

Are your phone contacts seducing others to the cause of your career? They should be.

The phone – especially the cell – has become so constant in our lives that we are too comfortable with it too much of the time. We think we can reveal ourselves as we are to anyone in the midst of whatever moment the ringtone may interrupt.

That may be okay with a BFF. Even with a BFFN – best friend for now. It is not okay with any contact having anything to do with business. And how many contacts have nothing at all to do with business these days?

Many of our FF’s or FFN’s are writers after all. Conduits for carrying our message and our image to the community of our peers across multiple media platforms.

Let’s stick to the phone zone for now. And I’m not just talking about scripting calls to publishing pros. Anybody not outlining contacts with agents and editors in writing in advance is still at communications kindergarten.

You get what you want by knowing what you want and articulating accurately with no spasms of foot-in-mouth disease to intervene between you and your purpose. So script by all means. And don’t forget to leave space for responses between your lines.

That covers the verbal aspect – just the words ma’am. What about the attitude aspect? The backdrop against which your words are played. An out of phase stage set can undermine the most carefully crafted script.

Put together a procedure for shaping up before speaking out that will work in mid-chat as well. First the common sense stuff. What turns folks tone deaf to your tune?

How about the whiney wimp? Or a litany of losses? Or flares of fury? Or continual complaining? I have been guilty of all of these at one time or other. It is understatement to say that none proved positively productive.

Before you touch a screen or tap a button or take a bite with your blue tooth. Position yourself in the mind and mood frame that will complement your communication – which is more often than not upbeat to a fault.

The quick trick for me is deep breathing. Just a few slow deep ones and there I am. A couple more come in handy when the conversation calls for calming.

What works for you? What vaults you toward your voice with a smile? Dance steps at the desk? Telling yourself a joke or two? Staring at a photo of somebody you love? Find it. Try it. Tweak till you get it right.

Then start seducing. They’ll be so hot to hear what you have to say – your phone may melt.