A Fresh Perspective

My last blog post was entitled Good Things Take Time, however at one stage it was going to be called Staring Up at Mount Doom… 

Get the feeling I was having a bad day? A glass-half-empty-kind-of-day?  I was struggling to find time to write, I was tired and I hadn’t blogged for a few days.  I should have gone to bed early, caught up on some sleep and started fresh the next morning, but in my infinite wisdom I decided I needed to blog.  In fact, not only did I need to do it, but I would stay up until it was posted…

Two hours later, I’d penned a postcard from the Dead Marshes; bleak, miserable and impossible to end on a positive note.  Even so I almost published it just so I could tick it off my ‘to do’ list.  Fortunately, my over-tired brain still had a finger-hold on commonsense, and I decided to sleep on it.  I’m really glad I did.

Because if it’s a good idea to think before you speak, surely you should think twice as hard before writing it down and offering to the world.  With that in mind, I thought I’d share some questions I ask myself, before I publish (or send out) anything in writing:

1. What do I really want to say?

Sometimes what we say isn’t what we really mean.  Crazy isn’t it.  But looking back over that first draft, it read as though things had become too hard and I was giving up.  Yet what I’d wanted to say was – sometimes things take a long time. It can be frustrating, but if you have the right goal it’s worth it.  Not giving up – but going on, building writing muscles, and persevering.

2. Does what I’ve written reflect what I want to say?

“Of course it does – that’s why I wrote it!” That might be totally true – this is after all just a self-check.  But it never hurts to make sure you haven’t gone off on a tangent (or a rant).

3. How’s the tone?

Tone is super-important.  Get it right and you make a great connection.  Get it wrong and you may find yourself buried beneath a mountain of trolls.

A good friend of mine told me that if she comes across a blog post where the author seems to be whining, she just skips over it.  Sometimes we all need encouragement – that’s a different thing altogether.  But there are some tones that aren’t attractive;  whining, ranting, lecturing, discouraging, negative…  Wouldn’t you much rather read encouraging, uplifting, thought-provoking, challenging, positive or humorous prose?

4. Am I burning bridges?

I was reading a blog the other day where the author was making some really great comments about changes within the publishing industry.  For the most part it was upbeat, positive and lets-head-off-into-the-future-together.  However there was also a real thread of hurt, resentment and a sense of slamming a door against one sector of the industry.

Of course I can understand her hurt – and respect her determination and drive to achieve the level of success she has. This writing industry is hard and half the battle is accepting that and working out a publication strategy to achieve your goals. But something in the post sounded a cautionary warning too.  I don’t want to burn bridges, or take sides in this industry.  Times are changing and at some point someone who isn’t in a position to work with me now, may be in years to come.  I’d like to keep that option open.

5. How am I perceived?

There are some agents I have no desire to query.  I’ve followed them online and I have a perception they might not have the kind of personality I can easily relate to.  They might be great at what they do, but perception is a strong motivator.  On the flip side, I’m subject to the same evaluation process.  If people perceive me as prickly, demanding or hard to work with, it’s more likely they’ll walk away before they do anything on my behalf.  However if I’m the kind of person to pay it forward, build relationships and be respectful, people might give me the benefit of the doubt.

6. Have I given it enough time?

If I know I have to pitch next Wednesday at 2pm, is it a good idea to start writing that pitch on Wednesday morning?  Probably not.  It would be wise to work on that pitch, practice it, get feedback and check the timing well before the day.  This holds true for blogging, sending query letters, responding to emails, tweets, or any other form of communication.  If you haven’t got enough time to consider your words, or run a proper spell-check, you could be shooting yourself in the foot.  I’ve heard of people, through sheer nerves, who have misspelt their key characters names and even the word query when sending out query letters.  It’s easy to do, but take a deep breath and think am I ready to send this out?  Or would it benefit from sitting for a few days?

7. Am I being professional?

Writing is a passion, but I hope at some point in time it will also become a source of income.  I hope to find other people to invest time, skills and money into my writing projects.  I think they will be more likely to do so if I’m professional.  They will know they can rely on me to conduct myself well, meet deadlines and work as hard as I can at my end to produce a high-quality product.  I hope they will find me easy to deal with, personable and reliable.  I want to be that dream client.

Treat people how you want to be treated – and if there is a problem, deal with it gracefully.  A lecturer once told me, “Our reputations are the most valuable things we have.”  I agree.

8. Is this getting worse, not better?

There is a point in time, where continuing to work on something only makes it worse not better.  Learn to recognise that point and walk away.  You’d be better off sleeping, relaxing or going for a walk.  I’ve learned this the hard way.

We all have bad days, I prefer to let them go and move on.  That’s a whole lot easier when they are not floating around the internet for anyone to stumble across.

How about you?  Have you decided to hold off on posting or replying, and were glad you did?  Or have you written something you later regretted? I’d love to hear your thoughts on my list!

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6 thoughts on “A Fresh Perspective

  1. Once upon a time I must admit to having written a hasty and perhaps slightly terse (personal) email to someone… and almost instantly regretted pressing send so I can relate to this 100%. Suffice to say that I had to do some back peddling to smooth things over but it all worked out in the end. But I definitely learnt my lesson. Letting our emotions rule what we publish is unprofessional and emails, blogs, tweets and social media etc are definitely not the place for this.
    I spread my blog posting over a few nights – simply because I don’t have large blocks of time to devote to doing it in one sitting. This however works to my advantage of being able to review my post a few times. Your reminder to stay positive is an excellent one – it is hard not to get bogged down in the struggle of trying to juggle our writing with our lives. 🙂

    1. There’s nothing like learning the hard way (so many times that’s the way I seem to learn…). The hardest thing is when people read things into texts / emails that you didn’t mean. I’m fairly new to the online writing community and I’m loving being in contact with others who understand the writing / life struggle. Thanks for commenting!

  2. I have always had a knack for saying things directly. I know this, and frequently strive to soften whatever I am about to say to avoid the perception that anything I am saying which is negative will be viewed as being an ad hominem attack. Keep that in mind as the background for what I am about to say.

    Once, in the context of work (my day job in the IT world, where I get a decent salary for my efforts, not to be confused with volunteer work or writing which I do in my spare time), I had to send a note telling someone that they couldn’t have what they were asking for but presenting multiple viable alternatives. I knew that these folks would likely be upset about their request being denied (they weren’t even flat out denied, they were actually told “make your request for an application enhancement through the traditional channels of product management rather than just asking the nearest developer to do it for you”). Because I knew they would be upset, I had the note reviewed by our product manager and project manager (the two folks in charge of my time and the product under discussion). They both said the note was good and to send it, so I did.

    Two weeks later I got called into a manager’s office and chewed out. Apparently, even though I had multiple people review the note, the recipient perceived me as slighting him and complained to his boss which started an email chain that went all the way up to his VP who then talked to the VP over my division and it came all the way back down to me with an admonition that I should have had the note reviewed before sending it. Seriously.

    The lesson I learned from all of that (which is probably not the lesson they wanted me to learn) is to be honest without being mean and if somebody else doesn’t like what I say/write, I don’t worry that much about it anymore, because no matter what I do to try to fix it, whiners are whiners.

  3. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how politely you phrase it people will take it the wrong way – especially if you’re saying no. (My husband works in IT and it seems to be a common phenomena). These days I tend to work on the presumption – if my conscience is clear and I’m misconstrued – there’s not much more I can do about it. However if I’m in an emotionally weak position (tired, stressed etc) I do tend to self monitor a bit more.

    It sounds like you did all the right things and still got bitten. I must say I’m not missing the corporate world right now…

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