Once upon a time, a man set out on the ocean in a small boat for a three-hour tour. The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed, if not for the courage of the fearless crew (of one) the boat would have been lost.
The boat landed on an uncharted island and the man was stranded, but alive.
Twenty years later, a larger ship happened upon the island and noticed a beautifully built town, so it sailed into the nicely appointed port and a landing party walked ashore. There waiting to greet the rescuers was the stranded sailor who had built a nice, but solitary life for himself.
“What a beautiful town you have built!” remarked the rescuers.
“Thank you, I figured if I was going to be here, I might as well be comfortable,” answered the island’s lone resident.
“I see you have a library, a school, a night club, a nice home and even a church. But we also noticed there is another church on the other side of island. Why are there two?” commented the captain of the rescue vessel.
The man shot back in a terse manner, “Oh, that was the church I used to attend.”
The story wouldn’t be nearly as funny if it was true, but every humorous story has a grain of truth contained in it, right?
This is the final post of a three part series on attitudes exhibited in publishing. Back on March 4 of this year, I started with a post about pessimism. On May 6, I wrote about fear and today, I want to comment on the most dangerous attitude of all for an author or publisher (or for that matter, agents)…arrogance.
For an author, this attitude is manifested in the form of, “I am my own favorite author.” For publishers, it is evidenced by a hyper-competitive spirit that won’t allow them to admit that they have any weakness or that another publisher might do something better than they.
Arrogance is a form of self-deception that might motivate for a short time, but inevitably leads to bitterness and isolation in an industry whose very nature is best exhibited in collaboration, between authors, authors and booksellers and between authors and publishers. Simply, in this industry, we need each other.
Focusing only on authors, here are some suggestions to avoid falling into the trap that, “I am my favorite author.”
First, read other authors in your category or genre with an eye for appreciating them, not looking to criticize. A major creative trap is where you look at another’s work and “re-write” it in your mind…instead of looking for the good in what they write. Basically, learn from other authors.
Second, regularly get together with other writers, not always to critique what they do, but to encourage each other. You’d be surprised how much personal darkness is pushed back by simply encouraging another person.
Third, intentionally have a favorite author who is not…you. Tell them. And because you have to tell them, that author must be a living competitor of yours and not some long-since-dead obscure author who is not a threat to your career.
Finally, and most important, spend some of your time promoting other writers that you enjoy. Telling your readers about other authors they might like has no negative impact on your sales, in fact, will only serve to grow your reputation. Humility seems to be a very attractive trait.
If you do these four things, I predict that the dark cloud that will eventually threaten to eclipse your writing career will blow away. The best way to fight a negative attitude or behavior is to replace it with something positive, in this case, through specific, intentional actions.
When Christ said to love others as we love ourselves, there is a command and an assumption in that statement. The assumption is that we will always love ourselves, but we need to intentionally love others. The same applies to authors.