Yes, I am powerful.
Well, Borders has finally succumbed to the inevitable and is now headed toward liquidation. Pundits of every kind are now chiming in on how this is a sign of the demise of books and the book industry. All authors are supposed to be scared and ready to give up the dream of publishing a best-selling novel. Well, I disagree.
Barnes & Noble seems to still be doing fine. Amazon is still considered a great seller of books. Even used bookstores still thrive. What that says to me is the demise of Borders has more to do with their poor business model and inability to adapt to the changing environment of how books are marketed and sold. For example, they helped in the squashing of many independent booksellers by offering more titles at an equal or better price in a “cool new environment” to buy books. Then they backed away from mimicking small bookstores and focused their attention on only shelving best sellers and well-known names. The audience that enjoys that unique voice in the publishing industry, the one that isn’t a best seller yet still had a home at small stores, was pushed to online orders only. So basically, Borders helped eliminate competition and then stopped filling the niche their competition was known for. Stupid, stupid move.
Then to top it off, they failed to have a positive online image to compete with Amazon or their other big box store competition of Barnes & Noble. So, by failing to compete with their main competition online, with digital books, or even compete with the small stores they helped to almost eliminate, Borders sealed their own fate. As I writer am I concerned?
People still read books. Whether it be in digital or print format, society still craves the written word to take them away to a new land. Most movies made today that are not remakes are based off of books. So, even if people prefer movies, they still need books to base those movies off of–which then usually boosts sales of those books. (the most successful movie franchise in history is based on a series of books–Harry Potter)
The demise of Borders only means that more people will now join the oversized ranks of the unemployed in America. And it may mean the chance for the independent and personal bookstore to rise again. Oh, and I may also be able to pick up a few bestsellers at a discount during the liquidation sale.
I apologize for the silence. There are a lot of things changing around here and not much time left in the day for anything. If you will please bear with me, I plan on returning to the blog soon and will offer things for you to read then. Until that time, continue in your endeavours and good luck with your efforts.
Working in my cognitive therapy book I came across a “form of twisted thinking” that reminded me of something I read in a Danny Kaye biography. To paraphrase, Kaye said that an artist is always scared because they come by what they do so naturally that they can’t believe the adulation given to them. That they actually wait in fear of being discovered for the fraud they really are. The form of “twisted thinking” I came across is called Discounting the Positive. That is when you reject positive experiences by insisting they don’t count. For example, if you do a good job, you tell yourself that it wasn’t good enough or that anyone could have done as well. Discounting the Positive takes joy out of life and makes one feel inadequate or unrewarded.
Discounting the Positive made me think of the Danny Kaye quote because in many ways that is how an artist feels. I know I come by my ability to write so naturally that it amazes me to hear others tell me they can’t do it. Now I know I’m no Pulitzer prize novelist, but I can still sling a series of words together to make a cohesive if not entertaining read. That is something I’ve always thought everyone could do and the only reason everyone wasn’t a novelist was out of choice and lack of desire. After all, not everyone likes to read, so why would everyone enjoy writing.
It wasn’t until I ventured into the world of writers and began sharing my work with others that I realized not everyone can do what I do, and many others can do it so much better than me. I have a lot to learn as an author, about my craft and myself in the face of my art. Still, there remains my motivation and the things which hamper my production. All of these affect my art in some way, yet none are as detrimental as my inability to accept that I can do what it is I set out to in words. If I don’t believe in myself, if I don’t feel that what I do is special and intrinsically mine, then I risk walking away from my dream.
I know this cognitive therapy can help me overcome my fears of inadequacy and failure in everyday life. But I also believe that it will help me quell the beast that has eaten so many artists in the past. As much as it would be great to attain the ranks of Poe and Hemingway, I do not want to be slayed by the same beast that took them before they were too old to write.
Three days after getting back from Penguicon and I’m still processing a lot of the information I learned. It amazes me, that as long as I’ve been writing that there is so much I can still learn. Also, that no matter how much some professional authors know, they can still be humble enough to learn something and share in the conversation with both questions and answers.
The basics are called the basics because that is where the foundation of storytelling begins. Sometimes we forget to work on the basics and to keep them fresh in our heads. One of the most enlightening panels I went to was about such basics. “Turning off the Inner Editor” opened my eyes to some of the things I’ve been doing to hinder my writing. The basic premise of ‘write what you know’ and ‘just get it on the page’ are old mantras I try to stick to. But that inner perfectionist often has other ideas. Why, I remember taking one year just to get through four chapters of one book. At that pace, I ended up wasting a lot of time perfecting prose that later had to be cut in order to preserve the overall story arc. Not time well spent. NYT best-selling author Brandon Sanderson recommends writing from beginning to end with little time spent looking back until the piece is finished. Even Jim C. Hines agreed that it was very important to push on to the end of the story before trying to fix the beginning, since often the beginning is normally cut or changed to work with the ending. To me this was a revelation. All these years, as stated earlier, I’ve perfected each chapter as I’ve went re-working and re-drafting as I moved forward. And now I see why my last book took me ten years to complete.
The importance of critique groups was another wonderful panel me and many others from my writer’s group attended. We all found it informative enough we gleaned some ideas on how to make our group better. We also had many laughs at the expense of our roughest cut member who conveniently missed the part of the panel where they discussed how to be nice when critiquing.
The comradely amongst fans and authors amazed me. As I’ve stated on here before, writing is a very solitary profession and I’m very reclusive by nature. To be surrounded by so many people who are so accepting and supportive allowed me to walk amongst a group of people with little tension or negative thoughts from my social anxiety disorder. Brandon Sanderson was kind enough to watch my things while I ran up to my room–no judgement or harsh statements did he make. Something I would never have expected in any other environment or around other people.
If you ever get the chance to attend a Sci-Fi convention then I hope you do. There is so much to learn and even more to see. The variety and quality of costumes surpass anything I’ve seen in a nonprofessional environment. And as stated before, the friendliness amongst those who share the same passion about genre is unsurpassed.
As the days unwind, I find that some goals are harder to keep than others. After seeing how far behind on my writing I’ve fallen, I vowed to work at least an half-hour a night on my writing. This was wonderful for about two or three weeks. Some days, I worked directly on my short stories or the new novel, while other times, I whiled away an hour or so at work on editing for my Writer’s Group.
Needless to say, eventually something happened here and there, so I skip this night, then that night, and now every night of working on my writing. My wife tries to be encouraging and usually urges me to get on the writing as she heads to bed. (I usually stay up at least an hour later than her) At times, she does forget to urge me and I forget to urge myself.
Like most artists, I suffer from lack of urgency and often the lack of inspiration that drives one to the keyboard to write. Sometimes, it’s the self-doubt that what I do is even worth the effort. Lately, I’ve been beating the latter excuse, but still succumbing to the former. Back when I made my vow to write every night my sense of urgency had been re-invigorated by the success of those around me. For the first time in my life, I rubbed elbows with established and productive writers. Now, I still rub elbows on occasion. And the bi-weekly meetings I have with the group still keeps me inspired. But my own lethargy is still there.
So many things need be taken care of during the day, that at day’s end I often just want to sit and not be responsible for anymore things. I want to sit and vegetate. Sitting there is stagnation though. Stagnation is death. So in essence, if I don’t get my butt in gear and return to working on my book and my stories, then my writing career that I long for is DEAD.
Just the thought disturbs me to my core. My schedule is clearing up soon. Many of the extra responsibilities that have been hampering my efforts and draining me of energy are soon to be completed. The extra time I’ve given these requirements I want to redirect to my writing. The times I’ve had to get a babysitter to do these things, I now think I will get a babysitter so that I can write.
An added goal for me this year, is to sell one or more written works by the end of the year. My craft is honed and being honed more through my Writer’s Group. There are no more excuses for me to not yet be published, except my lack of effort.
One thing I’ve noticed as I continue to work more and more on my craft, is the different things that jump out at me. When I first started writing, I only noticed some of the hooks and tropes that other writers used. Rarely did I find the humor in the venting of an editor; rather I learned from the mistakes they vented about.
Now, I still learn from editors and agents venting, but I also laugh and laugh at the things they say. Sometimes, I see myself in those mistakes and know that I too am guilty. Other times, it just amazes me at how daft, clueless, or egomaniacal writers can be. For example, I don’t care for Ann Rice’s style and choose not to read her. But not in a million years would I tell her editor that I “write ten times better than that overrated hack” and they should print me instead. Nor, would I preach from my soup box about the great conspiracy the large printing houses have against new writers as a way of endearing myself to a small house.
Once, I did address a letter to an agency as if I were sending it to a publishing house and even went as far to say that I looked forward to their acceptance to ‘publish’ my novel. The crass rejection letter I received was well deserved. Several rules were broken that showed my lack of professionalism. One, was the form letter I used to inquire with this agent–form letters should never be used when trying to impress someone. Second, I executed the act so halfheartedly, that I managed to send my publisher form letter to an agent rather than my agent form letter. Third, I didn’t bother to make sure I was even following their specific guidelines and proved I ignored such important detail by using a somewhat obvious form letter.
Some might say, that with the great mass of letters we need to mail and with the great number of form letters we are going to receive in response, that it is just fine to give the agent/editor back what little consideration they give us writers. These things I know to be falsehoods. The agent/editors I’ve been fortunate enough to meet face-to-face prove to me time and time again that they give full consideration to every letter they receive. They want unknown writers to succeed. Every successful writer they find or discover helps them earn money; while every lazy or unprofessional author that blames everyone else for their lack of preparation or professionalism only waists the agent/editor’s time.
I know there is a lot of disappointment out there and I definitely have my share of rejection letters. There is no room for making excuses when it comes to advancing toward one’s dream and honing one’s art. It does lighten the load when someone on the other side, one who must do all the rejecting, shares their frustrations and aggravations with us. It reminds us that we are all human and we are also all in this together. Yes, you might be tired of getting the form letter that says you’re not good enough yet, but agent/editors are also tired of getting romance queries when they ask for horror or told that the writer is the next Stephen King yet they can see half the words in the letter are misspelled.
I guess, what I am trying to say is that the deeper I dive into this world that is my craft, the more I see things differently. The more I see things differently, the more I understand that rejection letters are not rejection, but encouragement to get better and show them what the next Stephen King or Ann Rice can really do.
It is sad to think of yet another book store going under, but it is equally nice to think that a market is re-opening for an independent bookstore. Almost everything is sold through some form of a “big box store” now a days. The one of a kind stores that share a personality with their owners seem virtually gone and hard to find.
Don’t get me wrong, I love going into a Borders or Barnes & Noble store just to walk around for hours, perusing the books until I find just the one I can’t leave without. Still, the lack of individuality these stores have compared to the very few privately owned stores I’m able to venture in, is staggering. After a while, some of the employees at the big stores do get to recognize you and offer a little bit of personalized service if you’re consistently nice to them, but the stores themselves are sterile and too identical. They often remind me of the mis-happened love child between a grocery store and a library.
Of the few (due to their location) Independent bookstores I patronize, and though my infrequent visits prevent them from always recognizing me, they still strive to give me the best personalized service every single time I go in. I’ve even learned of authors and trends that were before unknown to me, because the small shop employee was so much more learned than the college student trying to pay off his student loans at the big store.
Alas, with Amazon and the internet becoming so much more capable, the limitations that once prevented small stores from getting the merchandise of the big stores is mostly gone. Even small presses are finding it easier to distribute more widely, thus enabling more and more stores to carry them. This strengthens the possibilities of the Independent Book store. As much as I don’t like to think about all the people that’ll be put out of work when the grocery store of book sellers goes under, it does warm my heart to know that the struggling Family Owned store now has a better chance to survive as a great place to go for personal service and great books.
It’s funny for me to think , that when I was a kid I looked toward snow days from school as a chance to play and frolic in a winter wonderland. Then as an adult, I learned to lament snow days as a lost opportunity to earn money and meet my budget.
Now, as the big storm bears down upon us, schools announce closing before first flake even falls and work talks about the possibility of shutting down. No longer in shape for frolicking in the snow and having no concern for lost income since I earn commission anyway, I look forward to spending time with my family and more importantly writing.
Yes, if I’m to be buried to my door in snow drifts and ill weather unable to follow my normal routine, then I’m going to make the most of it. It might not be for the whole day, but at least during parts of the day, I will pluck away at the keyboard. In the quiet of a blizzard many characters come out to play.
A little over ten years ago, a huge storm snowed me in on New Years Eve. That night and the following day, I made great headway on the book I was writing. I think even a short story revealed itself then. Unlike now, I lived alone and had no distractions from my craft. Alas, I cannot allow this opportunity to pass.
Work used to be a good place to pluck away at a story until the environment changed and I’m interrupted far too often to follow a train of thought. The days of hanging out at the mall food court or in some restaurant hogging a table a plug for my laptop ended when I entered into a relationship. So chances to write in the day are rare to say the least.
Tomorrow will be a wonderful and refreshing change to say the least.
Keeping up a blog is hard for us reclusive types. Finding things to talk about can sometimes be tricky, but the real mountain to climb is bringing oneself to sit down and do it.
Recently, I’ve been procrastinating about a zombie story I’m working on. The usual forms of delay, such as putting everything in life first, even stupid time wasters like Facebook and the day job. Anyway, that means I’ve fallen behind on my blogging too. Even though there has been a lot of political things happening I would love to discuss, that is not for this venue. I know a lot is going on in the publishing world to; alas no details have found their way under the rock I crawled under.
In a little while, I hope to offer more to you faithful reader. Til then, enjoy all the things I’ve not really said a lot about.