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.
Great advice. As I’ve learned over the years, life is sweeter when I don’t make it all about me.
Great thoughts—pessimism, fear, arrogance—killers. I don’t know how many times I’ve called to mind the opening sentence of Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life”: “It’s not about you.”
One of my favorite quotes is by Mickey Mantle directed towards Joe Pepitone: “If I could buy him for what he is worth, and then sell him for what he thinks he’s worth, I would be a millionaire.”
The Bible says we are not to think more highly of ourselves than we should. Pride is one of the biggest sins, while humility is one of the best traits a Christian can have.
Who would ever think humility is as important to a writer as a good thesaurus? Wonderful food for thought, Dan.
Steve, I was just talking with my husband last night about how I feel drawn towards agents/agencies who have a humble and flexible spirit. The agents who seem driven and competitive make me uneasy. I think I’d never feel like I measured up. It’s good to be challenged and stretched–but not discounted.
Blessings ~ Wendy ❀
Oops! Sorry, Dan, for addressing you by the wrong name. Thank you for reminding us that we are called to walk, talk, and write in Christ’s love. ❀
Wonderful post, Steve. You remind me of a Lloyd Ogilvie quote I’ve always loved: “Never let your world be bounded on all four sides by the perpendicular pronoun . . . ‘I.'”
Good reminders here, thanks, Dan! I really do think the bottom line is that there is room for all of us….we each have unique stories to tell, with our own passions and skills that we bring to them. Even if the subject is the same, say, a young person enters a heretofore unknown school for wizards, you can come out with two completely different books. Namely Harry Potter (JK Rowling) and The Magicians (Lev Grossman). I remind myself of that when I get competitive or covet another’s success. Besides, it’s kinda fun to encourage someone else, don’t you think?
What a great post, Dan. When I taught students years ago, I used to have this quote up on one of my classroom walls: “Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?” I think about that when my attitude is just plain ugly.
One quality every writer needs is humility. When we are humble in receiving accolade and in receiving criticism, it speaks more loudly to others. When I think enough about others, it’s easier to praise and encourage them, to promote them. In this business, it comes back around anyway. So much more is gained when I can keep my eyes off myself and what I want and looking for ways to uplift others on this same path.
Loved your four suggestions. I need to implement a couple of them. Thanks, Dan!
This is a wonderful blog. Following this, I can expect not only to become a professional, but a better writer as well. Thanks.
Ouch . . .and thank you. I’m pretty sure I needed to read this today, Dan. Thank you for sharing truth with love.
Thank you for this post. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.