Making Decisions for Others

Because book publishing is surrounded by semi-regular failure, no matter if you are an agent, author, or publisher, the ability to deal with adversity is a defining characteristic of anyone who is successful in it.

It’s a lot like baseball, where a high level of failure and adversity are part of any successful player or team.

Tonight is the major league baseball All-Star Game in Washington, DC. Some of the best players in the world will be on display. Many of them were told early in their careers they would never amount to anything and they should quit.

They didn’t.

Successful baseball hitters succeed 30-40% of the time, which means they fail 60-70% of the time.

Successful baseball teams might lose 40% of their games. The only way to survive a full season of 162 games is by keeping some measure of perspective. They don’t get too confident or too discouraged.

I think it’s why so many people like baseball. It is a metaphor for so much of life in general.

Everyone makes judgments about themselves and others. In fact, at one time or another, everyone makes decisions for other people, and I am not referring to authoritarian situations where we take charge and mandate some sort of behavior as a parent, supervisor, or leader.

At the core of publishing is making decisions for other people:

“The reader will never go for this.”

“They won’t like this cover.”

“They will love this book!”

It’s soft decision-making when we pre-decide how another person will react to something we do or create. We project either our confidence or lack of it onto someone else and in many cases, we are wrong in our assessment of the situation.

Agents make decisions for others when we decide which editors might like a certain proposal and are often surprised by their reactions.

An obvious choice of a proposal to just the right editor at the perfect publisher is met with ambivalence…at best. A quick “no thank you” within hours or days of sending the proposal surprises even the most experienced agent.

“They were supposed to like this!”

On the other hand, an editor included in the mix as an afterthought since it isn’t the type of book they usually acquire, is met with excitement and an offer to publish within a short time.

Part of this process is making a decision for someone else. And sometimes we are wrong.

Some reading this post might be feeling emotionally down as they made a decision for others by deciding not to send out a written project because, “no one will like it anyway.”  So, you keep it on your hard drive and there it sits.

Making decisions for others is a safe way to live. It takes some level of risk-tolerance to send something to people you don’t know and accept whatever comes from doing it.

Some obstacles before us can only be defeated by courage, relentless effort, and good old-fashioned toughness.

In a simple level of biblical application, scripture often refers to spiritual growth in tough, less-than-spiritual sounding terms.

Iron sharpening iron.

Fire purifying gold.

Trials building perseverance.

Running in such a way as to win the race.

Still, I don’t recall too many workshops at writer’s conferences titled, “Quit whining and move on.”

Successful authors don’t make decisions for others and choose to overcome the discouragement which invariably comes their way. They press forward with purpose, surrounding themselves with a cloud of witnesses/encouragers who give them the ability to keep going and take whatever arrows happen to fly their direction.

Maybe I’ll cover this in another post, but if you don’t already have a good cloud in your life, get one.

And by the way, the best way to get courage is to give it. When you are part of someone else’ cloud, you have a good start to one of your own.

It’s weird how this works.


31 Responses to Making Decisions for Others

  1. Avatar
    John de Sousa July 17, 2018 at 4:12 am #

    “Quit whining and move on.” I love it! I may have to post that on my office wall. For me. Thanks for the great insight!

  2. Avatar
    David Rawlings July 17, 2018 at 4:26 am #

    What a great blog post Dan, and a timely reminder.

    Fundamental stuff, but it’s getting increasingly lost in a world full of social media status updates that only focus on the positive, online photos with reality airbrushed out, a media focusing only on the “winners” and reality TV encouraging everyone to laugh at the “losers”.

    For me, one big challenge for writers is to remember the whole story when you hear things like “but someone like JK Rowling had 12 publishers reject Harry Potter”. Yes she did, but she still had to fight through them.

    • Avatar
      Tisha Martin July 17, 2018 at 5:28 pm #

      “The whole story,” David, how true. Many times we don’t have the whole story, only part of it. So … best to tight-lip and listen and learn, eh? And don’t laugh.

  3. Avatar
    kim July 17, 2018 at 5:21 am #

    Thank you Dan. 🙂

  4. Avatar
    Shirlee Abbott July 17, 2018 at 5:36 am #

    “It’s weird how this works.” Yes, Dan. God works in strange, mysterious and weird ways. Thankfully, he gives us the Holy Spirit to balance the “you gotta be kidding me” response that so quickly springs from our hearts.

  5. Avatar
    Henry McLaughlin July 17, 2018 at 6:02 am #

    Awesome post Dan. In the movie The Martian Child, John Cusack encourages his adopted son with a baseball metaphor– “If you hit the ball 3 out of 10 times, you can make it to the big leagues.” The other great line from that movie is “never, never, never, never, never, never, never give up.”
    Truly appreciate this inspiring post.

  6. Avatar
    Vanessa Burton July 17, 2018 at 6:29 am #

    Thank you for this post! With my first writer’s conference this week, it’s very encouraging!

    • Avatar
      Tisha Martin July 17, 2018 at 5:25 pm #

      I’m so glad for you, Vanessa! Welcome to the wonderful world of conferences!!

  7. Avatar
    Carol Tanksley July 17, 2018 at 6:39 am #

    One of the most helpful and “sticky” posts I’ve read in a long time. “Quit whining and move on!”
    Making decisions for others – seems like that can be a picture of pride also. If I make decisions about what others will think, I’m assuming I know them better than they do. Most of the time that’s not true. It’s humble – and smart – to thoughtfully risk putting “it” out there, and listening/watching what others think rather than assuming ahead of time.
    Valuable stuff!

  8. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 17, 2018 at 6:40 am #

    “…the best way to get courage is to give it.” So true.

    It’s not about winning. It’s about setting an example, even when no-one is watching.

  9. Avatar
    Patti Jo Moore July 17, 2018 at 8:25 am #

    Excellent post, Mr. Balow! This is going into my Keeper Files.

    Maybe writers’ conferences should offer more workshops on “Quit Whining and Move On”—I have a feeling there would be a lot of attendees. 😉

    Blessings on your day. 🙂

  10. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 17, 2018 at 8:47 am #

    At the risk of spamming the conversation, well, maybe this will help someone.

    For me, it’s not writing; it’s life. I’m four years past the date of my projected death, and feeling every one of those extra days.

    Walking is like forcing myself onto an impalement; there’s just too much pain, too much, and I’m so very, very tired.

    And what was once inspiring to those around me is now an ordeal to watch, like having ‘Alien’ on permanent repeat. I’ve been urged to let it go, enough’s enough. For me, and for them.

    But here on this forsaken plain, under the hammering sun that admits no pity, far from the slogans and songs and Scripture that once motivated and gave comfort, there is one thing left, and it’s the one thing cancer can never take.

    The next step. Just take the next step.

    Our Lord, on the Via Dolorosa, felt this. He could have quit, and though He would have been scourged again, He would have been carried to Golgotha.

    But that, you see, wasn’t His story.

    His Feet had to beat down the trail to Hell and back, so that we could follow.

    He had to endure the pain, so that He could be by our side as we scream, and we’d know He understood.

    He had to bow His Head to the blood and worse things drying on His Body, chafing His Skin, reminding Him of the frailty and occasional repugnance of the human form.

    He had to look into the eyes of those who hated Him and enjoyed the spectacle, and of those who loved Him and who just wanted the torment to end…and he had to look at them with even-handed firmness.

    “This is my path, and while what comes may be too much to bear, I can still take one more step.”

    One More Step saved the world.

  11. Avatar
    Judi Clarke July 17, 2018 at 8:51 am #

    This WOULD be a good conference workshop: plowing through discouragement. I love the line: “Some obstacles before us can only be defeated by courage, relentless effort, and good old-fashioned toughness.” Your scriptural examples of the unfluffy realities of spiritual growth – any growth, really – hit home and are good material for all of us to keep as readily available reminders. Thank you, Dan, for this post.

  12. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D July 17, 2018 at 9:13 am #

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience, Dan. Sometimes when people who are substantially younger than I am say they don’t know how I run 8 miles a day, five days a week, I tell them I just do it (that sounds like a Nike commercial!). Likewise, I continue to write, getting that much closer to a “yes” publishing decision (I hope!).

  13. Avatar
    Debra Torres July 17, 2018 at 9:29 am #

    Thanks, Dan. This is something I think we all need to hear. We humans are so subjective, aren’t we? And sometimes, what we like varies on the day and the mood. Thanks for encouraging us to keep going!

  14. Avatar
    Michael Torres July 17, 2018 at 10:32 am #

    This is a wonderful line, Dan. “We project either our confidence or lack of it onto someone else and in many cases, we are wrong in our assessment of the situation.” This, I suggest, is the bane of our identity–miscommunicating with ourselves. It’s wonderful to have characters speak subtextually. When we project subtext into others’ words and their reactions, not so much. Thanks for the exhortation.

  15. Avatar
    Jaime July 17, 2018 at 11:00 am #

    “Quit whining and move on” – That’s the best kind of encouragement, isn’t it? It doesn’t feel so good, but you end up way further ahead in the end. I’d attend that workshop at a conference, for sure!

  16. Avatar
    Barbara H Hall July 17, 2018 at 12:36 pm #

    I think it was very interesting to hear you write of a “good cloud.” I have always been of the mind that if there is “A cloud over it” it is a bad one. This gives me new perspective on “clouds” Those fluffy white ones on a sunny day are certainly what I could call a good cloud. Thanks so much.

    • Avatar
      Tisha Martin July 17, 2018 at 5:22 pm #

      And I love the reference to Romans 12:1-2. 🙂

  17. Avatar
    Kay DiBianca July 17, 2018 at 1:51 pm #

    Thanks, Dan, for this great message. Is there anything in life worth doing that doesn’t require endurance? Perhaps stubbornness is a virtue after all.

    I love the metaphor of running the good race. Whether you win or lose, finishing the race is one measure of success. And getting ready for the next one is a measure of determination and improvement.

    I am so grateful there are experienced folks in the publishing industry who are willing to encourage the rest of us to face the reality of our world and get on with it! Thank you.

  18. Avatar
    Mark Moss July 17, 2018 at 4:50 pm #

    Thank you for this honest perspective, Dan. It is good for me to read and make this part of my writing life.

    It was great to meet you at the Northwestern Christian Writers Conference last weekend. I enjoyed our chat. God bless you and your family.

  19. Avatar
    Tisha Martin July 17, 2018 at 5:20 pm #

    Oy, there’s a lot I could comment on from this boost of a blog post. But one thing struck me: giving.

    It may seem hard to do at first, especially if you’re not used to it, but once you give, you’ll never want to stop. For, isn’t that what Jesus did? He gave His life for ransom for our sin, thus giving us life, should we choose and ask for His forgiveness?

    As for decision-making … oh boy, that’s a loaded word. As an editor, I tremble sometimes when I edit manuscripts, for I want to do my very best in my comments and suggested changes, hoping the author sees the importance of the comment for the goal of making the manuscript give the reader the best reading experience possible.

    • Avatar
      Tisha Martin July 17, 2018 at 5:21 pm #

      Haha! I’ve been reading too much science fiction! *decision making …

  20. Avatar
    claire o'sullivan July 19, 2018 at 11:46 am #

    I believe that will be my first writer’s conference to teach…

    Thank you– it’s difficult to persevere much less explain. As my sister asked, “Why do you keep doing this?” -referring to one book. She thought I was simply wasting my time and/or OCD.


    I believe the rejections, the waiting -> Romans 5:3-4. Our ‘suffering’ is self-induced by the way. 🙂

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