I love this time of year. I love the way the light has subtly changed, and the first whiff of autumn on the breeze. I love the wait for the first yellow leaf. I love the neck-and-neck race between tomatoes ripening on the vine and the first frost. Most of all I love back-to-school sales, happening now at your local retailer. I plan to head down to the local office supply store later today to see if they have any 3-ring binders with fancy covers.
It’s in August, not January, when I’m inspired to tidy things up. This morning I started in on the “Schlepp Folder.” In case you’re not familiar with schlepping, it’s a Yiddish word. It’s original meaning was to move slowly or cautiously, but among my friends it means to store things that interest you until you can get around to reading them.
On my desktop, I have a perpetual Schlepp Folder, into which I toss articles I find on the Internet but don’t have time to read. Today the Folder tally wasn’t bad: 17 files, 2 of which had reached beyond their best-before date and were tossed, and 15 files that I decided to read and keep.
One of the nice things about the Schlepp Folder is that sometimes items from vastly different times connect in a meaningful way. This morning, Steven Axelrod’s and Julie Anne Long’s Why Publishing is Making You Crazy and John Freeman’s Not So Fast made a lovely conjunction.
Here’s what I learned from Steven, Julie Anne, and John.
No artistic decision is ever made in a vacuum. Good does not equal popular, nor does popular equal good. Fifty percent of the factors affecting a creative career are totally random and totally outside an artist or author’s control.
Human brains are hard-wired to look for patterns, even where none exist. Once a person decides that they have detected a pattern, they will act on that pattern, in spite of the fact that the pattern may not be real at all. This is where the advice, “An author must have or do X” comes from, even if there is no evidence that any amount “X” sells even one book. There is one thing that a writer must do: WRITE. Everything else is window-dressing and has a 50/50 chance of succeeding or failing.
Julie Anne Long
The Human Rules of Order — high scores and progress are a reward for hard work; good reviews lead to advancement; and ranks tell us our “worth” and how we measure up — are absolutely untrue in the publishing universe.
Amazon rankings, Ingram numbers, bestseller lists, reviews, number of blog comments, and awards lie about our progress, advancement and our worth.
Writers are imaginative storytellers. A writer sees a woman with a red hair ribbon, through a launderette window on a rainy October afternoon, and six years later, she’s on podium receiving an award for Red Hair Ribbon. This is good.
A writer also start with one low Amazon ranking or one lousy review and builds for herself an entire career-ending catastrophe. This is not so good. Writers do this because they are hard-wired to look for patterns; they can’t stand not knowing where they stand or what will happen next.
Whether an individual event is good or bad depends on the next thing that happens after it, except that whether the next thing that happens is good or bad depends on the next thing that happens after that. Can you see where this is going? The moment you are in is merely a necessary link to before and after.
Sanity in the midst of publishing craziness depends on
1. Staying in the moment.
2. Going with the flow, and enjoying the ride.
Persistent, unlimited growth is also known as cancer. The ultimate form of progress is not unlimited growth, but learning how to decide what is working and what is not.
The speed at which we do something—anything—changes our experience of it. We need to protect the finite well of our attention if we care about our relationships and our ability to make value decisions.
The Physical World matters
We are part of the world. Real life participation in face-to-face communities is the real social context.
Slow communication preserves our sanity, our families, and our relationships. The best electronic communication starts with a simple instruction: Don’t send.
Here's the poem that came to me as I read these three writers:
This moment is only a link between before and after.
Stay in the moment; go with the flow.
Decide what is working and what is not.
Speed matters: slow down
The physical world matters: meet people face-to-face.
Context matters: don’t send.
Rather than a quote for the week, I urge you to read Stephen’s, Julie Anne’s, and John’s original postings.