Dangerous Curves Ahead

You hear a lot in writing circles in regards to the pursuit of publication—just persevere. Keep at it. You’ll get there.

DangerousCurvesI heard this a lot when I was going for my ultimate job in nursing. I really wanted to be a flight nurse. After I got the required experience, I began the application process—something like seven interviews later I still didn’t have a flight nursing position.

I’ve spent lots of time theorizing why and I still would love to do this job, but in my heart I think it’s not going to happen. It’s just not God’s will for my life no matter how much I desire it.

It may not be popular to talk about quitting the pursuit of publicaton on a writing blog. But then ER nurses rarely do what’s popular—we do what’s necessary. I was pursuing flight nursing when I was supposed to be serving God writing. Maybe you’re pursuing publication when God has another dream for your life that will impact people more than what you’re pursuing right now.

But just how do you know? I’ve been obsessed with learning God’s will. I often say I wish I’d wake up with a gold note card on my pillow with the answer, but it is never that easy.

TheDipAll truth is God’s truth no matter who writes it. Isn’t that an amazing statement? I think I found some of God’s truth in a little (literally—it’s seventy-six half-size pages) book called The Dip by Seth Godin.

In the beginning, he makes some pretty profound statements. The phrase all of us learned, “Quitters never win and winners never quit,” is profoundly wrong. Godin says winners quit all the time.

“They just quit the right stuff at the right time.”

The trouble is telling the difference. The dip refers to the process of learning when you’re taking on a new project you’re excited about—like novel writing. The dip is that moment you wonder why you started to write the book. You don’t think you can pull it off. You’ll never finish it.

If you can push through these moments of the learning process, then extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny minority of people who are able to push just a tiny bit longer than most.

But, Godin states, the opposite is also true. Extraordinary benefits also accrue to the tiny minority with the guts to quit early and focus their efforts on something new.

Again—it’s telling the difference.

To help, Godin discusses three curves.

1. The Dip: The valley of learning. Successful people don’t just ride out the dip. They lean into it. Push harder—changing the rules as they go. Part of knowing you’re on the right path is that you do get small amounts of positive reinforcement along the way. You final in a contest but maybe don’t win it all. You get positive comments from an agent and/or editor.

2. The Cul-de-Sac: This is where you work and work and nothing much changes. For me in my nursing career—I have never gotten any promotion I ever applied for—in twenty years! Honestly, you would think I was the worst nurse ever. I’m actually a very strong nurse but something has kept me stuck. If that hadn’t happened I would have never pursued publication where the doors opened much easier for me. But perhaps this is the pursuit of publication for you. You’re in the cul-de-sac.

3. The Cliff: It’s a situation you can’t quit until you fall off and the whole thing falls apart. The example Seth gives here is cigarette smoking. Cigarettes are highly addicting, but you do get a good feeling even though it’s detrimental to you—which, in the case of smoking, could be lung cancer and then death.

Godin hypothesizes that The Cliff and The Cul-de-Sac both lead to failure and it’s best to quit these pursuits early and move on to the thing you’d be successful at. That thing for which going through the dip would be worth it.

I would never tell anyone to stop writing—ever. Writing is a creative outlet that soothes the soul and spirit. It can ease tension, stress and frustration because spilled words on the page is cathartic. But—the pursuit of publication is a whole other animal. It takes time, money, resources, and sleep.

And perhaps God is calling you to do something else.

What dream have you had where you’ve persevered through the dip and had great success? On the flip side—is there something you’re pursuing that perhaps you are considering quitting and why? Good things to think through.

All italics are quotes from Seth’s book. I hope you’ll take the time to read it.
This blog first appeared at Seekerville. I hope you’ll check it out!

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Free Books and Bad Halloween Candy

In today’s free and easy e-book climate, e-texts of traditionally-published books are passed around like wax-paper toffee on Halloween night–you want some of this? Have four! Have six! No one likes ’em anyway. And that’s not even counting the scads of self-published e-books that are either free or 3 cents each. Most of those are the strawberry candies in the red plastic– no one wanted them either.

OK, I’m exaggerating. It’s not that free books are actually bad. Few books are as awfully nasty as wax-paper toffee, and many free books are very good–it’s just that their plentiful availability threatens to devalue them, like so many strawberry candies dumped straight in the trash can.

Seth Godin, prophet of social media and cultural change, thinks free books can be a good promotional tool. In fact, he thinks the way for debut authors to make it in this day and age is to give away their first books for free.

He said so, in this interview with Michael Hyatt of July 6, 2011. It’s well worth watching simply for all the debatable points he raises about where our book culture is headed and how we should handle that change. Seth Godin is an excellent persuasive speaker–but that doesn’t mean he is always right.

Free books have a very serious downside, and the best article I’ve read on that downside is by Janet Kobobel Grant of Books and Such Literary Agency. Here’s one of her main points, paraphrased:

Will free books flood the market to the extent that readers realize they no longer have to pay for their reading material?

Will readers think: “Why should I buy Ms. Ninja-Writer’s book now, when I can wait 9 months and get that same book for free as a marketing ploy for her next book?” In a tight economy, readers may resolve: “I am going to save money by never paying for a book again.”

My husband works in sales, and he is very good at it. He understands you can sometimes give away free stuff, but giving away too much or giving away the wrong products destroys your own customer base. He thinks this free e-book and 99 cent e-book stuff in the publishing industry is going to smash the market to tiny little pieces.

How many corporations can resist the lure of the quick buck?

Here’s the problem: corporations have always been very bad at resisting the lure of short-term gratification (such as temporary increased sales for a certain author) in favor of a wise long-term strategy (such as limiting or refusing the issue of free books). They have to compete, they want to make money in the ways they see others making money, whether it’s going to work in the long-term or not. For many executives, it’s easier to believe those who tell them that the short-term strategy is awesome and won’t cause any problems. Fewer executives want to hear the voice of caution and contrarianism–it’s too inconvenient.

My  question for you: Will the changes caused by free e-books permanently affect the ability of authors and publishers to make a living at their work? Will the major publishers collapse and only the best entrepreneurs rise out of the internet heap… entrepreneurs who may not be the best writers? Or do you agree with Seth Godin that free books are a fabulous strategy and the wave of the future for marketing?