Expectations. We try to live up or down to them. Expectations set standards that real life often adjusts for us, whether we will it not not. There's nothing quite like the high of exceeded expectations and nothing quite like the disappointment of falling short.
In business, our employers, managers, and clients set expectations for us. These may be expressed as standard operating procedures, employee handbooks, deadlines, and guidelines. They are meant to establish a minimum standard for acceptable performance and consistency.
In freelancing, the expectations I must consistently meet are my own. These expectations entail what I deem acceptable effort by me for my clients: nothing less than my best. Sometimes my best isn't good enough. Sometimes my best isn't good, but mediocre. I've long since learned not to pursue or accept projects that I don't believe I cannot perform to a certain minimum professional standard. If nothing else, I don't want my best to be categorized as poor quality.
As an author, those standards and expectations fly out the window during when writing the first draft of a story. The purpose of the first draft isn't to deliver perfect prose, but to get the story out. The refining and polishing process comes during the editing and revision phases.
When a personal endeavor fails to meet expectations, that failure hurts. It speaks to misjudgment, an error in calculation, a lapse from the reality that governs us. It's akin to riding the "should-beast."
I had such an experience lately.
On July 5, I brought home a new horse (pony, actually), a 9-year-old Halflinger mare named Replica of Excellence. She's beautiful. In equestrian parlance, she rides and drives, meaning she's well trained as a riding horse and as a carriage horse. What I didn't consider was her lack of experience.
My best friend, Cindra, who has been generous in helping me with Teddy, has expanded her assistance to include Replica. (Truthfully, I'd be lost without Cindra.) Last weekend, after two weeks of disgusting, sweltering heat followed by a week of almost constant rain, we were finally able to take the ponies out for a spin. We went to Twin Towers Park. The park has a fenced ring used for show jumping, two dressage rings, an eventing course, and bridle trails. We used the fenced ring, relying on the fence to contain the ponies in the event of an "involuntary dismount." I rode Replica.
I expected Replica to be the calm, cool, steady one: the "should-beast." I hoped to take a turn or two around the ring, then head out on the nice, wide, flat trails. I expected Teddy to be the Nervous Nelly. My expectations were wrong on all counts, because one cannot ride the "should-beast." Replica was the anxious one, Teddy alert but not stupid. Replica had the meltdown, which sparked an answering spook from Teddy. We didn't get beyond the ring. We certainly didn't hit the trails.
I did, at least, manage to avoid the involuntary dismount.
Real life adjusted my expectations, dialing them back. I decided to be satisfied with getting Replica to walk around the ring without balking. Both directions. With that, we concluded on a good note and began making plans for future rides with lowered expectations.
In writing, one publishes with high expectations. More often than not, the book fails to meet those lofty goals. But we persevere, because passion and determination compel us continue to reach higher and exceed past performance to achieve that elusive state of being known as success.
I was a vendor at the 2021 Imaginarium held at the Holiday Inn Louisville East in Louisville, Kentucky from June 9 through 11. Without really knowing what I was doing, even though it was the third time I'd participated as a vendor in this (usually) annual event, I signed up for "Creatives Alley" rather than the ordinary vendor room.
I'm glad I did.
Event attendance was lighter than expected, which may have been partially due to the inclement weather and/or the new location. The former location was under demolition and in terrible shape. Moving the event to another property was a smart idea.
With attendance being light and a hotel not exactly the venue to attract pedestrian traffic, Creatives Alley was the best spot for a vendor to display wares and advertise services. The organizer was also gracious enough to accommodate my request to bring and set up a second table within my "booth" space. That put me in an ideal spot to catch incoming and outgoing traffic. No, I didn't sell enough to cover the registration fee or break even on travel expenses, much less make a profit. Each time I participate in the Imaginarium, I do a little better, so I'm not ready to give up on this event yet.
The primary purpose of in-person events, I'm told by those more experienced than I in such matters, is not to sell merchandise and cover costs, but to network. This means engaging with the public and with other vendors. From my point of view, there's nothing to signal an event's lack of success than a roomful of vendors trying to sell to one another.
For a diehard introvert, engaging with the public is hard. I can do it. That's the best way to lure unsuspecting victims ... er ... potential customers and clients to my table. Once that connection is made and good manners compel the victim to answer the cheery "hello!" with a brief visit, it's time to engage in conversation. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes not. I try really hard not to be pushy by asking, "What do you like to read?" Then, if that person doesn't particularly like to read the literature I write, I might be able to direct him or her to another vendor who does.
Consider that my good deed for the day.
This year, a few writers approached me about the services Hen House Publishing offers. Most memorable, one gentleman spoke about his 200,000-word manuscript. I explained my typical recommendation for editing (multiple passes through the manuscript) and the adjunct services to complete the project. He pocketed a business card. Another young man still in college just getting started with writing. I spoke at length to him, too. He pocketed a business card. There were a couple of other people who spoke with me about the services offered. They took business cards.
Some folks purchased books. As stated, each time I attend this event, I do a little better in book sales. This year, I brought paintings, too, of which I sold a few. The compliments were validating.
Of course, not everyone with whom I spoke purchased anything. Most people didn't. That's the way these things go: the vendor expends a lot of effort to net a handful of sales. However, it's not all about the money, right? It's about making connections with people who may become customers in the future or who may refer one to someone else who then becomes a customer. Working conventions is a long game with no guarantee of success.
So, how does one evaluate the success of such an adventure? I haven't the foggiest. As far as I'm concerned, an uneventful journey (i.e., no vehicular catastrophes), a comfortable hotel room, decent food, and good placement in the venue are sufficient. The rest is on me, even if attendance isn't as robust as everyone hopes.
#henhousepublishing #entertheimaginarium #authorevents #booksigning
Perusing my feed in Reddit, one person posted a question as to whether freelancing resists age discrimination, ageism being a common obstacle faced by many workers in their 40s and 50s (or older) looking for new employment. The overwhelming response agrees that older workers find freelancing resistant to age discrimination: what matters most to t their clients is quality, not the writer's age.
The same cannot be said for other types of discrimination, specifically "reverse discrimination" favoring BIPOC and LGBTQ+ writers. It's becoming increasingly common to see solicitations for writers expressing blatant favoritism toward those groups. Society would rage if any company released a job description specifying that the freelance or contract writer be a white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant male. However, discrimination that clearly indicates such a disfavored applicant submitting a proposal would be discounted based on his demographics rather than the quality of his work draws nary a blink of surprise.
I find that offensive and insulting. Such blatant discrimination implies the lowering of standards, that others who do not match the desired demographic cannot possibly produce the quality or type of work requested. In short, it implies that BIPOC and LBGTQ+ folks can't compete.
When I apply for a gig, I make no mention of my sex, the color of my skin, my religion, or anything else that has no relevance to whether I can do the work and complete the project. Frankly, that demographic data is none of their business. What I do mention is my experience and direct potential clients to my portfolio for writing samples. If a potential client cannot determine whether my skill is sufficient to perform the work, then there's no need for discussion.
When I do seek to hire someone, I don't ask for his or her demographics. I want to know whether (1) that person can they do the work at the level of competence I require and (2) will we get along? Just as I respect the client's expertise and knowledge in his or her field, I expect the client to respect my expertise in the work he or she hires me to do. When applying to edit more technically oriented content, I make a point of stating that I am not the subject matter expert. The subject of the document is the author's expertise; my expertise focuses on improving the quality of language in written material.
I am convinced that 2020 in large part succeeded in the attempt to reduce American society to an age of discrimination by demographic. It's not pretty and it hurts more than the people whom it excludes.