It's only Tuesday and I've been fortunate enough to spend most of my working hours this week on paid projects. That's truly gratifying.
My clients know--or should know--that I give every project my complete attention. Their projects receive my dedicated focus while I'm working on them so they can be assured that they receive my best effort. That brings me to something that has puzzled me for years and which I saw again in a blog I read yesterday. The blogger mentioned that he gave 110 percent of himself to his job.
That bewilders me. Oh, I understand the implication that this person and others like him give their all, but 110 percent? Once you give all of yourself (100%), where does the other 10 percent come from? Whose energy, focus, skill, and dedication are you stealing?
I joke that my favorite horse, a tough old mare who's turning 32 next month, is living on borrowed time and that she's borrowing it from me. (Horses generally live 20 to 25 years.) That quip feels particularly apropros when I'm feeling especially tired and lethargic.
Back to the subject: If you're giving everything you have to a task, who could ask for more? You certainly can't give more than all of yourself. To do so is called slavery. Or indentured servitude. Or teamwork. Some days I'm not entirely sure of the distinction.
Then, think on it, do you really want to give all of yourself to any project in particular? If you give everything you have, everything you are, to a single initiative, a single effort, then what's left for anything else in your life? What's left for your other clients? What's left for your family and friends? Once 100 percent of your energy is gone, you're dead. Kaput. Because there's nothing left to give.
This ludicrous idea of giving more than all of yourself has got to go. Employers cannot reasonably demand it. Clients cannot reasonably expect it. No employer and no client is worth the totality of what you are. That doesn't mean they're not worthy of your best effort, but something must be left in reserve in order to sustain the mind and body performing the work.
So, my dear clients, you have my best effort. Your projects receive my dedicated focus. But you don't get 100 percent of me. After I turn off the computer and set aside my notes, I have other obligations, not the least of which is myself so that I can dedicate my energy, concentration, and skill to your projects the next day and the days after that.
A client this morning inspired this week's blog post. This particular client hired me to edit her manuscript and then format the book. As per the contract, I edited the manuscript and returned it to her to revise. She retyped the content into a CreateSpace template and sent it to me for formatting.
So, I formatted the book and delivered the requested PDF file, asking her to review it and let me know of any changes to be made.
She replied: "I thought the formatting would include a final editing. Was I mistaken? What is normally done for formatting?"
In short, yes, she was mistaken. If you're hiring freelance services, then you should understand what you're buying. Otherwise, you'll be expecting apples when the vendor delivers oranges. Following are summarized descriptions of the services I offer:
Let me repeat this: Understand the service your are purchasing. Do not assume something is included: always ask. In that manner, both you and the vendor understand precisely both parties' responsibilities. Had this client specified that a second round of editing was needed, then my bid for service would have been different. As it was, she assumed wrongly. I offered to quote her for a second round of editing; we'll see what happens.
The virtue in self-editing
A word of caution to writers seeking editors: Make sure your manuscript is ready for editing. Many, if not most, writers understand that a first or rough draft usually isn't ready for the editor. That's why it's called the first or rough draft. Professional writers understand their responsibility to do their own editing before they send the manuscript to an editor.
Think about it. Let's say you send your rough draft to the editor. It practically drips red ink upon return from the editor and you spend lots of time correcting and revising. Revising, of course, means rewriting a great deal of content. But is all that rewriting practically perfect or is it littered with errors and inconsistencies? This means you need a second round of hard editing. Essentially you're paying for the same service twice because you failed to self-edit and revise the rough draft.
This is why most editors will not include multiple rounds of editing in their proposals. It takes just as much time to go over every single line of the manuscript the second time as it does the first.
Weeks ago I commented on a harsh review received for one of my books. I noted the insights (i.e., lessons learned) extracted from the review. Since that review was posted, it has garnered over 120 comments from people passionately supporting the reviewer and some defending the book. I'm grateful to those who defend it and respect the right of those who dislike it to...well...dislike it. But the ongoing kerfuffle has become utterly absurd.
Quit it. Stop. It's just a book, folks. A romance written for entertainment, not to change world philosophy or upset political regimes.
Reading some of the comments, I contacted the person who wrote that harsh review to let her know that I did not object to her right to write her review and to tell her that I have neither encouraged nor discouraged the responses her review received. Unfortunately, she took offense. I tried again in private message to smooth ruffled feathers and now try again in this blog post which applies to every author and every reader: If you read a book and like it, then leave a review. Be civil as well as candid. Mind your manners. Be an adult. Don't leave a review for a book within the comments of someone else's review. Post it as its own review. Focus your comments on the book, not the author.
Readers have the right to post their reviews. Authors have the right to their own feelings in response to those reviews.
Peace, folks. It's just a book.
Winter's a tough season for me, particularly January and February when I battle an overpowering urge to hibernate. Were I independently wealthy, I'd sleep nearly as much as any of my cats. That urge to hibernate turns normally fun activity into drudgery and normal drudgery into...well...let's just say that my usually lackadaisical housekeeping takes a nosedive. You wouldn't want to visit my house during winter. I don't even want to visit my house during winter.
This seasonal attitude affects my writing. Last night, I managed to write maybe a little over a thousand words in Russian Dawn. I couldn't even begin to tell whether the content was any good, so absent is my enthusiasm for anything that doesn't resemble snuggling beneath the covers and sleeping the days away until spring. Hell, I'm not even all that interested in reading anything.
But, it's gotta be done. I can't stop just because my energy levels hover somewhere between comatose and lucid dreaming. I must continue to solicit clients, to chase down freelance projects, to write my books.
This is why New Year's resolutions fail. It's not because people don't want to succeed; it's because doing what's necessary to survive takes everything we've got and leaves nothing to spare for luxuries like goals.
There's a big, gorgeous Victorian house for sale in Dawson, GA, where winters are mild and summer swelters. But the sky above generally beams down sunshine, a contrast to the Miami Valley, which averages 188 cloudy days per year. In fact, of the 10 cloudiest cities in the USA, three of them are in Ohio: Cleveland (202), Columbus (190), and Cincinnati, (186). Seattle, WA and Portland, OR top the list, first and second respectively, but no other cities in Washington or Oregon make that list. The only state that comes close to Ohio in cloudiness is New York (Buffalo and Rochester).
So, yeah, I'll plug away at Russian Dawn and hope that I can finish it by my self-imposed deadline of March 31. If it doesn't happen, check my bed. I'll be hibernating.
No career is built without rejection. Every hopeful applicant submits resume after resume, only to be rejected until that final acceptance comes through. Every service provider submits proposal after proposal, chasing after more projects than the company could possibly handle, because company executives know that rejections far outnumber acceptances. Therefore, it's no surprise that rejection flavors a writer's life, too.
Rejection comes in various levels, from the mysterious black hole into which synopses and cover letters disappear without ever receiving a response to brutal "you suck" reviews to gentle "we liked it, but it's not for us" replies. Personally, I find the black hole approach the most offensive.
Today I received a gentle rejection from Pulp Literature Press. I submitted a short story to them in response to a call for submissions and then promptly forgot about having done so. The rejection stated that two editors considered my story, but finally decided that it just didn't make the cut. That's actually encouraging. Not as encouraging as an acceptance, but it came with an invitation to submit again.
That encouragement comes as validation. My writing doesn't suck. Perhaps it's not quite what was wanted, but it didn't suck.
Writers are a needy bunch. We need validation, if only to justify what we do. Since the work we put out for the public to see bears our names and oftentimes a piece of our souls, we're desperate for validation. One might think that multitudes of favorable recommendations might result in a writer's swollen ego, but every writer knows that the next scathing, confidence-crushing critique could be seconds away.
It's difficult to put yourself on display for the world's criticism, because the general public isn't known for its kindness. Any writer who embarks upon a career as a published writer must develop a thick hide if only for self-protection against constant rejection, blatant and lurking in the shadows. The writer must also develop a way to dig the good from even cruel reviews, learn from them, and use that cruelty to improve one's craftsmanship.
For a writer, failure isn't rejection. Failure is quitting. Writers who don't write cannot call themselves writers. For some of us, not writing is not an option. We write because we must. The production of content then compiles into at least a small measure of success to which one can point and say, "I did that. I created that."
Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.