image from www.chalkboardmanifesto.com
procrastinate: from Latin, of tomorrow
I can be a procrastinator.
I admit it.
I can put things off until…whenever. I can delay. I can come up with excuses. I can opt to do the easy rather than the hard. I can opt to do nothing at all rather than the something.
I’ve always had times of procrastination in my life, even when I was very young. My mom used to call me lazy. In an accusatory, disappointed tone of voice, I might add. That hurt. And it wasn’t accurate. Being “lazy” is something quite different—at least to my mind, anyway—than being a procrastinator. To me, being lazy is very much the same thing as not caring, being resistant, being idle. And that’s not how I’m feeling when I’m procrastinating. When I procrastinate doing a thing, I’m actually thinking about that thing a lot—I care deeply about that thing; I know I will be facing that thing head on; I want to do that thing as well as I possibly can. That is, when I eventually—finally—get to it.
When I’m procrastinating, it may appear to others that I’ve gone AWOL . Sometimes my form of procrastination manifests as napping, daydreaming, shopping, or cleaning. And if the thing I’m supposed to be doing is shopping or cleaning then I might procrastinate by working, walking, exercising, or something else. And if the thing I’m supposed to be doing is working or exercising, then I might be petting the cat, organizing the clothes closet, or something else. You get the idea. So, I wouldn’t say my procrastination is laziness at all. Rather, it’s distraction…it’s an alternate view...it’s a means to getting my focus back. Very often while I’m procrastinating I’m strategizing, planning, thinking, creating, and preparing. For what? For the doing of the thing. For the achieving of the thing. For meeting the challenge of the thing.
Some bouts of procrastination last longer than others; some things that need to be tackled can be fraught with fears or doubts; some can be fraught with tension; some can be fraught with boredom. They will get done. They do get done. Eventually. But not until I'm ready.
What I’ve come to recognize about procrastination is that it's a part of a process that I need very badly to stay focused, productive, and engaged with my work, my writing, my life, and the world around me. Procrastination is my means of recharging and regrouping, of taking a deep breath, my way to take a time out so my mind can wander around until it comes back to center.
(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks LLC
"I always find if you read fiction out loud you know what you have to change by what you stumble over." - Alice Hoffman.
As anyone who has worked with me knows, I'm a huge proponent of reading our manuscripts aloud. It's critical to do this when your work is a picture book--we can all agree that the most successful picture books are not only those that can be read aloud over and over again, but those that we want to read aloud over and over again. So the very best way to write a picture book is to read it aloud as you go along. It's equally critical, though, to read your fiction and non-fiction aloud. Yes, it will take a lot of time, but this must be part of the writing process because the reading process is itself a multi-layered sensory experience. We don't read only with our eyes--as we read, we feel a story; as we read, we sense a story; and as we read, we hear a story. And so, the very best way to write a novel or non-fiction that will appeal to readers is to read it aloud as you go along.
Saying something aloud makes it more real for us. We can think something, we can feel something, we can wonder about something, we can even write something down. But I've often found it to be true that when we say what we're thinking or feeling, when we give a voice to it, that's usually when it becomes most real, whether we like it or not. We can't take it back. It's out there. It's been witnessed. So too, our manuscripts. We must witness our own stories, we must witness our own writing--and by doing so, we will experience our stories and our writing in new ways, in ways that will reveal flaws, in ways that will reveal poetry, in ways that will reveal what we need to adjust, revise, omit, add.
As we read aloud, we feel our words on our tongues--we taste our words, we taste our stories--and just as there are certain textures and flavors of foods we find delicious or distasteful, so will we begin to recognize what textures and flavors of our writing we find delicious or distasteful. And in so doing, we will be refining our work in ways that will engage the deeper senses of our readers.
We must hear our words. Taste our words. See our words. Feel our words. As we do, our senses will become more acute and we will experience our stories and ourselves more fully, we will share our stories and ourselves more fully.
(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks LLC
Publishers have backlist – the list of older books still available to the public, as opposed to titles newly published, called frontlist. Building a strong and reputable backlist has traditionally been seen as the way to produce a profitable publishing house. Backlist not only bolsters a publisher’s financial position, but it can also define and bolster a publisher’s reputation and identity. We look at an imprint’s backlist to get a sense of what the imprint stands for, how diverse or limited the imprint is, how the imprint has performed in terms of awards and reviews, and the overall reputation of that imprint. We don’t necessarily know the editors and designers who work at the imprint, but looking through an imprint’s backlist, we come to assumptions about who those editors and designers are, what they’re interested in, what they care about, what they’re like. Those assumptions may be right, or they may be entirely wrong; it doesn’t matter. Either way, for all intents and purposes, an imprints’ make-up and the make-up of the people behind the imprint will be judged by the backlist.
The concept of being perused and judged – rightly or wrongly – based on backlist doesn’t really need to bother publishers. But let’s think about our own “backlists” – and whether we feel confident in having ourselves judged by strangers based only upon a perusal of all that we’ve made available to the public. Our published works, books, eBooks, apps, music, art—that’s all backlist we have to nurture and sustain. If anyone has heard me speak on this topic, you’ll know I’m a stickler for encouraging no publication of any kind (print, digital, traditional, indie, self, I don’t care) without feeling what we’re publishing and offering to the public represents us the way we want to be represented, to be seen, and to be judged. But what about our other backlist? Our internet backlist. As Seth Godin points out in the post that got me thinking about this topic, “the internet doesn’t easily forget.” It’s important to realize our backlist consists of every post, every photograph, every tweet, every article, every comment, every interview, every publication that we’ve ever made somewhere online. Some of our backlist may be hard to find, just as a publisher’s out-of-print titles may be hard to find. But nothing is impossible to find. It’s called Google. And it reaches back and deep, a trawler without regard for what’s dredged up for anyone to see—friends and family, who may be forgiving; potential employers, agents, editors, and business partners who won’t be.
“Your history of work is as important as the work you'll do tomorrow,” Godin says. All of our backlist is valuable. Or it ought to be. What does your backlist say about you?
(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks LLC