Freebies?

I came back into the office after buying the book of one of the writers in my Melbourne writers group, and I proudly showed it off. The first comment from one of my colleagues was ‘but shouldn’t he give you a freebie?’ I dug a little further and discovered there was a perception that when you get a book published you also were given boxes of copies to give away to friends and family.

When you publish a book you want everyone you know to buy a copy. BUY a copy. They should be the first batch of sales you can depend on. All the free books go to people who might review them in a forum where others will read about it so that they will then go out and buy a copy.

Writing and publishing a book is a business, and your business (like any other) is only as good as your sales. It is funny because a few years ago I was involved in a venture to make aluminium-free deodorant. I did have boxes of the stuff I could give away, but I was touched by how many people told me they would like to buy some.

I guess in a world where people think it is okay to illegally download music and movies for free (something I want to make it clear I abhor and am vehemently against), I should expect that books will also be thrown into that category of okay to take for free. It is so disappointing to see such an attitude be held so commonly.

Artists (and production staff) put a lot of work into these products, it just seems so obvious to me that if you like them, and you want those artists to make more of them, you should pay them for it. You don’t want your favourite author to be forced to find writing hours inside a schedule of pressure-packed full time work. I can tell you now; the work usually wins. Do you want them to finish that trilogy or not?

Go buy a book.

Open your eyes

The spec fic writer in me cannot help but imagine the worst turn of events for what could happen with the current Ebola outbreak. A long time ago I read a non-fiction book called ‘The Hot Zone’ by Richard Preston and it was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever read. And it was real. And it is happening right now.

This week it has made me look at all the bits of community I take for granted in a whole new light. The social chat at the check-out, the morning banter at the bus stop, the bus ride, and skiving off work to get a quick coffee. These could all become memories at a moment’s notice.

I never really realised how much such moments define my experience of my community. I also never thought about how important they were until I started thinking ‘what if I couldn’t do this anymore?’

This winter just gone, all but one member of my team at work got the cold that was going around. Imagine if that was Ebola? Well, actually don’t, it is a horrible way to spend your time.

We need to support whatever measures are put in place to stop this thing. We need to take it seriously, and we need to act now. And just in case the worst does happen, make sure you open your eyes and make the most of the nice interactions you have with strangers around you now. You may just find it defines you more than you realise.

Rehearsal

I’ve been thinking about my first novel a lot recently because I’ve had some ideas about how to improve it, but it would require a total re-write. That would be the fourth re-write and the tenth edit. I really don’t think I’m up for it.

I was talking to a friend about her first novel and she said that it was put in the bottom draw and will never surface again. She has not laboured over it improving it as she improves her craft. Then she said something that resonated with me; we never see the rehearsals of a play, we only ever see the final performance. She sees her first novel as one of her rehearsals.

If I was to start writing my first novel from scratch I would do it completely differently, changing both the structure and story, but then it wouldn’t be recognisable as my first novel anymore. When I look at the first novel I see so many ‘mistakes’ of story writing in there, even if I do still like the story.

So I think it is time to put it in the bottom drawer and move on. There are too many other novels in me to keep going back to my rehearsal. It is time to get onto opening night.

10,000 Hours

There is a theory that you need to do 10,000 hours working on a skill to master it. Now while I would never say that I have mastered writing, the countless hours I have spent doing it, studying it and sharing it with people who know more about it than me have certainly improved my writing.

Yesterday I spent the day in the garden. It is my third year of having a sizable garden and I reflected on how different my gardening was yesterday to what it was three years ago. When I first started gardening I would see a plant I liked in a garden centre, bring it home, plant it, and then watch it die.

I knew there were things I should consider like fertilizer, soil PH, drainage, sun exposure, frost tolerance etc. but it was too daunting and I didn’t want to learn. Randomly I started putting seaweed solution on everything I planted and got slightly better results. At that point I started watching some gardening shows.

Yesterday I mixed up my own potting mix and added different ingredients according to what I was planting. Everything now gets some kind of wetting agent and I only put sun-lovers in the sun, no matter how much better I think they would look down the side of the house.

This little bit of knowledge I have gained over the last three years has improved the survival rate of my garden significantly, but I know there is a lot more I could do. I haven’t ever measured my soil PH and my knowledge of companion planting is rudimentary at best. But I now acknowledge that I will need to learn these things when I’m ready if I want my garden to thrive.

So while it may not be true that you need to do 10,000 hours of something to get good at it, the fact is you do need to put in time, effort and be willing to learn. Knowing how to put words on the page does not equate to being a writer. Playing notes on the piano does not equate to being a musician. Doing anything well requires effort, and the sooner you embrace that and start to learn, the sooner you become better at whatever it is that you wish to master.