Opening Pandora’s Box

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When I entered this world of blogging, I really didn’t consciously have a goal other than to express myself. I have always had a love affair with words and language.  You remember that point in high school when conversation turns to “what are you going to do after graduation?”  Discussions of careers and colleges filled the air in the cafeteria at lunch.  While classmates spoke of wanting to be a lawyer, a doctor or an Indian chief (OK, I lied about that one, but the fingers just wanted to go there), I wanted to be a translator at the UN.  It was all about words and language.

I have always “written.” I wrote speeches. I wrote procedural manuals.  I created training programs with course books and job aids and all manner of other written materials.  I never ventured into the world of fiction and poetry (though I thought my piece on “How to Run Program 50 to Generate an Income Statement” was pretty poetic, if I do say so myself), but I was always putting words together.  When I left that world, the words didn’t stop dancing just because the music had stopped.

And then I found blogging.  Like many of you, I wrote and hoped that someone would read.  As I discovered that there were little communities out here in the blogosphere ( one of the many  new words I learned along the way), I realized that there were many for which I was not a good fit.  I had very little to say about the trials and tribulations of Mommydom, for example, having left that land behind me long ago in my travels.  Then I found Velvet Verbosity’s 100-Word Challenge, and I was off and running.  Through the 100-Word Challenge, I met other writers and discovered a community of folks out here who felt as I did about words.

And that brings me to the present and the point of this post. (Bet you thought I’d never get to it, didn’t you?)  I know that many of my friends out here are published authors and poets. How could they not be? The talent is sometimes stunning.  And I’m sure there are many who would like to be published.  The thought has crossed my mind, but only way over there in the farthest corner, near that cupboard where I store my old dreams of being a dancer or actress.  I know next to nothing about the world of publishing.  But lately, discussions of “getting published” have begun among some of my blogging buddies.  And it has opened a real Pandora’s Box of reactions and emotional monsters for me.

Well, of course, who wouldn’t want to be published?  Book signings, fans, adulation, awards, movie options, money, not to mention the satisfaction of knowing you did it.  That sounds like a bit of paradise for a writer.  Yeah, huh?  But, oh, this publishing paradise seems to be a very well-guarded land, and from all one hears, the snarling beast at the gate is not at all friendly.  Apparently, one needs to approach with extreme caution, at the ready with some truly delicious sops for this Cerberus, cooked just to his liking.

Well, yikes.  That sounds pretty damn scary. But, okay, maybe the rewards are worth it.  Maybe one can suffer many abortive runs at the gate and limp away with one’s creative ego ragged and bleeding from the vicious attacks, to heal, adjust the recipe, and try again another day.  Maybe.  And there are some tour guides out here who have made it past Cerberus, and are willing to share their knowledge of his appetites.

But that looses yet another monster from Pandora’s Box.  I have nothing to say.  The minute someone says to me, write something, and I will critique it for you, well, woosh! There go all the words, all the ideas, all the creativity, running for the hills with their tails between their legs.

And then, oh no, here comes another monster crawling out of the box, that really nasty one who nibbles on your self-confidence.  “You are such a freaking coward.  Anyone who aspires to publishing success had better have a tough skin.  Other people aren’t afraid to try. What’s wrong with you?”

So here I am, beating back the monsters of doubt and indecision, and wondering if I should just slam the lid back onto the box, and go back to being a reasonably content though pathetically unpublished writer of predictable amateurish prose and prosaic poetry (hell, I probably don’t even know what poetry is, with its forms, meters and shapes) , playing here in my safe little blogging sandbox.

(And besides, who could possibly get published with run-on sentences like that last one?  Oh, yeah.  Well, maybe James Joyce, but I read somewhere that only three or four people ever read Finnegan’s Wake cover-to-cover, and only one of them truly understood it.  Joyce himself.)

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23 Responses to Opening Pandora’s Box

  1. Jingle says:

    be yourself, smiles!

    Glad to see your comment.
    I appreciate your kindness.

  2. Baino says:

    Not an unusual sentiment Patti! I’m not sure my skin’s thick enough for the swag of rejections yet either.

  3. Tara R. says:

    My mom is putting together a small book of her illustrations and poems, and getting it printed through an online publishing company. It only prints short runs (maybe few 100 books at a time). I don’t know the actual cost, but knowing my mom, it’s very reasonable. I will get the name of the company for you.

    If only to give the books away to friends and family, or keep them to yourself… baby steps.

    • PattiKen says:

      I know of several people who have self-published. Interestingly, it seems that Amazon will sometimes take self-published material and sell it, especially on the Kindle, and the author gets a commission on sales. Kind of like a consignment shop. Some people have been picked up by a mainstream publisher that way. I have nowhere enough material of any kind that I would consider publishable (even by me) at this point. Down the road a piece? Well, we’ll see.

  4. souldipper says:

    If we are not clones, you and I are the closest thing to it – I profoundly feel so much of what you described.

    Then there’s a man named Seth Godin who has a blog and makes presentations to Publishers telling them how they have to change how they do things. Or they are going to be left way behind. To me, he is insinuating that we bloggers may be producing and directing our own “Who’s a Writer for the World” talent show. He does tell of a fellow who is setting himself up as an on-line publisher. (I skimmed over that because I wasn’t interested at that point.) But other than being a marketer who sells training programs on how to attract advertisers, I have not run across any writers earning a living as bloggers. Am I uninformed or is the earning power only with the well-known who blog to keep themselves “out there” and attract speaking engagements.

    Would it over-feed our addiction for writing if we heard of an amateur writer suddenly being in hot demand because of his/her blog. Maybe the future means we find an excellent reader to read our work, tape it and sell the product. Audio or video.

    You know what I’ve thought about Jame Joyce? I suspect he’s still laughing at us because we are still trying to make sense of a ‘writing dare’ someone presented James after too many pints. Or, because he never could get punctuation straight so don’t use it.

    • PattiKen says:

      I agree. I have not heard of any writers making a living from a blog, though I suspect that they may be some, given the multitudes out here blogging. But I do know of several successful published print authors who also do a blog. Big difference there.

      I have a friend who is very “connected” with the NY publishing world. She is sort of an agent, though not formally. She tells me that she knows publishing house folk whose job it is to read blogs, lots and lots of them, looking for talent that might be grown into a successful print author. Personally, I wouldn’t invest much hope in that, again because of the multitudes blogging. I mean, what are the odds? Somewhere between nil and none, I’d say.

      And you may have a point about Joyce. I find him unreadable.

  5. souldipper says:

    Please read my last line as “so didn’t use it” OR as a thought, ‘don’t use it’.

  6. buttercup600 says:

    I love it when you open your Pandora’s box Patti…you have such talent and are such an inspiration to so many. I think you should explore this option. Much love my friend x

    • PattiKen says:

      Oh, you are such a sweetheart, Amanda. I’ve been called an “influence” on people (a bad one, unfortunately) in my very much younger days, but never an “inspiration.” I’m still on the fence about this thing, mostly because of brain freeze. But thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement.

      Lots of love back at you.

  7. moondustwriter says:

    Tough skin indeed. You and I are sooo alike down to the writing every boring manual known to man.
    You are published my dear – you are published in the blog world. You will probably write and people will read more of your pieces than a NYT Best Seller.
    Great imaginative pieces I might add – so publish on and scoff at Pandora!!!

    moon love

    • PattiKen says:

      Thank you, Leslie. You are a wonderful friend, and your encouragement means a lot.

      But, hey! Speak for yourself. MY technical manuals were cliff-hangers, exciting and filled with passion and intrigue.

      (um, I hope none of the clients for whom those manuals were written are reading this. They might ask for their money back.)

  8. Jamie Dedes says:

    You’re right, Patti. Twilight Zone … so I got my first poem published at seventeen. I spent years writing stuff just like you (I even wrote resumes at $100 or more a pop in the days when you could do that … the linear stuff (RFPs, grant applications, business plans, business proposals, training manuals, personnel manuels and employee handbooks et al, ad nauseam), but better than not writing at all.

    I have vision problems that make editing a challenge and some sort of dyslexia when it comes to spelling. (I won’t tell you how long it’s taking me to write this because I have to check the spelling on so many words.) It amazes me to this day that people hired and rehired me given the handicaps. My business was all repeat and referral. Shows it can be done.

    I handled publicity as a way to get writing gigs. I filled notebooks with — notes! — and I was a columnist and feature writer (self-employed, handled my own marketing), which frankly was good self-training. I’ve been following the publishing industry since I started reading Writer’s Digest and other mags when I was fifteen … a long, long time ago!

    The industry has massively changed and continues to change with the advent of mobile devices and social networking. Did you know you can put something up in iWork, transfer it to ePub, and publish it on iTunes? Wonderful for our independence. Problem with all this – as has been said relative to blogs – how do you turn it into money? …. Maybe it’s too soon to tell …

    For the most part, publishers these days do very little of the old time support. You pretty much handle publicity yourself … unless you come up with a blockbuster. You get ranked on your sales and if you don’t sell, you just might be screwed when it comes to another book … so think it through if you self publish and put the book on Amazon. It’s rare that a book sells even 5,000 copies. I feel that if I have to handle publicity anyway, I might as well published myself. Problem is for me, I’m on a leash: it’s called O2.

    But for you and souldipper and others, you guys can still get out there and hustle if you care to. Best bet to learn the ropes is: The Independent Publishers Association (in the U.S.) Worth the effort because whether or not you self-publish, you can learn the industry from them. Not expensive. They have local chapters, and I suspect the quality of your experience will depend on the quality of the local group. Ours here is informed and welcoming.

    Good luck, Patti. Hope there’s a few helpful nuggets here. Thanks for the conversation. Thanks for another great post. Love the illustration too. 🙂 Hugs to you brilliant writer …

    • PattiKen says:

      What a wealth of information, Jamie. Wow. I’ll check it out. But you know, I never got into the blogging thing as a way of making money or getting published. I somehow lack the burning need that I think may be necessary. If someone were to come and say, “This is good. Can we publish it?” I’d say, yes, of course. But go out and beat the bushes? Handle the promotion? All that? Nah.

      I know that some of my blogging buddies are young and eager, and may think I’m not serious about writing unless I want to publish. Well, one of the benefits of letting loose those monsters in the box is that they’re helping (forcing?) me to take a hard look at why I write. And I don’t think getting published is it.

      I have written every single bit of stuff you listed in your “CV” above, except for the journalism bits. (Gah, I haven’t thought about RFPs in years!) I liked it. I made decent money at it. And you are right, it was writing. And as I said in the post, the words didn’t stop when I left that world. They just got a lot more personal.

      Thank you for being so supportive. I’m SO glad to have found you.

      P.S. Spelling is not a problem for me. Typing is. One of these days I’m just going to give up on capitals, and do an “e. e. cummings.” I just can’t hold the darn shift key down long enough. Always have to go back and fix it. Oh, and I spelled “good” above as “doog” three times before I got it right. I won’t call it dyslexia. I choose to believe it is some kind of a left brain-right brain battle for supremacy. 😉

      • Jamie Dedes says:

        I think that if publication is the first order of the day, that’s a problem. To write to publish probably means not writing well. Having said that, especially when young, if you get published, you can live your life writing instead of just moonlighting. If I wasn’t on my tether, I must admit, I would enjoy getting out there and talking it up with folks. That’s often fun.

        Have a great day, Patti. Thanks for your wonderful posts and thoughts. I’m so glad I found YOU! 🙂

  9. souldipper says:

    PattiKen, this truly is dipping into my soul. Again, I can CC your comments – this time regarding not being hell-bent-for-publishing. I’ve dug around to see if I’ve hit my truth about this attitude. I’ve questioned whether I’m being lazy, fearful or lacking in faith. But I simply am not interested in entering that arena. After being a business woman for years, (I, too, wrote training manuals and operationing manuals) the business side does not frighten me, but perhaps I suspect it could be damned exasperating. I have low tolerance for the injustices that can be done to panting artists. I can imagine some of my literary-minded friends sighing and looking skyward as I type.

    Jamie, thank you so much for your professional experience, acumen and insight. You confirm much of what I have gleaned from various sources, but I ride the periphery on the subject so have wondered if I’m just avoiding some of the ‘work’ side of my passion. Thank you and thank God that tether does not keep you from us.

    As for dyslexia: Gubber it! Logn Vile Spellcheck!

  10. The element of forthrightness! It makes a good reading. Keep it up!
    – Suresh Nellikode

  11. Chloe says:

    I love the way you write – especially the humour you shoot through it like a whispering breeze. Had me smiling here in rainy Manchester 😀 xx

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