One night I watched three episodes of a program I’d never seen before. It was one of those business intervention reality shows called Bar Rescue. One episode I watched should have been called Bar Wars because the consultant/host of the program fought almost constantly with the bar’s owner.
Briefly, the bar was 45 years old. Under the newest manager who had been owner for several years it had become dilapidated and dingy. The business was losing $200,000 a year and the owner had not taken a pay check in three months. The consultant/host offered up a dismal diagnosis which provoked the ire of the bar’s owner. For most of the program the owner reacted to everything. At one point the consultant conferred with his two assistants when one of the assistants said, “I have never seen anyone fight so hard for mediocrity!”
That statement was an incredibly insightful analysis. I have seen it often in my experience as a writer and publisher. Authors turn out poorly researched, weakly presented books and are surprised when they fail to find an audience. To outsiders (someone who has not written the book and is not your mother) the reasons are obvious and usually simple to remedy. Yet authors too often fight tooth and nail to keep things as they are even though they are terrible.
So, let me offer some lessons speaking as an outsider in general. You can apply then in specific to your situation.
When you ask advice from an editor or publisher, decide that you will listen to what s/he has to say before you hire them. Why bother to consult if you’re going to ignore them, or even worse, fight with them? If all you want is reassurance that you’re a great person and that everything you’ve written is as good as anyone could do and that after all, how can things work in this economy, under this administration, in this day and age…well, you get the idea, then go to a bar yourself and engage the conversation of the bartender. They’re very good a listening and offering no sound advice at all.
A friend of mine pastored a church that embarked on a building program. The building committee met to decide which interior designer they would use. One committee member suggested that they could pick anyone because “After all, we don’t have to listen to what they have to say.” My friend the pastor stopped them right there and challenged that spending money to hire someone to design had to mean they would take their advice. Do you want advice and help or reassurance and comfort?
Are you on a downward trend? Be honest here. If things are falling off and your ambitions as an author have lost their appeal and luster, there has to be a reason, maybe several reasons. Now, you can do nothing and your writing career will eventually just topple over. You can make a few changes and hope for the best which might forestall the inevitable.
Or you can take the steps necessary – all of them – to bring things back. I often was asked by my clients in my woodworking business what was the cheapest and easiest way to protect their homes from hurricanes (I lived and worked in the Caribbean). I do not understand that mentality. The only way to do something is to do it and do it right. So often our efforts are well-intended but half-hearted. Do it. Do it well. Do it thoroughly.
Are you fighting hard for mediocrity? In another post I wrote about becoming accessible to destiny. Most of us just settle for whatever happens. The owner of the bar referred to above was not making a living, not paying the bills, not reaching new customers. His was a mundane and barely-getting-by experience. It was sad to watch. I am sorry to report that after the consultant left, the owner began to change things BACK to the way they had been before.
I have no idea what has happened since, but I am going to guess all he did was postpone the inevitable. You see, when you fight so hard for mediocrity you are committing suicide by glacier. You’ve thrown yourself in front of a slow-moving force which will crush you. It won’t happen right away, but it will happen.
Ok, I think you get the picture. So now it’s time for your homework assignment. If things are going well and you are generally happy and content then take a moment to identify why. You are doubtless doing things right and it is paying off.
But if things are not, if you sense that they are gradually slowing down and falling apart, what are you going to do? Whose advice will you seek out? What are you prepared to do to fix it? Can you resolve now to abandon the fight for mediocrity?