Monday, April 21, 2014

Not to focus on the soap suds

For the month of April, I've been working hard on something I've never done before, a blog tour for one of my novels. It's not even over yet. There will still be a few posts running into May, but I'm relieved that I can see the end of the tunnel. It's been a terrific experience and I've even made some new friends, but I've been thinking about the gauges we find ourselves using to determine whether or not something like a blog tour has been successful. These are things like number of comments left on each of the blog posts, amount of sales, quantities of reviews and other feedback resulting from the attention the book has received. I'm determined not to fall into the trap of believing that if these are not forthcoming every time, the tour has been a flop. These gauges all depend on the whims of other people, and when we find ourselves focusing on them as a measure of success, I've learned that our alarm bells should be ringing.

Recently, I came across an anonymous quotation which said, "Impressing people should a side-effect of the way you live, not the main goal." Yes, that sums it up. Being seduced into focusing on side-effects is a certain mood plunger. We work hard and may up on any given morning to find no mail in our in-boxes and no comments on our blogs. Then we get sad, but we shouldn't, because when we really think about it, that's not really the point of the writing we've done.

I thought of the way I set my washing machine. Sometimes I'm a bit heavy-handed with the detergent, and as each load drains, all this pretty, glistening, sausage-shaped froth soars up from the drain hole in the floor. When my three kids were little, they used to love seeing this. When they heard the water beginning to drain in the laundry, they would come running to watch the froth-show. But as often as not, I would have been more economical with the balance of detergent. Then, the kids would wait with anticipation, and get disappointed to see no froth appear.

I'd try to cheer them up, saying, "Don't worry, maybe there'll be more suds next time." Although they were sad, I'd go out to hang up the washing quite happy, because I knew that the clothes were clean and ready to flap in the wind. That, after all, is the main purpose of a wash, not the suds spectacle.

I think a very similar principle takes place whenever we're working on writing or anything else. Working on the story or the blog reflection is, after all, the main thing, that which brings us most joy and sense of accomplishment. The praise or feedback we get is like the soap suds; pretty to look at but not the main point of the exercise.

Let's be careful to keep our focus on what is the main thing and just get on with what needs to be done.

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