Posts tagged: Ilene Dillon

Negotiation Skills and Working with Professionals – Add a little Sugar!

I'd work for these cookies––French macaroons.

Cookies make a difference. These are French macaroons, or Luxembourgers, made by Burdick Chocolates of Northhampton, MA. Photo courtesy of Burdick Chocolates.

I recently posted an article by super publicist Susan Schwartzman about working with a publicist and the importance of sending cookies once in a while.

This seems like a small thing––maybe even a bribe––but it’s not. What Ms. Schwartzman introduces is the very large topic of use of influence. Use of influence means what authors can do to maximize their impact in an intensely competitive world. Ms. Schwartzman‘s message applies not only to publicists, but to everyone the author touches in a publishing endeavor.

The author’s problem is BEING NOTICED. Whether self published or published by the majors, an author needs to get the attention of  his or her literary agent, book shepherd, cover and interior designers, publisher, publicist, editor, and especially intended readers.

Can you do it? Don’t think the quality of your book alone will catapult you to the front lines––you need negotiation skills here. You need communication skills and more.

Do you know how to listen to another person and deeply understand that person’s point of view? Can you send messages about your wants and needs that don’t feel like threats? Can you formulate a solution to the problem that benefits all participants?

If you can’t do these things, take a communication skills course. Add a negotiation skills course on top of that. You don’t have to spend a fortune doing it––most community rec departments offer them. Local junior colleges and high school adult ed departments give such courses. Learn personal skills, in addition to “How to write a perfect query letter.”

I once led a T-group at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. A T-group is like a therapy group, except it focuses on personal skills as they impact business situations. Studies have shown that students who do well in T-groups at the major business schools excel in their professional and personal lives. These are the movers and shakers: They make the most money and win life’s prizes.

The professor in charge made a devastating comment: “If you can’t motivate this group, how do you expect to attain your life goals?”

If you can’t move those closest to you, how to you expect to end up the CEO of a major corporation? Or save lives in Africa? Or get anyone to read your book, much less buy it?”

How can you motivate others? With cookies.

Of course, your publicist will work hard for you without them, but how do you make sure your job is the one that gets done at the end of the day?

Good manners is part of it. Assertive good manners. [Take an assertiveness training, too.] I’ll go over assertive techniques in later posts. Be kind and understand the point of view of the person you’re dealing with. That’s why I liked Susan Schwartzman’s article so much: Though she’s a top publicist, she reveals herself as a person in her blog post.

[Nathan Bransford is a blog writer who gives his audience a clear view of what a literary agent's life is like. This is very useful information for one attempting to be represented by an agent. Mr. Bransford talks about the joys of coming to work on Monday and finding 400 queries in his in-box. How do you approach someone in this situation? This is an opportunity to practice communication and negotiation skills.]

Life as a publishing industry professional is rough. How does one keep going?

He looks cute, doesn't he?

Raj looks cute, doesn't he? Hah! This 30 pound dog flipped an 80 pound Aussie on her back and terrorized a German shepherd.

Cookies really help. Positive reinforcement, behavioral psychologists call it. Here’s a story about positive reinforcement, also known as operant conditioning.

As a lifelong horsewoman, I’ve known about positive reinforcement for a long time. The “horse whisperer” type trainers use it. But when we got a “special needs” Cocker spaniel from the pound, I understood the real power of positive reinforcement. [Click for an article about this problem dog.]

Raj was a frigging nightmare, the attack-Cocker from hell. Within days of our rescuing him, he’d terrorized our much larger dogs and dominated our household. He made me a nervous wreck and caused my husband to rave about sending him back from whence he came. So what if they’d off him? He was killing us.

In desperation, I called my vet, who said, “Call Amanda!” Amanda is a dog trainer who uses only positive techniques. She was so nice that I couldn’t imagine her handing an aggressive dog, much less our stone cold killer.

Raj adored her. By the end of our sessions, she had him eating out of her hand (not eating her hand). He became a positive member of our social unit. Today, the human and canine Nathan pack loves Amanda––and Raj. [I wrote a series of articles about this transformation. Here's a link.]

What was the secret? Amanda rewarded-–in a currency that the Raj appreciated (bits of hot dogs)––everything he did that was desirable and IGNORED the rest. This sounds like it would take forever, but it’s actually very fast.

Find the currency the person you’re relating with wants and give it to them. (Subject to moral and legal constraints, of course.)

POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT IS 9 TIMES AS EFFECTIVE AS NEGATIVE. (Maybe even more. I forget the statistics Amanda cited.) Praise, cookies, acknowledgment, kindness––all of these work better than hostility, blame, rank pulling and abuse, physical or verbal abuse.

You can get noticed being a bad guy.

You can get noticed being a bad guy. Poor Sumo was so scared he wouldn't get out of the cart when Raj was around. Is this good? No. Raj is lucky he's alive.

You’re in a negotiation called life. You want your world to notice you. You can get noticed by being the meanest, most foul mouthed, bad-patootie on the block. By getting full-body implants and flaunting them. By setting yourself on fire in public––metaphorically or in reality.

Do these tactics buy you what you want? Why not figure out what those on your team want and give it to them? Why not figure out what the guys on the other team want and see areas of commonality? Why not use all your skills, including those of your heart and soul, to attain your goals?

Cookies are a tie breaker. Give cookies and you’ll get noticed in a positive way. Undoubtedly, the good wishes and intentions behind such gifts are what motivate theor recipient to expend that little extra bit of energy––that puts you in Time Magazine.

One more story on the value of positive reinforcement:

My daughter Zoe went to school in New York.  On one trip home, her plane had some problem and was taken out of service.  Everyone had to be rerouted. It was a mess; inconvenient, irritating.

Zoe stood in line at the airline’s counter and watched her fellow passengers REAM the airline employee who was working hard to put them on different, hopefully functional, planes. They acted as though the employee had personally disabled the first plane.

When she finally reached the desk, Zoe said, “Everyone’s acting like it’s your fault, but I think you’re doing a great job. Thank you!”

The woman gave her first class tickets all the way home.

You think cookies matter?

Award Winning Author of Numenon & Stepping Off the Edge

Award Winning Author of Numenon & Stepping Off the Edge

Sandy Nathan
Award winning author of Numenon and Stepping Off the Edge.
(And negotiation coach, as well as teacher/coach of communications and assertiveness trainings!)

Would you like some of the cookies up top? They’re all the rage in Paris––lines form to purchase “les macarons”––and now Burdicks is shipping them! These hand-piped, tender meringue treats are filled with flavored buttercreams. All natural flavorings of chocolate, coffee, pistachio, raspberry, lavender, almond-citrus and ginger. The assortment of fifteen is presented in a unique polka-dotted box. Click here for a review. Click to go to  LA Burdick Chocolate’s website to order.

UNLOCK WRITER’S BLOCK – WHAT WORKED FOR ME

sndy

Sandy Nathan, award winning author, rides her horse for the first time after having her ankle fused. Little did she know that getting over writer's block would be harder.

I wrote an introductory article on unlocking writers block a few weeks ago. (The one illustrated with photos of us trying to get a horse into a trailer.) After three weeks of vacation in New Mexico, I’m home and happily and productively working on the rewrite of Mogollon, sequel to my award winning novel, Numenon.

What did it take for me to break through the dreaded block?

Well, I stepped in a rut in the driveway with my fused ankle about three days into my vacation and spent the next two weeks in great pain and unable to walk. Before that, I had in a kidney infection along with a major flu.

That’s right, I had a kidney infection at the same time as the flu.

Is suffering necessary to break through writer’s block?

Was for me.

I put a longer and deeper write up of my experience these last few weeks on my personal blog (SandraNathan.net). Here, I summarize a few key learning points that may help you deal with your dragons:

1.    Accept and surrender.
If you’re unable to write what you want, or reach the depth that you know you’ve got with your writing, acknowledge it. You don’t have to like it or embrace it, just accept the fact you’re blocked. And surrender to the fact. Journal about it. Write a blog article or entire book about it.
2.    If you don’t accept your blocked state and surrender to it, you can search the Net for tips and techniques to deal with writer’s block and paralysis. You’ll find lots: Try them all. Maybe they’ll work. Chances are they won’t. When you discover this, accept your block and surrender to it.
3.    Hit bottom. I did this in my idyllic New Mexico escape, bruised ankle propped on pillows and my foot and lower leg––all the way to the knee––looking like an angry eggplant. That was after I got over the kidney infection and flu.
4.    Truly give up. Hand your whole life over to your Higher Power. If you don’t have a Higher Power, make One up.
5.    Note that the universe really is in control of your life, not you, despite what The Secret says. Healing is a combination of grace and self effort. When you surrender, the spooky stuff starts happening. For instance, when I finally hit as bottom as I’ve been in recent years, I decided to read by book club’s selection for the next month, which was:
6.    Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza. This best-selling book tells the story of how Immaculee Ilibagiza survived the murder of one million of her fellow Tutsi tribe members by rampaging Hutus. She hid in a 3 X 5 bathroom in Rwanda with 7 other women for 3 months. This book is a miracle, the finest example of contemporary Christian mysticism I have read. It jolted me into contact with my spiritual roots and provided the ground of my healing.
7.    It’s also evidence that writer’s block is not the worst thing that can happen to you.
8.    Neither are low book sales.

9.    You don’t have to be obsessed with your on-line sales, the number of blogs you write on, your web site stats, or anything about the world of writing.
10.    Life would go on if you never wrote another word.
11.    You might even enjoy your life more.

Freedom is letting go of attachment and aversion.

Freedom is letting go of attachment and aversion. No more: "I gotta have it," alternating with "I'd better run from him/her/it." Freedom is our birthright.

This is freedom. Once you attain this knowledge that you don’t need to write and the inner state that goes with it, the fountain of creativity inside of you may start to bubble again. You may get new angles for the book you were working on. You may WANT to write. You may be able to write.

Or not. You may want to run screaming from the literary world.

Try my method: Drop everything. Get to a dead stop. See what your soul says to you about your writing and your life. Do what it says.

I’m back at work writing, but in a different way. No more pounding the keyboard until my shoulders won’t move and my wounded ankle feels like it’s poured full of molten lead. No more obsessing.

I’m doing things differently and letting the immense love and good will of the universe carry me forward. If my stuff is supposed to sell, it will because people find value in it––and in getting to know me.

In God we trust, right? That’s the title of that other article I wrote about my recent three weeks of high altitude spiritual regeneration in Santa Fe.

Two more tips that could radically improve the level of peace in the world and might even help your writer’s block:

1.    Watch where you put your feet. If you watch where you put your feet, you won’t step in it. It can take many physical and metaphorical forms. The rut in the driveway that nailed my already screwed-down ankle taught me the wisdom of simple truths: Watch where you step.
2.    Keep your ankle above your heart.
This is a variant of an Eastern spiritual practice. In Eastern religions, worshipers pranam, bow, to their gurus, sacred objects, or representations of deities. The pranam involves either going down on one’s hands and knees and touching one’s forehead to the floor or a total prostration, lying face down on the floor with your hands over your head––a full pranam.

The pranam honors the sacred and forces one to put one’s head below one’s heart. That is, a pranam puts the rational, judgmental function of the intellect below the empathetic, intuitive, compassionate function of the heart. This is a good thing. Few people get in trouble because they’re too compassionate.

My episode with my ankle indicated that keeping your ankle above your heart can be an equally powerful means of attaining surrender, peace and nonviolence. Could those Hutus have murdered all those people if they’d kept their ankles about their hearts? No.

You can’t do much lying on your back with your ankle above your heart. This posture does provide a perfect opportunity to catch up on the meditations you’ve missed since you started writing seriously twenty years ago. You can contemplate existence like crazy.

With your ankle above your heart, your ankle’s swelling will go down, and so may that of your head. It’s a humbling thing, lying with your leg in the air. Humbling enough to allow your soul to talk and tell you what it thinks of the way you’ve been living.

Your soul may point out certain deficiencies in your behavior that have contributed to your inability to write anything but checks. Your soul may suggest alternative behaviors. In my case, if I didn’t run myself into the ground and chase foolish …  (Contemplation can be brisk.)

Writing and lifestyle are interrelated, or so my ankle and heart told me.

In words my editor sent me (from Ephesians): Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

In God I trust, while walking the walk.

If you want the longer form on my personal blog, click here to go to Sandra Nathan.net

Unlock Writer’s Block – What You Need to Know When the Words Won’t Flow

 

'm going to illustrate this blog post with a simple tale springing from ranch life. This is a true story, obviously, since those are photos. This is The Day  Corcovado Learned  to Load and Unload from a Trailer. Note that the horse is not freaking out, pitching a fit, or tramping his handlers. No, Corco is doing something more effective. He's adopted The Mule Stance. My mind is following Corco's example as I contemplate rewriting Mogollon.

I'm going to illustrate this blog post with a simple tale springing from ranch life. This is a true story, obviously, since those are photos. This is The Day Corcovado Learned to Load and Unload from a Trailer. Note that the horse is not freaking out, pitching a fit, or tramping his handlers. No, Corco is doing something more effective. He's adopted The Mule Stance. My mind follows Corco's example as I contemplate rewriting Mogollon.

A while ago, I wrote that I was going to blog about the rewrite, the re-vision, of my draft version of Mogollon, the sequel to my award winning book, Numenon.

That was weeks ago. In that time, we put a Kindle version of Numenon out for 99 cents. Sales went crazy, Numo hit # 1 in Mysticism, and then cruised near the top of the Religious Fiction category.

This was a problem.

Why? Because Numenon is the introduction to the series. It’s got every hook in the world in it to make people want the sequel. It ends with a bang and points the reader dead at  Mogollon, the rewrite of which we are discussing.

Numenon‘s readers are already asking for the sequel; some are getting kinda grouchy about it. How long will my readers wait before dumping me entirely?

The book’s first and part of a  second draft is written. All I have to do is open my computer files and wail away, toiling for a really long time to get the manuscript cleaned up as well as I can. Then I have to go through the editorial and proofing process, necessitating months and months of hard work before a publishable version exists.

As owner of an Indie press,  after I do all the above, I get to manage the design and publication process, and then marketing and sales.

I  can’t open the manuscript’s files.  I’d rather do anything than think about the changes  I have to make. I’d as soon dismember my firstborn child as whack away at Mogollon.

DO YOU THINK I’VE GOT WRITERS’ BLOCK?

* * *

 

An undisclosed amount of time later and the guys have the task in hand. All they have to do is get Corco from where he is into the trailer.

An undisclosed amount of time later and the guys have the task in hand. All they have to do is get Corco from where he is into the trailer. All I have to do is get Mogollon into print.

WHAT IS WRITERS’ BLOCK? Essentially, it’s psychological resistance. Usually it involves the writer’s ego: “My work is so important … The world needs my masterpiece. I can’t write. If I can’t write, I’ll die, and the world will be left without my words … What a tragedy.”

I realize that sounds judgmental and mindless of the pain of the condition, but remember that the blocked up person I’m talking about is me. I exhibit almost every causal attitude I’ll discuss below.

The desire to write the Great American (Latvian, Lithuanian, or Other) Novel can shut a writer down: “I have this HUGE idea. Can I possibly express it? Am I big enough? Good enough?” Hand wringing. Angst. Pain. It’s based on an inflated image of one’s importance in the Grand Scheme of Things.

If you regarded finishing your novel the way ranch people regard mucking out the stalls, would it be so hard? So wrenching? Would you stay awake nights because you couldn’t finish the job? No. When writing becomes a job of work, histrionics leave and you can get the thing done.

Writer’s block also can be associated with positive things. Sherman Alexie, the bestselling Native American author, reminds us that success can block you up good. How can you write when your last book was a national bestseller and your publisher is leaning on you for the new one? And grumbling about your contract and the advance you got for the three book deal?

Heart breaking, isn’t it?

Just plain fear is behind a lot of this. Can I do it? Can I bring it across? It’s the terror that arises when one faces in front of a blank screen or empty page. My eyes widen and I suppress a scream  . . .

Real progress: both front hooves are on the ramp. Corco continues to exhibit the Mule Stance.

Real progress: both front hooves are on the ramp. Corco continues to exhibit the Mule Stance. These photos were taken over several hours of intense human-equine power negotiation. Notice the carrot in Barry's hand. Sometimes positive reinforcement doesn't work. Also–Corco had a bath before these pictures were taken. His coat is wet from suds, not sweat. It's the guys who are sweating.

Laziness sometimes lurks behind the inability to finish a tale. Writing a novel is about the hardest kind of authoring imaginable. (Though I think a surgeon friend’s rewrite of his textbook on arthroscopic ankle surgery ranks up there)

You may begin your manuscript and discover that completing it requires the discipline to sit down and bang it out––to sit for days, months, and years. Despite your earth-shaking, sure to be a bestseller idea, your book won’t exist unless you write it down.

“It’s just too  hard … I can’t do it.” Another tragedy.

So you go to a writing group for support and stick around until you hear their feedback to your cherished production. Sometimes this can be bracing in a “pull up your socks” way, and sometimes it can shut down all creativity. Rough editors can do the same.

The rest of humanity, household pets, inanimate objects, and lousy viruses and bacteria can stop a writer’s progress. Life intrudes.

“Marge, there’s a truck in the living room. It just came through the wall.”

Call it resistance or an errant Mack truck, writer’s block is writer’s block. A cure exists. I have written about it: The Ultimate Cure for Writer’s Block. If you get what I say in this article, block will not trouble you, unless it wants to.

* * *

ON THE OTHER HAND, YOU MAY NOT BE ABLE TO FINISH YOUR MANUSCRIPT BECAUSE THE TIME ISN’T RIGHT. You and your book idea might not be cooked enough.

In a revolutionary move, Tony has PICKED UP CORCO'S HOOF and placed it farther onto the ramp. Notice that nothing has changed in the horse's stance. True resistance, perfectly executed. Well done, Corco!

In a revolutionary move, Tony has PICKED UP CORCO'S HOOF and placed it further onto the ramp. Notice that nothing else has changed in the horse's stance. True resistance, perfectly executed. Well done, Corco!

THE PROCESS OF TEACHING CORCOVADO TO LOAD AND UNLOAD ILLUSTRATES THE LESSON IN THIS ARTICLE:

YOU CANNOT MAKE A 1,200 POUND ANIMAL DO ANYTHING. IT HAS TO WANT TO DO IT.

YOU CAN’T MAKE A WRITER SPIT OUT WORDS, EITHER.

 

 

WRITER’S BLOCK IS LIKE THE BERLIN WALL:  YOU CAN’T GO AROUND IT, OVER IT, OR UNDER IT AS LONG AS IT’S STANDING AND THE GATES ARE CLOSED.

RECALL THAT THE BERLIN WALL (which some of you may not remember) CAME DOWN WHEN THE TIME WAS RIGHT.

RESISTANCE IS LIKE THAT: It seems like a solid wall, but it’s got invisible cracks. As time passes, doors open, and close. Keep your eye on the wall, and go through when an opening appears. (That means write like crazy when you can.)

WHILE YOU’RE WAITING, DO SOMETHING ELSE.

THINGS TO DO WHILE WAITING FOR AN OPENING IN YOUR RESISTANCE:

READ. You can read all sorts of stuff, including my online magazine,  SPURS MAGAZINE. SPURS is about changing the world, or at least cleaning up some of its nasty bits. I named it SPURS because in life, sometimes you need spurs to get moving. I’ve been writing SPURS since the late 1990s and am about to unleash it in blog form, as soon as I get over my paralysis over rewriting Mogollon.

Advanced training technique: Tony waves his hat while Barry pulls on the lead rope.

Advanced training technique: Tony waves his hat while Barry pulls on the lead rope. Corco remains unmoved. Some people resort to offering buckets of carrots and grain at this point. When that doesn't work, they escalate to use of two by fours and longe whips. Nasty. We don't do that. The inter species negotiation process intensifies as and the sun drops on the horizon …

SPURS’ WRITERS’ CORNER. Not only do I have a ‘zine, I’ve got a ‘zine for writers, dealing with topics that writers must manage or go insane. The WRITERS’ CORNER is one of the most popular locations on my web empire. (I’ve got 52 URLs, compadres.)

[Note: If you think Mogollon needs rewriting, SPURS' WRITERS' CORNER needs major surgery. Read it and know it's a draft. I'll rewrite it before I die. Or make it into a blog. Okay?]

 

 

SPURS’ WRITERS’ CORNER contains a bunch of articles relevant to writer’s block. These articles walk through the process of writing as experienced by me and many others. (Lots of references & links.) Please allow your browser time to open at the links.

As everything else fails, Tony and Barry attempt to FORCE Corco into the trailer.

Tony and Barry attempt to FORCE Corco into the trailer. Barry is inside the trailer, pulling hard, while Tony applies muscle at the other end. Does it work? What do you think? You can no more force a horse into a trailer than your brain to kick out the right words. (Note: Do not do what you see above at home. What's shown in the above photo is extremely dangerous and very bad horsemanship. Corco could kill either man if he lunged forward or bolted backwards.)

TO DISTRACT YOURSELF WHEN YOU CAN’T WRITE,  YOU CAN ALSO CLEAN THE HOUSE, ROLLER SKATE, GO TO YOUR SHRINK, BLOG ABOUT YOUR BLOCK, ENTERTAIN YOUR FELLOW WRITERS, OR TAKE A NAP.

MOSTLY, CONTEMPLATE THE SITUATION UNTIL YOU REALIZE THE REAL REASON FOR YOUR BLOCKAGE/STOPPAGE.

WHAT WRITING THIS ARTICLE DID FOR ME WAS MAKE ME REALIZE THAT:

  • I’m tired.
  • I need a break.
  • A real break where I do NOTHING, NADA, ZILCH.
  • NO book marketing, planning the next move, scheduling book signings, reading blogs on marketing, sales, the latest Net techniques.
  • Take the box of books out of the trunk of the car “just in case.”
  • I need to stop doing what I’m doing and allow my personal process––my soul, if you will––to call the shots.
  • When The Universe wants me to finish Mogollon, I will, and probably pronto.

[HERE'S AN EXERCISE: I throw them in all over Stepping Off the Edge, might as well here. Please jot down any images or thoughts that come to you while you read my list, and the rest of the article, including hops to Spurs' Writers' Corner and Spurs Magazine. Take some time and generate your own list of word blockers. Where are you in the process above? I'm not saying that you're worn out, either. Your situation reflects your writing style and process. You may need a kick in the rear.]

MY REAL PROBLEM IS: I’M POOPED.

I’m taking that break, goin’ to Santa Fe for three weeks. Santa Fe, New Mexico, is like catnip to me. Where we stay, there’s no Internet, no phone, no TV, no roads. Just wind and sky and a few snakes.

 

Tony leads Corcovado out of the trailer.

Tony leads Corcovado out of the trailer. Note how relaxed the horse is. He never had a problem going into or out of a trainer from this day forward.

 

WHAT DOES CORCO  SAY ABOUT THIS?

About a minute after the previous photo, Corcovado walked into the trailer easily and with no fuss. He’d decided that he wanted to.

When your soul/brain/heart/body/hands decide it’s time to write, you will. You’ll write good stuff, that deserves to see the light of day.

PS. If you liked this article, you will like my book Stepping Off the Edge. It has much more about living the writer’s life, success, triumph, despair, and JOY.

STEPPING OFF THE EDGE on KINDLE– 99 cents for a limited time!

NUMENON on KINDLE––99 cents for a limited time!

Hasta luego, amigos! I’ll write more later! I have a date with a dirt road and cactus.

 

Numenon, by Sandy Nathan, is a Nautilus Book Awards Silver Winner!

Numenon, by Sandy Nathan, is a 2009 Nautilus Book Awards Silver Winner!

 

Sandy Nathan
Winner of the 2009 Silver Nautilus Award for
Numenon
The Nautilus Awards are dedicated to “changing the world one book at a time.” The Nautilus Award was established to find and reward distinguished literary contributions to spiritual growth, conscious living, high-level wellness, green values, responsible leadership and positive social change.

By winning a Nautilus Silver Award with her book, Numenon,  author Sandy Nathan joins the ranks of  Deepak Chopra, M.D., Barbara Kingsolver, Thich Nnat Hanh, Jean Houston, PhD., Eckhart Tolle, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. All are Nautilus Award winners.

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