One of the sessions I’m supposed to present at the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference has to do with how an author can keep her balance in an industry that combines the worst of big tech with the worst of the commercial arts. Writers are supposed to stay on top of a business environment that’s growing more complex by the nanosecond, while protecting a creative imagination that’s increasingly endangered, to a significant extent by the very tech we rely on to generate a product.
What’s an author to do?
Write books of course, and stick with the readers, because they support the core agenda of getting good stories into the hands of the people who will appreciate them most.
Everybody else–the publishing houses, marketing weanies, tech giants, agents, editors, and various other support personnel–takes a backseat role to the readers. If an author doesn’t have or value readers, the circus folds in short order.
But beyond that Prime Directive, I’ve also spotted a few potholes that wait to trap the unwary author, and one of them that seems to cross many professions is the person whose receptive language skills can’t keep up with their expressions language skills.
Whazzat mean? These are the people our grandmas and grandpas said, were, “All hat and no cattle.” They can talk a good game… as long as that game is about themselves. They are articulate, knowledgeable, and even charming, but the more closely you listen the more you realize, they can’t process what you’re telling them. A basic question, “What platform do you find best suited to discovery of a dinosaur-shifter-suspense series?” gets a lot of blah-blah-blah in response.
These folks can always tell you what they want you to know, but when it comes to dishing on what you need to know… more blah-blah. They can’t process incoming information well or quickly, they aren’t good analytical thinkers. They are tapdancing as fast as they can, hoping you (and they?) don’t find that out.
I have met many receptive-language laggards in the courtroom. Attorneys, social workers, clients… as long as they are on “send,” they manage quite well. When it comes to “receive” or “acknowledge,” the speed is much slower and your message has a hard time getting through. Of course, nobody wakes up at the age of three and says, “Who needs receptive language skills? Not me. I’ll just express myself at top speed for the rest of my life and I’ll be fine.” This skill deficit that makes life hard, and I don’t wish it on anybody.
But I also don’t wish its results on me, or one my author buddies, so in my presentation, I’m dropping a flag on people with this communication pattern, authors included. If this is your cross to bear, then you’ve probably learned to ask, “Could you repeat that?” or, “Let me make sure I understand…” or, “How, exactly, does that work in a cause and effect sense?” In the absence of compensating habits like those questions, dialogue can become monologue very quickly.
What are some communication styles or habits that drive you bonkers? Are there any skills or habits you’ve come across that are particularly helpful for keeping conversation productive? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of my laaaaasssst (I think) ARC of My One and Only Duke.