My beloved Garden State (that was NOT meant sarcastically!) was the focus of much news coverage this past week, when some good old-fashioned newspaper reporting revealed that highly ranked officials in the administation of Our Beloved Governor (might be a little sarcasm in there) might have purposely closed numerous access lanes to the George Washington Bridge as political retribution against a mayor from the other party who didn't endorse said Beloved Governor for reelection, of which he was pretty much assured, endorsement or no endorsement.
There's a lesson to be found here, crime fiction authors. You'll see in a minute.
At a nationally televised news conference on Thursday, the Gov took a couple hours to shoot the breeze with the press about this incident. And apologized, in his extremely imitable way, sort of. But when addressing the firing of a close aide, did he explain that it was because of the disservice to the citizenry? The flagrant illegality of what was done? The callous disregard for the citizens of Fort Lee and anyone else who wanted to get into Upper Manhattan for a few days in September?
Nah. It was "because she lied to me."
Forget the Claude Rains ("I'm shocked--shocked--to discover there's gambling going on here") implausibility of his declared amazement at what had happened. Don't even consider the possibility that the traffic gambit was the tip of the iceberg. The bit of wisdom we can all take away from this particular political nonsense is thus:
It ain't all about you. Ever.
Some authors are tempted, for example when a negative review is posted on a web site, to rebut the points, even inaccuracies being presented as fact. Some authors (see last week's post) can't see past their own titles when considering possible excellence in the field. Some authors believe that the agents and editors with whom they deal should be devoted strictly to the advancement of said author and his/her brilliant product.
Oh, get over yourself. Just because each of us is intimately familiar with our works, and believe what we write to be fabulous in some way or another--a healthy ego IS necessary to do this job--doesn't mean the whole publishing world comes to a halt the moment your word processor keyboard cools off.
Consider the equally well documented case of one Mr. Alex Rodriguez, until recently third baseman for the New York Yankees: Mr. Rod has been suspended from all things baseball for a year because of a list of indiscretions involving banned substances that, from the sound of it, is impressive enough to drop the most jaded of jaws.
Mr. Rod was one of 13 players caught in a particular net, and the only one who didn't just take the punishment and slink back into the shadows. Granted, his punishment was about 3.25 times that of the closest runner-up, which again leads one to wonder exactly how many smoking guns he had left behind ("Leave the gun. Take the steroids."). Nonetheless, it was his handling of the brouhaha from which we can take our cue.
First, he exhibited confidence: The charges were false and he would undoubtedly be exonerated. There was no question. Until there was a good deal of question. Compromises were offered; deals were put on various tables, and it was suggested by the head of Mr. Rod's own labor union that perhaps he would be best served by negotiating.
No way. Mr. Rod then clammed up. For a while. For the "good of the team," which was in awful shape last year but still had an unbelievably slim shot at success, which didn't happen. Once radio silence was broken, Mr. Rod attended the hearings on his case, even finding groups to picket the building where the hearing was being held. I'm not making a word of this up.
When it was clear things weren't going his way, Mr. Rod threw a hissy fit, banged his fist on the table, left the hearing in a huff, and headed directly to a sympathetic radio program, where he looked into the eyes of the host (and because of simulcast on a TV station owned by the Yankees, the viewer) and insisted he had never done any of the things of which he was accused. Nothing. Nada.
The suspension was handed out on Saturday, and immediately Mr. Rod announced he would appeal it in federal court. Yes, he wants to literally make a federal case of a ruling that didn't go his way.
Authors, consider: Sometimes things aren't going to go your way. Some editors will reject your work. Some reviewers will criticize it. Sometimes the book buying public will simply refuse to spend its hard-earned money on your hard-earned brainchild.
Think about how you look when you react. Denial--the editor asking for changes just lacks vision? Your ego can be seen from space; calm yourself. Hissy fit? You're petty. Escalation of the rhetoric? You have an inflated idea of your own place in the publishing universe. Refusal to budge an inch? Yeah, you have your artistic integrity, but you're overlooking one possibility--other people may be right about your work.
With your work, be open to suggestion. With criticism, be deaf to cheap shots. With your sales figures, be blind to any criterion other than whether you wrote the book you wanted to write and did it as well as you could.
Take the high road. But you might want to divert to the Lincoln Tunnel. I hear the traffic at the GWB is a little backed up.
P.S. Pitchers and catchers report in 32 days.