Writing Skills

I spent hours this morning just taking this picture on my phone, figuring out how to DPI it, how to put a border on it, trying it out as a .tif file (nope…) and now .jpeg.  Sigh…

I just finished my first self-published book, Profound Living: Essays, Images, and Poetry, which I put together with a couple co-authors/editors, Kelly Anderson and Davin Carr-Chellman, who were wonderful.  Though I’ve published other books before, this was my first self-published book, so I had much to learn. Fortunately, Kelly had self-published before so she brought that knowledge, along with the rest of her impressive suite of skills and wisdom, to the process, and cut down the learning curve for the rest of us.

As a writer, like many I imagine, I have spent a good chunk of time reading about how to write from folks like E.B. White (master essayist and of course co-author of the Elements of Style), Stephen King (On Writing is one of the best), and sundry others, like Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird and William Zinsser’s On Writing Well (possibly my favorite).

Then, of course, there is the requisite writing itself. One can read about writing, talk about writing, take classes about writing but if one doesn’t write…..well.

There are books and books and classes and classes about writing.

A good number of people say they want to write a book. Some read about writing one or take a class. Fewer still open an actual document and come up with a title. And just a handful write the book.

Fewer still take the steps to see their book published.

Publishing books involves another set of skills such as figuring out the publisher, learning how to be accepted by a publisher, interacting with an editor, working with copy editors, and on and on. If one wants the book to be read, then learning how to market your book is a whole other set of skills and effort, which might include trying to sound interesting on a live interview when all you ever really wanted to do was sit in your pajamas in front of your computer and type. With the ubiquitous cup of coffee, naturellement.

There are books and books and classes and classes about publishing and marketing books.

While self-publishing is much easier these days, there is a whole additional set of skills required to do it well, such as learning how to transfer one’s timeless prose into a book platform. Such as technical skills like learning how to size photographs correctly for both electronic and printed versions of your book. And on and on.

My technical skills are crap.  Or, to be more elegant, crapément. (Davin, see now I’m making up words in French as well as in English.) And I’m very shaky on the rest of this self-publishing matter.  One wants one’s work to look at least moderately professional once it is available for anyone to look at anytime.  (Stop and rest in that thought for a moment….it is a sobering one.) If you have any pride in your work at all you don’t want to work for years on writing your Great Book and then botch it all up with a sloppily edited and produced final product. That is like getting a 4.0 in school and then leaving typos on your resume and job application. Those get tossed in the “no” files pretty easily.

Photos have me flummoxed, for sure and for example. What is DPI?  Dots?  What is a canvas (yes, I know what it means for someone who has actual brushes and palette). And on and on.

Still, it was great fun to self-publish a book, working with delightful collaborators like Kelly and Davin, and also the wonderful image-makers – actual pros like Antonia (TJ) Cardella, Marc Christensen, and Vincent Fortunato; making plenty of false starts and mistakes; laughing at myself all the time; and breaking pencils (that’s metaphorical these days) in frustration from time to time.

The result, a book, published. A proud accomplishment. If thousands and thousands read this book that would be grand. If one or two or three read it that would be just fine. If no one reads it but me from time-to-time, then I’ll be reading something I enjoy reading and thoroughly enjoyed creating.

The next book is on its way.

In anticipation, I’m learning how to pixelate now.