Friday, December 23, 2011

Forgetting the balls you miss

When I'm not toiling away as a romance author, I work part time as the marketing & communications manager for my city's tourism bureau.

That's a fancy way of saying I get paid to write blog posts about beer and take journalists snowshoeing.

A key element of my job involves wooing reporters so they write nice articles about Bend, Oregon. I like to believe I'm pretty decent at my job, and I continue believing that by never, ever looking at my own success rate on media pitches.

This came up in conversation with three co-workers the other night while we swilled holiday cocktails and recapped the year's successes. I told them about a media pitch I'd just done for a national publication.

"The reporter is listing the top ten places on earth you should be when the world ends in 2012," I explained. "I told him about the beer cooler at Good Life Brewery – how it's built to withstand a 10.0 earthquake and has enough beer to keep 100 people well-sauced for several weeks."

They all laughed and patted me on the back for my cleverness. I smiled and said a polite thank you. "I doubt anything will come of it."

I wasn't being modest. I was being realistic. Of the hundreds of pitches I do each year, only a small handful ever amount to much.

Surprisingly, that doesn't discourage me. It just means I need to keep my head down, keep my eyes peeled for opportunity, and keep pitching 'til I run out of balls.

Since there's no shortage of balls in my life, I seldom worry much.

Still, I hope no one ever makes me count how many media pitches I've done that never went anywhere. I'd much rather focus on the successes – the New York Times piece raving about a great new hotel in town, or the glossy magazine spread touting Bend as a top ski destination.

It's the same reason I cringe at author-related public speaking engagements when someone asks how many books I've written. Honestly? I can't remember. I could probably count, but I'm too lazy and frankly, the number would just be discouraging.

I'd rather focus on the three-book deal for romantic comedies, my upcoming interactive-fiction release with Coliloquy, and all the other successes I've had in my writing career.

The dead books are there collecting dust bunnies under my bed, but they don't keep me up at night.

I didn't go into all this detail with my co-workers, but one of them knew instantly what I meant about the media pitches.

"I saw a motivational speech where the guy talked about how many photographs are taken to get one, single, picture that appears in National Geographic," she said. "I don't remember the exact number, but it was hundreds of thousands."


But you can be damn sure the photographer who has a picture appear on those pages doesn't pout about shots he took that now sit rejected on his hard drive. He's too busy dancing around screaming, "I got a photo in @#$% National Geographic."

In the end, there's no sense wasting time or energy focusing on your failures. Keep playing, keep swinging, and keep your mind on the times you whack that damn ball out of the park.

Oh, and keep snickering about balls. That helps.

Incidentally, I heard from the reporter several days after my pitch about the beer cooler. They decided to include the brewery on their list of the top ten places to be when the world ends.

Don't you love it when balls go right where you want?


Anne Gallagher said...

Thanks for the head's up. I think that brewery is right where I want to be if indeed the world explodes.

Happy Holidays!

Sarah W said...

You always manage to be realistic and encouraging at the same time.

That's a real gift, Tawna--thanks for sharing it with us.

Happy Merry!

Mary said...

That brewery cooler sounds like a GREAT place to be when the world ends next year. Definitely deserves to be included. And, you're right--Glass half-full is much better than focusing on the negatives or what didn't work out. Cheers!

Elizabeth Poole said...

Helpful and hilarious post! I've been seriously stalled on my novel for weeks, and it's been very discouraging. But a nice flip in perspective, and I can start looking at all the things I DO have. Great!

Mark Simpson said...

It seems that all successful people readily admit that they have failed far more often than they've succeeded. It's pretty simple really--the more tries thrown out there the better the odds something will stick. And since we can't help but learn from failures, the quality of those attempts will improve over time.

The challenge seems to lie in the ability to brush off the trail of failures so you can keep on rolling. In sports they might say something like: "That quarterback has great amnesia. He threw that pick on the last drive, and now he's on fire."

"Forget about the losses, exaggerate the wins" --from "The Road" by Jackson Browne

"Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy." --from "Take it Easy" also written by Jackson Browne

Coleen Patrick said...

Thanks for the laugh--and inspiration!

Anonymous said...

The one's looking back over their shoulder are the ones who run into light poles while walking down the street. Dooh, dang that hurts. Keep looking forward and keep your hands firmly grasping the next ball that comes your way. (now that's sweet!) Enjoy always, T

C D Meetens said...

There are days when I need someone to wave this sort of information at me, and remind me to focus on the successes. Thanks for such a great post. It's fantastic inspiration, and makes me want to keep trying for those successes.

Minta Hall said...

I have just the treat for eating when locked in the brewery at the end of the world.

I just posted the recipe for "My Special Christmas Cake." It's very nutritious, with fruit and stuff and I'm sure you could substitute beer for the liquid. though you might have to use more beer than is otherwise suggested. Maybe double?

With this cake and the brewery, I'm sure the end of the world could be survived quite nicely.

And if probably won't notice anyway.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

Who wouldn't want to be in a brewery after the world ends. In the least you could get sauced. At the most, you'd have at least one ingredient for tasty beer burgers.

Lisa Ahn said...

Love this! I am sending queries out to agents now and the number game is starting to drive me crazy. I keep thinking of all those author interviews where the author says something like, "I queried x number of agents before I found the one." I compare my numbers to those numbers . . . and get a headache. Much better to keep focused on the current pitch, and the list of stories and essays I have had published. Thanks!

Claire Dawn said...

Gow did you mention "balls" all through a post without it going downhill? You're going soft. lol. couldn't help it. :) Happy hols hun!