Surviving CBA, Part II

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So all of you who emailed me after that last post with your “Thanks for the laughs,” and “Nice knowing you”? You can forget getting another company Christmas card from me, you cutesy ingrates!

The rest of you can all breathe easy. I’m not going anywhere. I’ve just been getting a needed dose of reality. Undergoing some realignment of my inadvisably high expectations.

Some context for that last post on survival. It’s been a really rough patch with that little cutie in the left corner the past few months since Christmas (she’s lucky she’s cute) (and yes, it’s only been 5 weeks; that was a little comic irony). So surviving is all I can expect in that area. But the spill-over into the work life resets me back to default setting…

“Okay, God. It’s up to you.”

And that’s a good thing. Another time and place, I might consider it weak. In fact, at times I’ve seen my struggle with the morality of our industry as misguided, self-righteous foolishness. But it’s only when I’m being this honest that the misguided, self-righteous fool manages to give my conscience its due.

Actually, strike that. Bachelors have consciences. Married men have wives.

My lovely wife helped me make today different. Night into day. The miracle of miracles, we ignored everything and stayed up late and she talked me down, helped me up, smacked me around, and put me back together. Far better place today. We’re determined to make more space for personal time and us time. Things already look better on the CBA front.

It’s at the bottom of the well, when you have nothing left to give, that you find you actually can see tightening that schedule another few cranks.

Of course, there will always be days when things fly out of whack. And you have to accept that the baby really is in charge at 2 am. And 2:30. And 3:15. And 4:25. And you have to accept the sometimes, despite all your work, your day is going down the toilet.

Then there’s the adult-resistant inner child who may bristle at your neat little scheduling of his spontaneous creativity, and decide it’s time for some shut eye, a good pint of Ben & Jerry’s for breakfast, and roll into the office by 11 (at least, that’s what I hear some other lazy editor-parents do).

And then you may even finally catch that umpteenth cold your kids have had since October. And there you’ll be, with all of that converging, and you don’t have the shields up. You don’t have any more shields to put up. You’re completely sans shields.

So things look a little more bleak when you’ve been robbed of your hard-earned perceptive faculties.

Many of us worry about how our industry is reflecting on God and our faith. I don’t think it’s wrong to worry and take our part seriously. It’s not even a bad idea to work (covertly, winsomely, carefully) for change. Simply, there are a few special stomach-churning elements that must be dealt with. In God’s timing and His way. And when you’re an acquisitions editor, you’re the one holding your finger in the dike saying, “No, no. Really. This is NOT who we want to work with. Believe me.” And then you’ll hear later that they sold 3 books elsewhere—oh, excuse me, that’s “ideas for books”—for 10 times your yearly salary. For each.

It’s not about the money. It’s not greed. It’s not selfishness. It’s not even so much the facts of business.

It’s pride. It’s the presence of this worst of evils in us all. But luckily, that’s only a problem in publishing.

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11 thoughts on “Surviving CBA, Part II”

  1. You know, sleep and rest and recreation really do make all the difference, don’t they? :)
    17 years ago, we had to take a nearly 50% cut in household income in order to keep me alive–literally. I had to restructure everything to minimize stress and maximize serenity (and time for visits with doctors, specialists, etc).
    To some it comes across as selfishness. But sometimes, that really is about not going nuts or dying.
    Is there a champagne cork or something you can substitute for that finger in the dike? :)
    And thank God for spouses. They do keep one sane…if they’re GOOD spouses. :D
    Glad to have you stabilizing there, bro. :D
    Mir

  2. I have no doubt that God made babies and puppies cute so we wouldn’t murder them. Seriously.
    Thanks for sharing your well-dressed perspectives, both Uno and Dos. And thank your sweet wife for slapping you around. You’re a blessed man, you know. An excellent wife is worth more than rubies. Hmmm. Rubies would make a nice Valentines gift for an excellent wife. You should consider it, Mr. Rich Acquisitions Guy. Meanwhile, I think I’ll go slap Biology Bob around a bit and see if I can’t get some good V-Day stuff out of the deal.
    Here’s to a very day-ish day at the dike. Cheers!

  3. So fathers kvetch about their children’s sleep habits too? (HAHAHAAA! Habits? Can you call not sleeping a habit?) And here we wives thought you went in to work, caught an extra hour of shut-eye at the desk, and enjoyed a relaxing snot- and oatmeal-smeared-shirt-free day.

  4. What? Publishers buy “ideas for books” these days? How come nobody told me? That’s ALL I have is ideas. No actual books, mind you, just ideas. Let’s see…if I can sell three ideas to each of the major publishers, I can become a mega-millionaire in a matter of minutes right? Yeah, I know…I need to be famous first, but that shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll just start some huge ministry and give it a name like “The Church of the Real Jesus, Not the One You Worship” and get Time Magazine to do a feature on my atypical teaching methods (I’m bringing back flannelgraph AND filmstrips). Then I’ll do something that will require huge repentance so I have an even better story to tell.
    This is such good news, Mick.
    But just to let you know, I won’t use my wealth to buy a huge mansion. Or a Lexus. Or even an XBOX 360. No. I have bigger plans. I’m going to buy an extra day off every week for beleaguered editors who wish they had more energy to fight for the books that really matter. How does Thursday sound?
    Glad you got some rest. Just don’t let such a thing as sleep steal your restlessness.

  5. Mick, I don’t know how to make a kid sleep who isn’t sleepy. But I do know you can come up with a system that works for you!
    My oldest kid (now 27) didn’t sleep for five minutes the first 2 years of life. Day or night. He wasn’t just wakeful, either. He was awake and screaming. The doctor said it was his “personality.” Dear Lord, deliver us!
    Hub and I came up with a system. He had to get six hours or so of sleep and I had to, also, for sanity’s sake, even though I was a SAHM. So I went to bed around 7 and slept till 11, when he came to bed. If I was tremendously blessed by God, I might get another hour or so between 11 and 6 am.
    Let’s just say I’ve been more blessed recently. ;)

  6. Mick, you and I talked about this years ago and continue to wrestle with it…you’ve received many good, insightful comments here and I’ll add one more. I believe that everyone has a call on their life, but the call may change over time. Where we are today may be exactly where God wants us to be, but He may point to somewhere else tomorrow. It helps me to remember that wherever He points me He has already gone ahead and prepared. CBA isn’t this thing or this place to be, to work, to call home. And it is a JOB! Everything, always, ultimately comes down to that. Even your greatest passion will feel like a “job” over time. We become desensitized, and we “make unimportant” those things that used to inflame our sense of injustice, morality and responsibility. We stay where we are until we are so uncomfortable that we MUST change. The prodding of the Holy Spirit is a gentle tap on the shoulder for some, but a “snap out of it!” slap in the face for others. Whether you stay or whether you go isn’t what matters. What matters is if that still small voice is screaming at you to move to the next place prepared for the work of your hands or not. Only you know the answer to that. It’s about YOUR walk of obedience, not mine, not other editors, not other writers or industry “professionals” who do or don’t hold up the expectations you have of them. It’s about YOU. What is God asking Mick to do? And I can’t tell you the answer because I have no clue. I can’t be the Holy Spirit for you or anyone else. Thank Goodness!

  7. Sleep depravation! I see! The world is much brighter today. You have a baby and I have a puppy. Those 3am awakenings kind of dull the senses! Your candidness and insights are always refreshing.

  8. I think we must all go through rough patches in our careers–and hopefully some high points too.
    I’ve been low before, but right now I’m “up.” So Mick, maybe we’ll meet at a conference this year and I can bolster you a bit. And next year I may need the same from you.
    Here’s what helps: Having one or two pet projects that get through the pipeline intact and make an impact….and all because it was something you believed in and championed. One event like that gets a lot of mileage for me. And lately I’ve had two or three of these high points.
    And to tell the truth, my low points come not so much from CBA as an industry or the process, but because I’m disappointed that CBA readers sometimes tend to prefer a bar set relatively low. I want them to prefer GOOD writing to mediocre writing…and as I watch the bestseller lists, I’m not sure that’s happening.
    Stiff upper lip, Mick. God has a future for you. You’re a fine, fine editor.

  9. It would be interesting to know if Mr. Harrison is referring to fiction or non-fiction or both in the low-bar references.
    In fiction it would seem the readers are taking “story” over writing because something in those stories resonates with them.
    A recent Christy Award winner wrote with compelling language but had a significant story gap–for me the hole was gaping–yet it wasn’t mentioned as a weakness in the book.
    For those publishers trying to reach the “post-modern” generation with “culturally relevant” books, the current generation is far less likely to want “good” writing because they’ve grown up with ever more “sophisticated” video images, games, and virtual games. Public education is generally not producing skilled readers or writers. And, of course, there are exceptions.
    Because low-bar writing is produced in greater numbers because it is assumed the greater majority prefer this type of writing, maybe instead what is being proven is that the “good” writing which is tossed out there for consumption isn’t in fact as “good” as some people think it is.
    As far as the seasons of work go, it is especially disappointing, discouraging, and disheartening when the “Christian” workplace is producing “low-bar” conduct, attitude, and/or product.

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