Friday, April 16, 2010

It's All in How You Look at It

I went on a looooooong motorcycle ride with the hubs today. Like probably too long. And since I haven't slept much in the past few days, there was a brief moment on our ride home when I honestly thought I was going to fall asleep on the back of the motorcycle. Which would have been a disaster. But before all that, we drove to Brooksville, FL, which...uh, WOW. I didn't even know they made houses like that in Florida. Seriously, people. There were COWS. And HORSES. And wide, open FIELDS!!!

So hubs and I started doing what we I love to do whenever we're in the presence of houses that actually have decent square footage and backyards: pretend like we could actually afford them and discuss which ones we like best. We were driving along a particularly windy path, and in between two houses (one, a lovely two-story country home with wraparound porch, the other a stucco mini-mansion with a long palm-lined driveway) was an empty lot. Well, not exactly empty. It had a couple mounds of dirt in it, and a mailbox at the end of the driveway, so I assumed it was a construction site. But then hubs turned around and said, "Cool! A BMX track!"

Me: "Uh, that's not a BMX track."
Hubs: "Yeah it is!"
Me: "No, it's not! It's a construction site! Those are just piles of dirt!"
Hubs: *Laughs his face off* "No, that's a BMX track. It's organized a certain way. You just can't see it because you're not a boy."


I can't see it, because I'm not a boy.

What looked to me like this:

Looked to my husband like this:

We were riding with his dad, otherwise I probably would have done the obnoxious girl thing and made him turn around. (Although, since he doesn't read the blog, I can comfortably admit that searching for pictures of BMX tracks made me realize he might have been right...maybe.) But what he said got me thinking about perception, and of course, how perception can affect your writing and reading.

How many times have you read a book that everyone LOVED, it just wasn't for you? I can think of at least two strong examples of this in my life. But just because I didn't like the book doesn't mean it's awful (as awesome as I am.) And when people don't enjoy my favorite books, I try to let it slide. The things they've experienced in their lives, or just their general preferences (i.e., liking BMX vs. not being sure why someone would want to ride a tiny bicycle) affect their perception of a book. And that's totally OK. And one day, when (not if - it's all about positive thinking here) I get published, there will be people - multiple people, probably - who don't like my book. And that's OK too.

I don't think there are many times when writers send something off to a crit partner thinking it's totally perfect. But the funny thing is, a crit partner (or a beta reader) might look at something you wrote and have a totally different take on it. That is, in fact, why you have them. So you might have a scene you love and think makes perfect sense, and they'll write, "OMGWTFBBQ?????" in the margins, letting you know you are totally out of your mind. (Hopefully they'll also give a little more explanation as to why you are out of your mind.) On the flip side, you might have a scene that you think is not actually working, and it turns out it is. Or maybe it just needed someone else's perspective - a little chat session or a few emails exchanged with some of your writing buddies, and before you know it your villain has a back story, and your subplot fits in perfectly with the rest of your novel. You just needed someone else to see your pile of dirt as a BMX track.

Even when you're querying, it's all about perception. We've all heard stories about how a book might get rejected by one agent, only to be picked up by another the next day. Just because one agent (or publishing house) doesn't like what you've got going on doesn't mean that there isn't another one who will see that your WIP is so not a pile of dirt...obviously.


How could I mention my hubs, his motorcycle, and my pink helmet (oh, did I not mention that? Well, I have a motorcycle helmet. And it's pink. It's awesome.) without sharing one of these awesome pictures from the mini-engagement photo session we did with one of my best friends, photographer Elizabeth Atkins? There's an even better one but we're KISSING in it, and no one wants to see that...


  1. Great anecdote. I often get miffed when told, "Because you're not a boy," also, but sometimes, it's true. And it's the same things with books.

    There are definitely those widely loved that I just didn't enjoy. I chalked it up to tastes. :)

  2. What a cute picture!! :-)

    (Although, I have a terrify me. Can we still be friends?)

    This is what I LOVE about our weekly chats! When I am having a hard time w/ an issue, just a new set of eyes will help me figure something out that I was totally stumped on.

  3. How boring life would be if we all saw things in the same way! Great post! Really enjoying your blog.

    And, where is Brooksville? I live in Jacksonville, FL and we have LOTS of wide open farm area around here. Sadly, not in MY neighborhood, but still! I used to live in S. FL though, and yeah, the houses are practically on top of each other!

  4. Great point, Heather! Sorta like 'one man's trash is another man's treasure' - or 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' - cliche but so true!!

  5. AWESOME!!! I love motorcycles, but cannot talk my husband into getting one. But if I had one, I'd totally get a pink helmet.

    Loved the comparison of the dirt and the racetrack. Sometimes, hope makes us delusional.

    and yes, I have read plenty of books that I didn't like that I was apparently supposed to. Still, I keep hoping (delusional?) that EVERYONE will like mine.

  6. Wise words! It's so true, but so hard to make myself believe. I'm one of those perfectionists who think that if everyone doesn't like my book, I have utterly failed as a writer and should live out my life as a barista at Starbucks. And I don't even like coffee! Psh.

    Totally jealous of your pink helmet and motorcycling husband, btw. :)

  7. hahaha such a cute post! glad you had fun -- and love the idea of a pink motorcycle helmet!! :D

    thanks for sharing :D

  8. Heather--Great post, as usual!

    I think individual taste is an idea that does get lost a lot, particularly when the same messages and media and consumer goods--including books--are out there for so many people to try on for size. As writers, I think it's our unique taste which becomes the source of our voice and ideas, so there's value to cultivating and developing a personal perspective, even when it is counter to the views of others.

    Great food for thought. Thanks for putting this one up.


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