Sunday, July 26, 2009

In Search of Extraordinary

The other day, I received an email from a publishing company announcing a "sale" on publishing - for $200.00 less, I could publish a book. All I had to do was respond to the email.

That made me think - in this world of email, mass everything, I would imagine that thousands of people actually respond. Now, don't get me wrong. The email did not come from a disreputable firm. I actually know them, and inquired about their publishing process. But the second I received that mass email, my opinion of them dropped like a rock. They are not looking to help writers publish great works, they are just making a buck.

As a lover of English, poetry and great prose, I am actually saddened by this high volume approach to publishing a book. How can anything be good or worth reading? And how will the good make it through the endless piles of mediocrity that gets published these days.

And I wonder, is extraordinary lost? Shakespeare was extraordinary. Keats was extraordinary. They were writing and telling stories in a time when people wanted to listen. When there was an audience that actually wanted to read the prose, watch the play, hear the story.

When everything is so simple, by simply responding to a mass email, how can anything we good?

Last year, I submitted a poem to an online poetry web site just to see what would happen. I began getting emails about how my poem was being reviewed by a board of directors, and eventually it was selected for the editor choice award. The poem was published, and I was invited to the annual conference held by this organization to read the poem aloud to the poetry community. But I did not go, because I did not trust the process. I did not trust their intentions. And I did not believe that my poem was that extraordinary.

I received the anthology - it was the first poem published in the book. I have to admit, I was excited about it. This has been one of my life goals - to be a published writer.

But because this process is so - mass focused and accessible, I don't trust it. Call me cynical. But I believe we are losing our sense of what is extraordinary.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Recipe for Cake

What: Bake a cake.

Why: Because we are celebrating an important birthday.

How:  Poor cake mix into a bowl. Add water. Add 1 egg. Stir for 30 seconds. Pour into a 8 x 10 ungreased pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool on rack. Ice.

This may seem overly simplistic, but believe me, the person who wrote this recipe on the back of a cake mix box probably experience several edits before he or she broke it down to a set of perfect, measurable steps.

In the corporate world, we have to do that too. Even if we are planning some major strategy. The challenge is to keep it simple so that it is absolutely, unequivocally true, such that a reasonable and logically individual could not find fault with it or could follow it blindfolded.

Strategy answers these three questions: What is to be accomplished (the end goal); why is this necessary; and how we go about this?  Strategies take time.