January 25, 2016 by Shawn Smith
If you google the phrase where are all… the search engine will autofill the remainder with …the good men. I guess even robots know that good, relationship-ready men are elusive. Not non-existent. Elusive. There’s a big difference.
There’s a reason I’m pointing it out. I’ll come back to that shortly.
This may be the most self-indulgent post I’ve slapped up here at ironshink, but I want to answer a few questions I hear with some regularity about the ins and outs of writing. As the timing would have it, I released my fourth book last week. That makes it official: I’ve now written more books than I’ve read!
It’s surprising and flattering when people ask about my writing process. It’s also a bit disorienting because I’m the guy who tries to fly beneath the radar when I’m not cowering behind the online persona. But I suppose there’s something about work and creativity that intrigues people. I assume that’s why construction sites have peep holes in the fences. Or maybe the construction workers just want to look out once in a while.
If I were a fiction writer, I’d probably have something interesting to say about my “process.” I would recite the childhood genesis of the unyielding muse that compels me. I imagine she’d be about about four inches tall, winged, bespectacled, and well proportioned. Each night, she would implore—nay, command me to write… to love… to create!
Man, I’m glad I don’t have a muse. The truth is, I write a book when I see a problem in need of a solution. I don’t even devise the solutions. I just compile what smarter people than me have said, and maybe toss in a few observations here and there. In fact, that’s pretty much how I go through life: find a problem; fix it. So far, it’s been an effective strategy for staying off the welfare rolls.
For example, I wrote The User’s Guide to the Human Mind to fill a certain gap in the marketplace. There are tons o’ books about mindfulness and acceptance that have good, sciency foundations. It’s useful stuff for people struggling with anxiety, substance abuse, and the like.
But none of those books were written in my language: limited vocabulary; intolerant of platitudes. I’m the kind of guy who owns a non-ironic Peterbilt cap and a .357, and I prefer straight talk. (Some of my colleagues would be dismayed to learn that there are others like me, so let’s not tell them, OK?)
During my early years as a clinician, I noticed that most of the useful, empirically-validated material on the matter of acceptance and mindfulness uses language that just doesn’t register very effectively with those of us possessed by a stoic, midwestern sensibility. It’s geared more toward San Francisco than Topeka, so I set out to fill the gap. See? It’s all about finding a problem and trying to fix it.
My first book, Surviving Aggressive People, had a similar motivation. I’ve had an interest in verbal de-escalation since growing up in my father’s bar, but I never could find a book on the subject written for regular folk, so I compiled what I could find on the topic. Find a problem; fix it.
And then there was The Woman’s Guide to How Men Think. I don’t recollect what problem I was trying to solve with this book, but I recall that the publisher gave it a pink cover and a title no one can remember, so I try not to think about it. I’ve heard good things, though.
And now there is the current book, and the reason I started this post with Google’s attempt to locate all the good men. The problems I’m trying to solve with this book are common quandaries of romantic uncertainty and frustration.
I meet a lot of women in my practice who are uncertain about the character of the men in their lives, and an equal number of great guys who are frustrated by a difficulty attracting women. Is He Worth It? is meant to help women weed out the wrong guys and find the right ones. Will it be useful? Time will tell.
How The Sausage is Made
There’s the why of writing books. Now as to the how… I’m what they call a hybrid author. That means I possess both human and squirrel DNA.
No, that’s probably not true. It means I’ve published through traditional companies like New Harbinger (a wonderful publisher), and I have also self-published.
Is He Worth It? is self-published. Believe me, that was not a straightforward decision. It involved many hours of wandering around my neighborhood, muttering to myself as I tried to reconcile the costs and benefits of each path.
At the risk of sounding immodest, I would have had no difficulty selling this title to a publisher. I chose to self-publish because 1) I’m a control freak, and 2) I like to control things. Also, I don’t mind putting in the extra hours in exchange for the extra dollars that self-publishing offers.
There are disadvantages. Done correctly, self-publishing is expensive and time consuming. It also entails sacrificing certain distribution channels and assuming more risk. Another drawback is the fact that there remains a stigma attached to self-publishing, though that seems to be decreasing with each passing month.
On the other hand, both self- and traditionally-published books require similar marketing efforts from the author. Publisher’s don’t do much in the way of marketing non-famous authors these days, and so the self-published author receives a much larger return on marketing investment. Self-publishing also allows the author to retain legal rights over the work, and that is no small consideration.
A few people have asked if I would recommend self-publishing. It depends entirely on the project and the person. If I were a tenured professor writing a specialized volume, I’d most definitely prefer the traditional route. If I were in my position, I wouldn’t. Your situation may vary.
As for my tools of the trade, I prefer Apple products because they don’t give me lip when I’m trying to work, unlike the alternatives. To each his own. <snark> I have no quarrel with those of you who prefer a less cooperative operating system. </snark>
I also like to write standing up. I think better when I can fidget, on account of the squirrel DNA. Below is a photo of the blabatorium where the magic happens. The gent chomping on the cigar is my departed father. There’s a story behind the giant “our founder” type photo of him, but that’s for another day.
For the actual processing of words, I prefer Nisus Writer, Scrivener, and Ulysses. The continued existence of Microsoft Word mystifies me because trying to write with it is like trying to brush your teeth with a backhoe. Nisus makes a top-notch word processor, and Scrivener helps keep an unwieldy book project neat and organized.
Well, isn’t all this talk of word processors titillating! I better stop before I set the Web ablaze.
OK then, enough about me. Hopefully it’s apparent why things have been sparse here on ironshrink, but there are some neat blog posts in the hopper.
For example, I’m working on an overly long piece on microaggressions; a real man’s guide to forgiveness; notes from a transdermal cranial stimulation “experiment” with my doctor buddy; a piece on loss of sex drive in older men.
I better get busy! I hope you’ll get Is He Worth It? for yourself or a friend. If you have time, please consider writing an honest review at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads. Reviews really help to spread the word.
See ya soon!