Tag Archives: diva

Readers wanted: Beta testing art makes me twitchy but…

I’m reasonably certain that Ernest Hemingway didn’t seek out a lot of advice on his manuscripts before he sold them for publication. He would be appalled at modern strategies of writers seeking out reader reaction before publication.

Steve Jobs would mock the idea of beta testing a book. Don’t ask buyers what they want, he said. Tell them what they want. Beta test? Please.

Yet, it’s a thing. It happens all the time. Blogging books have become popular. Serialized chapters on digital platforms allow readers to interact with the author during the writer process.

Crowdsourcing books? Why not? In this modern age of writing, anything goes. And lord knows I’m no Hemingway or Jobs.

Still, it makes me nervous. The idea of sharing my work before it is published makes me downright twitchy.

But… I’m going to do it. I’m putting out a “help wanted” sign in my window. “Readers Wanted.”

I just finished my new novel. I can’t tell if it’s brilliant or awful. I honestly have no idea. That’s where the readers come in. They get to tell me which it is. Thumbs up or down.

I doubt it’s in between.

The job sucks. There is no pay. The better you do the job, the more likely I’ll not want to hear it. It’s safe to say I lack both objectivity and openness to ideas, even when I am in desperate need of both. It’s a no-win situation. If a reader tells me it’s brilliant, I know I’ll think they are blowing smoke up my ass. If they tell me it’s awful, I’ll snicker and mock their inability to grasp the art. Those that have great ideas for changes will likely be dismissed. Those that offer few changes will be chided for their lack of commitment to the project.

Great job, right?

Hey, I’m being honest. I’m in full-fledged diva mode. I love these characters. I have spent all my waking hours with them for a long time now. I teared up reading my own ending. And now that I’ve finished, I’m wallowing in depression.

Also, I already know everything that’s wrong with the book. It’s too long. It’s too ambitious. It’s too similar to others and too different to be published. It’s a lame attempt at literary and a poor attempt at suspense. It defies categories and preaches too much and reeks of sentimentality and gets way too fucking deep on matters people don’t care about. It’s everything and nothing and…

But I fucking love it.

So yeah, I want to make it great. I want to get feedback. I need to know how readers experience it. I need a beta test, so I better understand how real people react to these real people I created on a page.  Hemingway would hate it, and I think I will too, but I’ll admit it. I need the help. Who would do such a thankless job?

I have no idea. Nevertheless,

“Readers wanted. Inquire within.”


The Artistic Diva: It may just be necessary

My children have accused of me of “diva moments.” It is not at all an unfair accusation, though I take seriously my role to minimize it.

Note, I say minimize, not eliminate. Well, I note it anyway. Because until I now I’ve always felt a twinge of guilt associated with these moments when my concentration is so narrowed and my lens so telescopic that anything outside the frame is as unwelcome as Cousin Eddie in National Lampoon’s Vacation movies.

I was trying to explain this to my kids’ significant others the other day and the more I tried, the more I infused it with humor to mask my baseline discomfort at the idea that I was giving myself permission — at times — to be an asshole. This is fundamentally at odds with who I attempt to be as a person who values and celebrates others. The incongruence of these two opposing values stung at me for a long time after like the road rash The Bride picked up on Mother’s Day showing off on a skateboard she had no idea how to ride.

I still picked at the scab the next day. My future daughter-in-law’s question buzzed at my ears like Tinnitus. “Well, if you know you are that way, why do it?”

Sigh. It’s hard to explain I wanted to say.

Finally, I landed on something this morning that put my mind at ease just a bit. The world is noisy. It’s fleeting and skittish as if the whole of humanity share the same ADD disorder. Twitter is a billion-dollar example of capitalizing on this collective impatience and — dare I say it? —  self-centeredness.

To have any degree of accomplishment (that’s not the word I want… I think “mastery” is better, but I’m still not sure) in an art, be it words, song, dramatic interpretation, painting, even chisel to stone, it takes both a focus that is at odds with the world and an “otherness” that wants to create something of value for all.

I lack mastery in all but a very few, a select few, fields of artistic expression. But in those that really matter, and even to some extent the pursuit of learning those that far elude mastery, I can’t do what I do with the clatter of this world fighting for my attention. The closer I get to the putting three or five or seven words in the exact order to say the exact thing I want, the less patient I become, the more heightened my irritation is, as if I unconsciously call the battalions to high alert to the ramparts of my mind in defense of this moment in time and space when something outside of me, better than me, and yet a small slice of the fulfillment of me, happens. Why do it? she asks? Because I’m not sure It’s not necessary.

I realized later had I been less concerned with my own ego and entertaining them, I would have thought about the question my son’s lovely lady asked. I would have said to her — a wonderful dancer from childhood, I am told — “Because it’s a bit necessary I think. Didn’t you find it so in the studio?”

I’m guessing she would agree with me, because she too has a little diva in her, or at least I suspect she did to be as good at her art as she used to be. Don’t we all have a little of this in us, right there nudging next to our finest moments, perhaps jading them with a bit of ourselves that we know are not as colorful as the art we try to produce?

I am constantly reminded how flawed I am. I am constantly aware of how hard I work to smooth rough edges that take hours of spiritual discipline to sand away yet can become married in a moment of elevated voice and sour-filled expression of selfish pity.

I suspect it’s necessary, these diva moments,  this side of heaven to keep us humble and to keep us learning until that day when we finally get it right, on Earth as it is in heaven.

At least I hope it is, which heightens my awareness of my responsibility to do what I do while minimizing my diva moments even if I don’t really want to eliminate them.