Favours and Neurosis

All right, I think I’m recovered from the bout of insanity that cause the last post.  Really, I’m okay.  Sometimes I just need to get stuff out of my system to get some perspective on whatever’s bothering me.  I promise, I’ve been good the last couple of days, not pushing myself to such stupid lengths.  The inner editor has been… relatively quite is the best way to describe it, I guess.  Mostly, she’s been busy editing.

So, how has that been going?  Almost done. I’m working on Chapter 21 of Where The Ether Flows now for actual edits, and Chapter 23 for markups.  I’ve been doing markups one the way to work and at lunch, so I can concentrate on editing when I get home.  It’s sort of interesting, though, working on two different parts of the story more or less simultaneously.  I keep having to remind myself where I am.  I’m not sure if that’s helping or hurting.  Round two will tell that tale, I suppose.

None of this is what I really wanted to talk about tonight, but I thought I’d get that out of the way.  I should warn you, you’re about to get another taste of me being a bit… neurotic, in case the post title didn’t give that away.  The situation could be worse and, strangely, as this subject causes my neurosis to only affect myself. I’m talking about asking others for favours, especially as you take first steps.  I’m actually exceedingly bad at both parts of that sentence.

This is coming up because I finally did something that I’ve been dithering over for weeks, but I did it in such a way as to avoid having to ask for what feels to me like a favour of a friend.  I emailed someone about doing a cover for Bound.  That’s definitely a first step for me, as I’ve never had a cover done up for a book in my life.  Not a surprise when you realize that Bound is also the first novel I ever finished.  No comments on the fact that I wrote it twice.  But you can see why I call it a first step?  I’m always terrified of those, and I think it’s because they’re so easy to screw up.  I don’t have any experience, and no amount of research is going to teach me all the things that having done it will.  Trust me, I’ll be going through this every step of Bound’s remaining journey to being a published novel (EEEEP).  Really, I’m okay, I’m only hyperventilating here.  Breathe, Julie, just breathe.

So, where does the avoiding asking for a favour come into this?  Well, here’s the thing.  A friend of mine who recently starting working in graphic design suggested he’d like to do a cover for my book if I was interested.  It was mentioned mostly in passing as we conversed on a variety of subjects, and we went on to another topic without my saying much one way or another.  I was surprised and flattered by the offer and didn’t quite know how to respond.  He and I have had a few conversations since without it being mentioned (though admittedly, Bound didn’t come up either).  Now I find I’m ready to have a cover done and I haven’t chatted with him in a month or two.  I could email him, or contact him in a few other ways, but I feel… reluctant to.  I want to take him up on his offer, or at least talk to him about it, but it feels like I’d be asking him for a favour and I don’t know how to approach that.

Maybe for some, this is easy, but for me, it’s like getting a root canal done.  Painful and to be avoided at all costs.  There are a number of reasons for this, and the biggest is that I don’t want to make people feel obligated to do something for me.  I feel like just asking would do that, or make them think that I only have them around so they can do favours for me, so I never ask.  Seriously, I almost never ask anyone for anything.  I think I could be bleeding to death and I wouldn’t ask for first aid.  Why do I feel that way?  Because it’s often my reaction when asked by others, feeling like I have to say yes.  Sometimes I want to, and so it’s not an issue, and other times I’m cringing as I say “Sure, yeah, I guess I could do that.”  I think another part is that I have trouble sometimes ascertaining if someone really means what they say or are just being polite.  I mean, people do that all the time, say things they don’t mean, and I’m always nervous that they didn’t really mean it when they offered to do that thing (anything), and that I’ll create an awkward situation if I ask.  So I don’t ask.

It isn’t just the cover art either.  Oh no, it’s not one single thing by any stretch.  For me, it’s everything.  I had been thinking about getting one more beta reader for Bound, and I know one or two people I’d like to ask, but then I don’t.  I can’t make myself do it.  I know that they’re busy people with lives and manuscripts of their own, and I feel uncomfortable asking, even if I were to add that they’re under no obligation to agree.  I value their opinion of my work and the feedback they might be able to provide me, but I also value their opinion of ME, and I don’t want to jeopardize that.  I swear, in some respects I’m a total coward.

So, I haven’t emailed anyone else about reading for me, and I emailed a total stranger I found on Twitter about a cover, all so I could avoid the situation entirely.  I refuse to let these things stop me, or hold my writing back, which is why I jumped off that cliff and emailed said total stranger who has a nice portfolio on their website, but some days, I wish I could find a way to ask.  I might feel less alone in trying to do the biggest thing I’ve ever attempted in my life.  It’s scary and intimidating, facing this incredible task.  I appreciate the people who have helped me to this point, I really do.  It’s just that I’m staring at the rest of the road and seeing only me on it.  It’s terrifying, but I’m still putting one foot in front of the other, because it’s the only way to get through this.

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About Julie

I'm a writer and photographer. I always have something with me to take notes for ideas or writing projects I'm thinking about or have on the go. I also like to go around with my camera and take pictures of anything that strikes me as beautiful or evocative. I'm perpetually working on one story or another, while waiting for enough distance to judge the last one (or more). I'm always working on several projects at once, developing the next book, even as I'm editing the last. Beyond that, there's always plenty of scraps and twists of ideas rolling around in my head, eventually turning themselves into full blown stories.
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8 Responses to Favours and Neurosis

  1. Pete Denton says:

    I know exactly what you mean.

    First, congratulations on taking this massive step forward. Asking (a friend or stranger) to design a cover is another giant leap forward to realising your goal. I hope things pan out and you love the results.

    I haven’t taken the step of asking anyone to beta-read my novel yet. I do have someone who has volunteered and when I finish the next draft I will take him up on the offer. The rest of it is scary. The thought of putting so much effort into my novel and people having a lukewarm reaction requires a big leap of faith in my work, one I’m not sure I’ ready for in the slightest.

    I think so long as you temper ever offer with “no obligation” people will have the option of declining or at least maybe not being able to do it quickly. A big step but a necessary one.

    • Julie says:

      I think there are two secrets to getting through the scariness of sending something off to beta readers. First, don’t send it until you’re reasonably satisfied with it. Take care of the things you know are wrong with it, so they can concentrate on the things you can’t see. Also, they’ll be more likely to have a good reaction if you wait until then (at least that’s been my experience). The second is to keep firmly in your mind that this is to help the story become that enthralling work people will love. It’s better to just have a couple of people have that tepid reaction, if that’s what happens) than to have it out and published and have the public have that reaction. But yeah, the first time is especially scary.

      The thing about about tempering the offer is that I would do that anyway, and yet it doesn’t make any difference with how I feel about asking. I just have to bug people, take up their time, anything like that. I don’t know, maybe I’m just odd that way.

  2. jmmcdowell says:

    I have a hard time asking for favors or help, too. I don’t want people to feel obligated, either. Or have them be afraid to hurt my feelings by saying no.

    That being said, asking friends to help with something business-like can be sticky. It’s like they say—don’t borrow money from family without doing up a formal contract. There’s a good reason for that.

    Business and friendship need dividing walls to prevent misunderstandings, hurt feelings, anger, and any other bad outcomes. Many friendships have been lost due to the inability to separate personal feelings from the bottom line.

    So, maybe you do want to go with a professional designer with whom you have no personal relationship. But if you do want to work with the friend, you should both approach it as a business proposition and work out the details accordingly.

    Just something to think about!

    • Julie says:

      I agree that it can be a sticky situation, but in some ways, so can not asking. If they really meant it and you go with someone else, they can get bent out of shape over that too. Sometimes it seems like you’re damned either way. I swear, when real people are involved, nothing is ever easy.

  3. quix689 says:

    I’m exactly the same way! Hell, one of my region’s MLs is a designer of some sort, and at the TGIO party I won the right to have her make a cover for me, and I never got around to asking for it because it just felt too weird, even though I won it. So I’m not really the right person to say if your feelings are strange or not, but I can say I completely understand your reluctance. I always feel obligated to do what other people ask of me and rarely ever say no, so I assume they’re the same way. I also have a hard time trying to figure out if people are being serious or polite. I generally assume the latter, but then I always wonder if maybe I was wrong and they actually did want to help. This is why I generally try to avoid people: it just takes so much energy trying to figure out how to deal with them. 🙂

    If you still want your friend to do it, maybe you could try to bring up the subject again and see if he offers a second time? If people offer something twice, I’m more likely to believe that they were serious about it. Of course, if he doesn’t offer again, that doesn’t necessarily mean he wasn’t serious. Is there a way you could bring it up in person and see if he sounds enthusiastic about it? If he’s sort of blase about it, you can say that you were just curious and that it’s still a long way off, and then try someone else. Just a thought.

    As for the beta reader, well, you could always try the “casually mention the need for another opinion and see if they offer” strategy there, too. Or just bite the bullet and ask. I’m not really the right person to suggest that (see my aforementioned inability to ask for a cover that I had already won), but sometimes it’s the only way. You already have a couple of betas. What’s different about adding one more? The originals were flattered and wanted to help you out. I can’t imagine why the others wouldn’t, as well.

    Best of luck! 😀

    • Julie says:

      I suppose the difference is that the betas I have asked to read my work, so I didn’t have to. They knew I was writing a lot and offered, as I recall. I do need to work on this one though. We’ll see where I get with that, if anywhere.

      So far, I’m quite happy with the designer I emailed (a couple of emails back and forth already) and I’m happy to stick with her. Oh well. I do know the friend had a lot going on in his life though, and I really don’t want to add to a full plate.

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