Be Glad, Not Mad: How Rude People Can Improve Your Writing!

Last week, stiff as a board from writing and interviewing all week, I treated myself to a massage and sauna at one of our local spas. The massage was exactly what I needed, and I was just starting to close my eyes and bask in the dry sauna heat when the door flew open. In strode a women I’ve known peripherally for years. After briskly throwing a ladle of water on the hot coals, releasing a huge cloud of steam over me, she plunked herself down and began to talk. After exhausting the subjects of her health and our kids, I happened to mention that I was co-authoring a book. Naturally, she asked what it was about. When I replied that it was a guide to college transfer, her blunt response was “That sounds boring! Tell me why I would want to read it!”

I’m sure my mouth hung open in disbelief for a moment before I grimly snapped it shut. But then I rose to her challenge. “Did you know that one out of three students will transfer during their college careers?” I asked. “And that many parents today are way more involved in their children’s college careers than our parents were, primarily because the annual tuition cost of college can be as much as a new car!” She nodded and mentioned several young adults she knew who were struggling with college debt. Encouraged, I continued, “So, the first chapters of the book focus on helping families decide if transfer is really the best choice for the student. We interviewed real kids and came up with a bunch of examples, some where the school was definitely a poor fit for them and others where the student would be better off staying there and trying to work out the issues that were making it hard for them to adjust to college. There’s a quiz section too and right now I’m working on interviewing for the last chapters.” I looked at her expectantly, “So did I convince you to read it?”

“Well I don’t know any kids who are transferring so I wouldn’t buy it,” she assured me. “But I’m sure someone will!”

Part of me felt like I should be angry and upset over this encounter. However, the more practical Sue realizes that this was actually an excellent wakeup call. Writing a nonfiction book is a significant accomplishment. But an author’s job doesn’t always conclude with the final paragraph. Sometimes you need to be prepared to educate people about your topic, along with perfecting a 15 second elevator pitch as to why a book about it is guaranteed to be both timely and helpful. I’m glad I learned this lesson sooner, rather than later!

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