Tag Archives: digital

Grace in the workplace (and ponies, seriously)

I start a new job tomorrow. My search began about a year ago after finding within the desire for change, for something different, something bigger, and being a ‘yes’ to that possibility. The obvious challenge was having to hear ‘no’ at first. And when I finally heard that ‘yes’, i knew it was going to be the right move.

I won’t go into specifics of where I’ll be (or where I am coming from) in the world of academic publishing. Some of you may know already, but for now I will retain that ‘feeling’ of being anonymous.

What I have been feeling most drawn to discussing lately is my relationship to gratitude. Gratitude (or grace) in the workplace, to be specific: how it can be shaped (and by what); its practice (by myself and others (and how conscious a choice that may be)); and what it can bring (or not).

I get that not everyone can (or chooses to) express gratitude for the work they do, and this is just a personal reflection.

At times it can be hard to locate something to be grateful for at work, call it the antithesis of grace. But even if your work is not particularly stimulating or exciting, or happens to be completely unrelated to the ‘master plan’, there is still something to be thankful for, right?

Namely you have a job…and are not one of the 2.5 million out-of-work, underemployed or on benefits in the UK.

But that in itself is too easy an argument to make. So let’s dive deeper…

Working hard to do as well as I can, and seeing the rewards and figuring out the expectations of others is a constant do and redo process (or in startup terms, perpetual beta). Trying to meet those expectations isn’t always easy (or entirely clear) but eventually they must show their rewards. But what if there aren’t any, not right away at least, how do I compare the  entitlements I think I’m due to to the achievements and rewards of the work itself?

There were obviously times in my previous role(s) where things could have gone better, or I had wished for a change in the process in order to make things easier for me, but even through those difficulties, I never forget that I was in a job, doing interesting things, helping authors get published (and in someway contributing to the bottom line of the company).

And did those outweigh the challenges? No, not always, but at the end of every day that was just what had happened in that particular day. I’d be starting the process over again in the morning, and every morning thereafter, so I wold do my best to always be open to the possibility that something may change along the way.

And what had me remember that every day? A simple gratitude practice.

By simply keeping in my mind the separateness of space, work space and personal space, I acted upon or concluded my relationship with my work space by simply bowing and thanking it for what it gave me. Good or bad, right or wrong…it did not matter.

And so as I go forward into my new job, reporting at the office door for 9.30am, I won’t forget how I got to be there, or the people who helped me along the way.

I was giving a miniature pony as a token of friendship recently, one of those things that sits on the top of your pencil…maybe as an eraser.

But anyway, it was given to me by someone who helped me get where I am, so that will certainly be going on my desk to remind me I didn’t get to where I am on my own, but had the help of many along the way.

Grace, baby. Grace.

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To thine own self be true (The Free Trait Theory)

I’ve been adding to my collection of meaningful quotations as of late — you know the kind, the ones that stir something within you, make you smile, or simply make you nod your head in silent appreciation and share them online. The first one has been at the bottom of my e-mail for the last few months, and the other has recently come from, yep, you guessed it…Susan Cain’s Quiet. I’d like to share them now:

Quote 1: “…all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

Quote 2: “To thine own self be true.” ~ William Shakespeare

Now how do I imagine these two offerings of advice relate to me? Well, after having reading the section about Free Trait Theory (covered in chapter 10), I feel these two quotes describe what it is I am trying to be (quote 1), in life, work, love and all other relationships, and quote 2 is what I am actually being. Being unreasonable is the process helps me stay true to myself and my beliefs; I’m constantly learning the difference between “being unreasonable” and cowtow-ing to popular opinion. I even went through a phase of pushing against so much of what my friends and family thought I should be that my actions didn’t have the greatest return of happiness – in fact I felt a lot of pain through that opposition, but at the same time it showed me the opportunity for growth. It still means something for me to stand up for what I believe in; it’s that extra ounce of courage that’s required to say “yes” or “no” and trusting myself that things will be okay after whatever passes. I’m being even more unreasonable through my requests of what I need from those around me. The support I seek, the understanding I wish to have, and through that, an increased feeling of depth, love and trust.

So what is Free Trait Theory? According to Cain, it is a new field of psychology, developed by psychology Professor Brian Little. An introvert himself, Little is also known (via the book) as an engaging and dynamic speaker, not only in his lectures at Harvard University, but also during his public speaking engagements, which he gives to large businesses (and in the book the US military). I love wondering how this is even possible, and Cain clearly does too. Even though Little describes himself as strongly introverted, he’s able to make these “performances” stick by taking the necessary time away from these engagements either before-or-after they have taken place. Think of it as recharging the batteries. How many of us have slipped away quietly, sensing a low ebb during a social engagement, or found a quiet conversation more restorative then buzzing around “networking” with people you may only ever meet once in your life? Or alternatively, if you’re an extrovert, finding a surge in spirit by surrounding yourself with more people? I know I prefer the first two options nowadays and so does Professor Little!

At the same time we can perform in opposition to our true natures just long enough before we need to excuse ourselves, and this is down to the fixed traits and free traits that co-exist within us. This is the principle of Little’s theory, insomuch as I understand it: we all are “born and culturally endowed with certain personality traits … but we can and do act out of character in the service of ‘core personal projects’.” (Cain, 2012) At last! An explanation as to why I feel charged up in certain situations and not others, and feel the opposite way, at a similar event (that may normally drain me) after I’ve had ample time to recharge! It makes total sense. If I have enough “down time” I can be ready and willing during the “up times” – those events I selectively chose to attend.

Take my current career path: Publishing – it’s all about the “networking”. Particularly when you’re looking for information. And it usually comes down to who you know, not what (or a combination of both). The publishing community in Oxford  offers up a lot opportunities to find out what everyone is up to through these seminars like these, the annual trade fairs and book launches. I can’t say I attend many book launches, but I do go to most seminars and recently attended one on book discoverability. Before the talk started however, there was the “wine and nibbles” phase of the event. And during that 30-40 minutes of “small chat” I increasingly noticed how much more of my energy it takes to stand there and chat with people I hardly even know, but when the talk starts I’m usually keen and interested to learn again. When it’s all over, however, I need to get straight home and re-charge, and sometimes that’s not always up to me as I’m dependent on other people for that important lift home (even making small talk in the car feels tiring!) So I have to choose carefully and have my exit strategy planned ahead of time.

Finally,  my social media presence seems to be in a state of oppositional flux when compared to the “networking” I do in person. If you happen to follow me on Twitter, you might think I’m a pretty active tweeter. I post, re-tweet and reply to as many conversations I can on all matters related to publishing (making my focus on digital topics like e-books, e-readers, XML, etc.). I’ll even live tweet from those seminars I attend too! So I suppose I could appear more extroverted online than I am in person. Does anyone else feel like this?

I imagine that’s a pretty natural conclusion, but it is down to the fact that my activity on social media is my personal project and I enjoy the online engagement and choose how active I want to be. Choosing those personal projects is a discovery process in of itself…I hope you enjoy finding yours!

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E-rotica in Fiction (and Encyclopædias? )

It’s the end of print as we know it!

Where have I heard that before? Well, in too many places (book conferences, pubs or otherwise) to actually care anymore, I’m afraid…print isn’t actually going to die, it’s the mutation and occupancy of both the physical and the digital that I’m more interested about.

So if you haven’t heard the news, the Encyclopædia Britannica is ceasing its almost ageless print run. All 32 volumes are now available online via a subscription database. A pretty handy business model if your primary market are schools and academic libraries, and one increasingly being used in STM (Scientific, Technical, Medical) publishing.

But what does this have to do with e-books and erotic fiction?

Well, “e-rotica” just happens to be one of the fastest growing segments of the e-book business, and if it’s all down to the fact that you can read it comfortably on your e-reader without anyone knowing then more power to you (and whatever else happens to float your boat). If you’re a publisher, it’s a market worth capitalising on (if you can do it right). Outside of the stable of Mills & Boon, Harlequin Romance Novels and Black Lace, HarperCollins now appear to be getting into bed (pardon the pun) with an e-only erotic fiction list, called Mischief Books.

According to the Wall Street Journal (via the QuillBlog), Editorial Director, Adam Nevill said the e-books will offer all the “private pleasures with a hand-held device.” I don’t think it’s that hard to think of other hand-held devices that may lend themselves to the seeking of pleasure, but I admire his association!

But all this leaves me wondering and curious to know what the real motivations are behind reading sexed-up, lusty literature versus, say, watching pornography. Are there any distinctions to be made there? Does it only really have to be about the narrative (in writing as opposed to the lack of dialogue (and acting) in videos)? And could “reading porn” be just as damaging to women as “watching porn” is for men?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but if it gets you thinking, please let me know. I only have my experiences of reading and watching pornography, both of which are nil and “not for a very long time” respectively.

However, the conversation over at the Good Men Project is always one worth following…it’s not my intention on this blog to raise these sorts of issues – I only saw a potential correlation worth flagging.

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Doing it electronically (reading that is)

I’m going to jump in feet first here and start talking about what I see as a potential career path for me. Currently I work in publishing, academic books to be precise, as a Commissioning Editor here in the UK (or Acquisitions Editor for my US friends). I tend to like the former and I also like my job, the freedom I have with it and the relationships I get to co-create with my authors everyday. Realistically it’s all e-mail based, of which there are hundreds of conversations on-the-go, but there are those moments when picking up the phone, scheduling a Skype call, or meeting up for a (very rare) coffee is in order. I get to listen to people’s ideas, help see how they might fit my company’s list, champion them at Editorial Review Meetings, and hopefully, contract their book. At the end of the day that is what gives me that all mighty tick in the “job satisfaction” box.

But I want more…

Even saying that sounds risky, because I have to admit that doing what I do now, while interesting as it is,  isn’t how I see my career developing. And that got nailed home for me in a conversation I had with a more senior figure in my workplace recently, he said (and I paraphrase only slightly):

Once you get on the commissioning track, you’re on it. Publishers build companies around good Commissioning Editors.

Do you have any idea how much that scares me? It’s making me take a good hard look at where I see my career in publishing going, and the more I look, the more I see the future (and even the present) is in the digital. Kind of what this blog is aiming to be about, and slowly that is coming together.

I used not to be an avid reader, still don’t really consider myself one today, however when I got my first e-reader, the Kobo, I was hooked. It flicked a switch inside me. This ability to access any book you could think of (and provided it was available in your territory – more on that later, I’m sure) you could download it direct to your device and off you went. E-books re-ignited my love for reading and learning – I kid you not. So that is why I want to work not only in publishing, but digital publishing to be precise. To see how publishing is becoming more digital, or vice-versa, I recommend this piece, published on the Chronicle of Higher Education – a profile of Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg.

If I can have that kind of re-awakening towards reading, I want to help other people have that too!

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