December 1, 2010, Steve introduced the “What It Takes” column with his introductory article of the same name, “What It Takes”.
Shawn’s first article in the series, “Getting the Meeting”, went live December 3, 2010, with an introduction by Steve that stated:
“With Shawn’s post, we’ll establish a “What It Takes” slot on the blog every Friday until publication in June.”
The publication Steve was referring to was his then-upcoming novel The Profession, and, as you know, the column lasted a little longer than June of 2011.
“Getting the Meeting”, is a great read and one of my favorites from Shawn—one of his classic behind-the-scenes views of the book publishing industry.
At the same time, over on “Writing Wednesdays”, Steve was writing about The Profession, from his perspective as the writer. “When It Crashes” and “When It Crashes, Part Two”, are raw, unfiltered looks at what happens when, as Steve wrote,
“ . . . the wheels come off smack in the middle of the project—and you’re left dazed by the side of the road, staring at the smoking wreckage of your work.”
If you haven’t read them before, read them now. If you have read them, read them again. Still each word rings as true as the day it was written.
I came into the mix December 12, 2010, with “The Elephant in the Room”. Steve’s introduction to the article shared a bit of our background together, to include,
“But what really got us working together full-time is this blog. “Writing Wednesdays” was Callie’s idea. Without her, it wouldn’t exist or it would have pooped out months ago. In fact, the blog itself was Callie’s idea. She cracked the whip over me to make me do it.”
In my 13 years of working with Steve, the seeding and then nurturing of “Writing Wednesdays” (ten years old as of July 22 of this year) is at the top of my list of things we did together. “The Elephant in the Room”, opens by touching on that early work, then taps into Shawn’s “Getting the Meeting”, and moves over to a message I’m still repeating today about outreach, and reaching your audience.
In the years that followed, Shawn and I alternated writing the column every Friday, with a few exceptions, when Shawn might go on a run for a few weeks, or I might do the same, or we might feature pieces from the Archives.
Among those messages that appeared within “What It Takes” through the years, reside a few repeated themes that went beyond book publishing insider talk and into each of our lives as and our struggles through our own art and, yes, publishing. They’re along the lines of slowing down and reflecting, learning to say no and learning what no means, doing something and doing something every day, and believing in ourselves when the toxic avengers are on the march. (Baseball and Bob Dylan and the pros from Dover made frequent appearances, too.)
I was thinking about my favorite post, but there isn’t a favorite. When you write over a period of nine years, the articles reflect where you were at that time. There are some I like less, because I know they weren’t my best effort. There were days when I didn’t know what to write and was embarrassed by posting something I wouldn’t want to read myself. Then there were other articles, when I knew the Muse existed outside Steve’s home and was paying me a visit. As I write this now, I can feel her in my head. There’s a soft, calming feeling that comes when she visits. Words just flow. Anxiety doesn’t even try to play her usual games, because she knows I’m on it. I got this. The stomach flip flops leave. The destructive head-talk fades. Frustration flees, too. Just me, the Muse, and my words.
All of the above is a way of saying that, after ignoring that June 2011 deadline, we’re finally hitting it.
This is the last post in the series.
I hope you’ll visit the archived articles. There’s some good stuff in there.
Most important: Thank you for the time you’ve given us every Friday for the past nine years.