What Others Say About Our Writing:
How to Take It, and How to Make Something of It.
I joined Medium.com less than two weeks ago, and have already read five brilliant pieces about publishing and writing. I figured I’d try to add this thought path about appropriating what others say about our work — -after wandering around the writing of books for forty plus years and over 35 published editions (17 original titles). You get your bruises, but most of them disappear when something like an understanding review or introduction or essay about your work comes in.
The most important thing is to learn from what disciplined reviewers and endorsers of your work say in print! Reread what they wrote. Ask yourself: what motivated them to take the time to achieve that focus phrase? That kind of meaning?
Reading a reviewer is like listening to a parent, when a child, and understanding their best intentions for a change. You want to run outside and play in the mud, but the comment should cause you pause at your desk, especially if the family plans to go out for dinner that night. Stand up, look around, thank the gods of reading. You can wander around a thousand paragraphs alone as you write, and suddenly, a person who can write well says something insightful and BOOM. That is often when I get the juice to try to finish another manuscript.
Cicero said much about the things we do for a well-spent life. I think a life spent in writing needs reviews. We need to look beyond the self-mirrors of composition. And talking with lovers wives and friends or daughters can not do it as much as a distant review!
Reviews help you regain compositional momentum, after much reading, to try again. Oh, how many manuscripts, and good working titles, remain in boxes or drawers, collecting neglect, until that person kindly writes an introduction. Thoughtful book introductions, I have found, especially in foreign editions, are extremely useful to writers. I tried to get things published, often after thinking thru prior reviews. I remember when stuck, that the writer Howard Kunstler said: “Piasecki is upping the ante on Business and Society writing.” That alone got me to finish another book.
3. The Example of Gene Miller’s Introduction to Doing More With Less: The New Way to Wealth (John Wiley and Sons in Hardback; then Square One in Paperback, with new editions noted below, and forthcoming).
Here is a few short brilliant insights written by Gene Miller, the founder of Gaining Ground, in Canada. Mr. Miller, who I had only met once when he asked me to join 400 in his audience in Vancouver to speak from my work on globalization World Inc. From that, he came up with this insights into a book that was to become my New York Times bestseller:
“It’s in the spirit of these ideas that Bruce poses the challenge to all of us who are connected, in various ways, to the world of enterprise: How do you use your creative and innovative talents in this swift and severe world to free yourself from your self-inhibiting rationalizations, adjust the compass of your professional life, and then bring fresh direction to the endeavors you manage and influence? His vision is a new way to better align money, people, and rules, and his insights are global and of immediate application, as I heard Dr. Piasecki say to global leaders in government, business, and society at our Gaining Ground summit. What all of this comes down to, in my view, is the principal responsibility of every business leader and every reader concerned about social trends to cultivate a reliable and favorable view of the future — not the next quarter, but the near and certain future, where our own endeavors prepare a world for our successors…”
Oh boy, did I really help him cultivate a reliable and favorable view of the future? Did he completely understand my frequent jingle about aligning “money, people, and rules.” After Miller wrote that, I wrote a complete book New World Companies on aligning money, people and rules. It took eight years but it got done thank to Gene Miller’s careful recollection and review.
He goes on with tact, as this urban planner and professional architect knew how to build things into the air:
“…Of course, we still need to prepare for something worse than swiftness and severity: namely, many of us know we need to prepare for catastrophe — catastrophe in our financial and corporate and personal institutions. Catastrophe is highly disruptive, and it breaks down systems, as examples such as the earthquake in Haiti and Hurricane Katrina clearly demonstrate to all of us. While aware of the worsening trends, Piasecki sees through all this swiftness and severity and gives you here a set of lasting principles about how we will survive. He is very much about surfing the change to avoid catastrophe…”
Once again, I wrote again and again, thanks to Miller above, on establishing new grounds for hope in a time of carbon and capital constraints. In fact, for ten years, we have assembled and facilitated a forty company benchmarking on avoiding catastrophe in energy innovation. Here I have to give equal credit to Ken Strassner, a former Kimberly Clark senior executive, who joined my management consulting firm about the time Miller write his introduction. Ken chairs that effort including giants like bp, Trane Technologies, CAT and others. But again, the confidence to try this derives from Miller’s above paragraph about catastrophe and hope.
I do not want to take this too far. It is edging on solipsistic self indulgence to swim too long in the seas of your own introductions. You need to keep a distance from the best reviews like an athlete wakes up the next morning for practice after a good game. But I could not have said it better than below when Mr. Gene Miller notes:
“…After all, thrift, apart from its conventional meaning, also can be considered a new road map for the allocation of resources; even saved money has energy and utility. As Bruce notes, “this book offers you a pledge and a promise . . . to find a new creativity in scarcity.”
— Foreword to Doing More With Less, Gene Miller, Center for Urban Innovation, Director of the Gaining Ground conferences
The book cover below is coming out again, just out in Polish and Spanish. Besides the New York Times list, it hit the bestseller lists at USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, soliciting more reviews and more comments. But the key point to take home — as you strive to be heard in your writing — pay attention to those who have enough care to write an intelligent review or introduction. For it is in their insights, that you learn what’s next and what is worthy. I hope this helps a new generation of writer’s exploring the complex links between business and society. Put in Google and Bing the words “Annual Award in Business and Society” and see what you come up with.