Monday, June 2, 2008

The Dead Bunny Principle


If you're squeamish, don't read this post!

OK. This is gross. I woke up this morning, and went to make the bed. I found what I THOUGHT was one of my daughter's stuffed animals wedged between the sheets where hubby's knees go... but it was a dead bunny. A real one. But dead.

Who was the culprit? Here's the list of suspects:

  • Husband. No. Way too gentle for a midnight bunny killing. And too old to mistake it for a snuggly.
  • Cat #1 - Kim. Very likely because this cat likes to pretend he's (yeah, it's a boy) king of the jungle. And Florida being like it is, there's lots of potential prey outside. However, Kim's a little cat, probably too little to carry in a DEAD FIVE POUND BUNNY.
  • Cat #2 - Ron. He's just evil enough to do something like this. He's not wired quite right. But he's also not much of a hunter. That leaves...
  • The dog, Woody. Now this is puzzling. Woody's sweet - and lazy. He grooms Kim and basically spends his life lying around watching me write. (Not very exciting.) He's also afraid of most things - including guinea pigs. He's a good dog, though, and if we could only use two words to describe him they would be hopelessly devoted.
I'm thinking it went down something like this. Dog and cats went out for a midnight pee break. Dog and cats found a bunny. Dog and cats surrounded poor bunny. Dog decided the bunny would be the PERFECT way to display his undying love and loyalty to us. Dog brings (now) dead bunny (by the way, not a mark on the poor thing - probably died of fright) to us and tucks it into bed (ew!), thinking, "She is going to LOVE this!" Hey, I can't blame him - I've never once told him what would really be a good gift, after all. How's he supposed to know what I'd like if I've never told him?

How's this apply to writing?

It's my new "Dead Bunny Principle" and it sounds something like this:

  • Sometimes we writers deliver what we think is AMAZING and lay it at the feet of our clients.
  • They may not agree.
  • They may scream, "Aaaayeeeeeeeeeek!!!" and ask someone to get rid of it.
  • They may not reward us for a job well done.
  • In fact, they may send us outside.

Does that make us bad? Nope. It's just a mis-match in expectations.

Sometimes it happens.
- Even if we spent a while talking with the client to find out exactly what they'd like
- Even if we delivered what we thought they said they wanted
- Even if they wanted it that way yesterday - but not today
- Even if we've got ten other clients who love it

So what's next?

Try to make it right. Based on how you handle this, you may end up with a client who's hopelessly devoted to you because you were loyal.

But don't go crazy. You'll know when you've reached the point of 'creative differences' that can't be bridged. For each writer, there are some times (hopefully not often), when you may just need to "gift" what you've already done, and walk away empty-handed. You are very unlikely to ever win a fight about whether your copy is any good, so it's really not worth creating any drama about it.

If that happens, spend some drama-free time evaluating what happened, what went wrong. If you can nail that down, it's worth the experience because you'll see it coming next time - and you'll be able to handle it differently (or take a pass on that kind of client).

And remember - even good dogs sometimes deliver dead bunnies.

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