Dystopian Fiction: A View On This Popular Genre

It is written that utopia is boring to readers, that we are not wired to read about no conflict (how about goals?), and that a perfect world is so unachievable there is no point in writing about it.

True, but are you one of those people who is so fatalistic to dismiss a course at school because you can’t get 100%? Or say to yourself why strive for 100% when it’s impossible, or all I need to pass is a 50?

In actual fact, if we aim high, we often lift ourselves higher than we thought we were capable of. I often aimed for 100% but realistically knew I’d fall short–just not as short as if I’d aimed low.

Here is another concept: repetition becomes our truth. If we believe in a dystopic future, we’ll likely create it. If we believe things can be better, such as in Star Trek: The Next Generation, then we may improve upon ourselves (and particularly our governments and societal brainwash).

And finally, how do you explain positive thought and positive imagery messages touted for any goal you aim to achieve in life, whether it’s an Olympic win, a business venture, losing weight, or quitting smoking? The thoughts we have and the images we put into our minds, positive or negative, have a direct impact on our results in real life–or so we are told, but I have found it to be generally true.

So, as far as dystopic writing goes, I like it too. I use it to satisfy myself that my life is still better than the one depicted in the book’s society, better than the situation of the characters in the novel. In fact, sci-fi and dystopic writers of old used their stories specifically to warn us of what we do not want our future to be. These stories serve some of the same purposes as remembering the details of our brutal history (gladiators, world wars, civil wars, corrupt governments, religious extremes, unbridled power in the hands of one or a few). More recently, however, readers have adopted an attitude that a future of doom for mankind is inevitable.

By never writing about a better future, we are simply convincing ourselves and our society (through readers) that we can never be better than we are, and history is meant to repeat and repeat and become worse, made more extreme through our access to advanced technology. My fear is we will “make it so” (to quote Jean-Luc Picard). I think at least some writing should include an overall theme of hope for mankind, something to aspire to, as the old Star Treks or The Next Generation did–a mindset of writing that has all but disappeared, just as The Next Generation has fallen out of favour, to be replaced by darker themes in Star Trek and other shows, as well as in books. Even in Mockingjay, the third book in the Hunger Games series, [spoiler alert!] Suzanne Collins leaves it open-ended, giving both options–a repeat of the same, or a possibility that this time humanity will get it right–but, although Katniss and others see all the things that can be changed and wish for them, the better world is never given tangible form.

I believe we still need a balance: dystopic writing to remind us of what we don’t want (not to resign ourselves to that idea that humanity is definitely doomed), and hopeful writing that depicts a better future that is workable. If utopic writing is “too boring,” we can combine the two concepts into the same novel, as award-winning author Lois Lowry did in Messenger. Why not channel that sought-after conflict or challenge we seem to crave into forms of improvement?
___

Article inspired by guest post Writing Distopian Fiction: 7 Tips by Roderick Vincent on Writer’s Digest/The Writer’s Dig by Brian Klems
Added later: Why is dystopian fiction still so popular? by Alex Campbell on The Guardian

Posted in Fiction, Food for Thought, How-To, Inspiration, Investing In People, Short Stories, Writing and Editing | 2 Comments

Meet Patty Wiseman, Award-Winning Author

Responses-PattyPhotoI am happy to have as my guest today Patty Wiseman, author, whose books have won several awards. Thank you, Patty, for joining me on my website.

Patty, can you tell us what books you have written?

An Unlikely Arrangement
An Unlikely Beginning
An Unlikely Conclusion

(Fiction)

What genres do you write? What audience are your books aimed at?

They are classified as historical fiction, but I like to emphasize the mystery in them.

The target? Anyone who loves mystery, history, a touch of romance. I have a lot of men who read my books.

What prompted you to write what you did? What message do you want readers to take away?

I am fascinated with history, especially that of my own family. I had a very colorful grandmother and her stories intrigued me as a child. She lived in the exciting era of the “roaring twenties,” a time when women were taking charge of their own lives. She had dreams and aspirations, and was determined to achieve them, regardless of the consequences. I admired her tenacity. The message I want readers to take away is to take those challenges presented to you, conquer the self-doubt and fear of failure, and change your life for the better.

What is your background? What do you do outside of writing?

I am retired from a 25-year career as an administrative assistant for a financial advisor. I actually retired in order to pursue my dream of writing. Now I can also lend my time to our local women’s group, Texas Federation of Women’s Club, Marshall Chapter. I also like to bowl and currently belong to two leagues. I spend a lot of time reading, as well.

Do you write short stories, articles, or have a blog? Where can we find them?

I have written several short stories and write a blog.

My short stories can be found on Angie’s DIARY

Poetry

The link to my blog.

What do you find the hardest about writing? The easiest?

The hardest thing about writing for me is the continuity. I want to make sure my story flows well, that the time line is correct. In a novel, I often have to go back to make sure I didn’t leave any gaps.

The easiest thing? Is there an easy thing about writing? I suppose the original idea is the easiest thing to come up with. You can roll it around in your head, but getting it down on paper is totally another matter.

Where do you get your inspiration?

As I mentioned before, my family is very colorful, and even though I heard these stories as a child, I also felt the need to write about them. I have no end of great material because of the way I grew up.

What’s next for you after An Unlikely Conclusion?

I am working on two new series. Both contemporary. This is new territory for me, as I write more easily in a historical setting. We’ll see what happens!

What special thing about yourself would you like to share with readers?

Special? I don’t know if you could call it special, but I enjoy helping and supporting other authors. I feel like we all need each other to navigate around the pitfalls in this publishing world. I love animals, and I like to travel.

Do you have anything else you would like to include?

Yes, I hope everyone will sign up for my newsletter and interact with me. I love talking to those interested in my writing. You can find the sign up information on the home page of www.pattywiseman.com

Where can readers buy your books?

AmazonBarnes & Noble
And, of course, you can purchase them directly from my website.

Award-AuthorShow2013Award-2ndPlaceLiteratureAward-1stPlaceTexas2013Award-1stPlaceTexas2014

 

 

 

 

How can we follow or contact you?

You can sign up on my website www.pattywiseman.com
My Fan Page on FB
Follow me on Twitter

The Velvet Shoe Collection of #Romantic #Mysteries by Patty Wiseman. #Series of 3 books. #Love with a twist www.pattywiseman.com @PattyWG
Tweet: The Velvet Shoe Collection of #Romantic #Mysteries by Patty Wiseman. #Series of 3 books. #Love with a twist http://ctt.ec/j7Nmd+ @PattyWG

Texas Association of Authors – Patty Wiseman

Posted in Fiction, Guest Posts, Writing and Editing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Devolution

Sell to the young,
Or there’s no money in it;
Fun things like video games,
Consoles, movies.

Sell to the young
The things they enjoy,
Not the things they may need;
Easy things, entertainment,
Special effects.

Sell to the young,
Who plunge into wastelands
Of endless fantasy;
Vague communication, after-effects
Of knowledge and language,
Millennia of evolution
Dying.

Eva Blaskovic, 2013

Posted in Business, Dreams and Goals, Education, Food for Thought, Inspiration, Investing In People, Parenting, Relationships, Writing and Editing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paula’s Victory

Valedictorian Speech

Paula Hodgins
Poster Child and Valedictorian for CDI College
during her speech at Delta Edmonton.
October 25, 2013

To be a college Valedictorian is an honour and great accomplishment for anyone, but for Paula, it is a fairy-tale ending to a difficult school-age life.

Paula has found her niche. Her professionalism has impressed people up to the Canadian federal court. May she continue to be an inspiration to others who are on life’s uncertain road.

In April 2011, at age 20, Paula nearly lost her life to the onset of Type 1 Diabetes.

In December 2011 and January 2012, she nearly lost her post-secondary program (and her future) to what I collectively refer to as preventable matters, ineptitude of others, and lack of forthrightness on the part of a particular financial institution.

Prior to post-secondary school, Paula struggled with severe test anxiety that often gave her scores of 20% lower than her abilities warranted.

Her life was far from rosy on both the emotional and physical fronts. She had to grow up early. She had to put in 18 to 20-hour days for years, combining school and work. Once diabetes set in, her basic living expenses increased. She faced health-related and other challenges. In spite of this, she didn’t miss a single day of classes in the Professional Legal Studies program at CDI College.

Paula’s tenacity, determination, courage, willpower, and belief in herself paid off. She learned to overcome the negative effects of her diabetes, her fears, her test anxiety, and much more, arming herself with skills and a level of maturity beyond her years, indisputable assets for her upcoming career as well as for life. However, had it not been for some key people in Paula’s program, her merit may have gone unrecognized, as happens to many worthy people in our society. Timing is everything, and windows of opportunity are narrow. Nonetheless, one must be meticulously prepared for them, as Paula had been.

I’m not just a proud mom showing off her successful daughter with endless bad-quality smartphone pictures. Day after day, I continue to be floored by her triumph against all odds in the face of such long-term adversity. I am also honoured to have been a part of her journey, and thankful that my limited resources were enough to make a difference.

The events of the last three years have been disproportionately difficult to the point that they would baffle statisticians–an endless line of hardships and disappointments. Paula’s future had hung by a thread. But it did not snap. And today she crosses the line into a new frontier.

___

Special thanks to Kevin Rohoman, Jennifer Dupuis, and CDI College in Edmonton, AB, who gave the gift of a future to a young life.

Posted in Dreams and Goals, Education, Food for Thought, Inspiration, Investing In People, Return on Investment | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inspired By Disney

Disney World
Photo Credit
Leslie Sanches Hodgins

My oldest daughter first showed me that dreams come true. At age six, she wanted to go to Disney World. I told her the only way that would happen is if she went on her own when she got older—but to hang on to that dream and make it come true. She did. At age 19, she saved up her money and paid her own way, experiencing Disney World in Florida with the two friends who went with her. I was always proud of her for that—for not giving up on something that was important to her in spite of initially impossible means and years passing by. She had achieved something I had not at more than twice her age.

In the five years that followed my daughter’s successful trip, I lost sight of that lesson because I was too snowed under making ends meet to contemplate, dream, or plan anything for myself. Perhaps I believed dreams only happened to others and not to me; my life was proof of that—my dreams had either never materialized or crumbled.

I think the lesson is that you have to believe.

My daughter had become a creator of her own destiny. The fact that it could be done was now proven.

It is when we stop accepting, and start expecting, that we start designing the means to our destinies. Once we take control, we can shape our futures and work toward manifesting our longest-standing dreams.

If we can imagine what we want, and begin to navigate in that direction, eventually the answers we seek will be answered, and a way will become possible. And we do not need to have all the answers before we set out. The number one way to kill a person’s career and life dreams is to demand to see all the methodologies and proof of success up front.

Passion and long-term commitment are stronger indicators of success than initial ability or economic statistics.

I could have said to my daughter, “People like us will never get to Disney World.” But I carefully did not say that. I passed the power to her. Who was I to judge whether going to Disney World was a valid venture, worth the money, or even possible to achieve?

Posted in Dreams and Goals, Food for Thought, Inspiration, Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Evaluation: In the Eye of the Beholder

I grew up believing, as did so many in our generation, that you present your attributes to the world, get evaluated objectively, and based on that evaluation, get assigned the lifestyle that you have “earned.”

Instead, it is this wisdom that prevails: You do not present yourself to the world to be evaluated. You assign yourself a value and then present yourself to the world.

The first way, where you wait for the world to evaluate you, assumes that your judges have the ability to assess you, that they are objective, and that they have your best interests in mind. In reality, your judges are subjective people who have a sphere of life experience that may be vastly different from your own, are subjective and emotional, and have their own interests, problems, prejudices, and beliefs through which their perception of you is filtered.

Waiting for evaluation is what happens in school. If the subject is math, which isn’t subjective and can’t be contested, and you know your stuff, you’ll probably get an A. Tests may evaluate some knowledge, but it is well known today that they do not assess a person’s multiple intelligences accurately. Note that in English and social studies you have to utilize talents and attributes—if you’re lucky to already have them—to the tune of insight, maturity, cultural knowledge, inference, persuasion, written language ability, and the ability to read your teacher and understand the rubric, in addition to knowing the structure of an essay and the facts in the textbook, to get your good marks.

How do you explain all those who, at some point in their lives, had been written off, and yet today are well-known names—people respected for their abilities, insights, or inventions? Thomas Edison: assessed by the teacher in elementary school for being “addled,” when he was, in fact, partially deaf. He went on to open a series of companies and become the greatest inventor of the twentieth century. Who else? Lucille Ball: “too shy.” The Beatles: “their guitar music is on the way out.” Michael Jordan: “cut from the school’s basketball team.” Walt Disney: “no original ideas.”

In this motivational video, who is the real problem? The person? Or the judge(s)?

Thus, the whole rationale many of us have lived by is backwards.

Why does the reverse work?

One thing I’ve noticed to be absolutely ubiquitous—whether in the playground or throughout incidences in history—is that people always respond to confidence. Confidence translates as knowledge and ability, which translates as desirable leadership and good decision-making.

History and the schoolyard have, however, often shown us that this is not always true. Confident people do not always have the best answers and frequently muddle things up worse than the non-confident, too shy to speak up but more knowledgeable people. Yet confident people who are good leaders continue to draw willing followers because they are convincing. Since people insist on responding in this way, we can work with it.

If you track successful people, whether they became successful right away at a young age or have taken a lifetime to figure it out, they all have something in common that they’ve applied and that works. They evaluate themselves first, which makes them confident, gives them purpose, and makes them feel that they have something to offer the world (which they do). Because they have made their evaluation first, they do not indiscriminately accept everyone else’s judgement along the way, are not as easily discouraged or sidetracked, and thus are not shaken from their cause—or their course—which is to make a living on their own terms. This living is simply an exchange of goods and/or services: they offer something to others that is considered valuable, and others reward them in a way that gives them a satisfying lifestyle.

The more they believe in themselves and persevere, the more others believe in them. When others believe in them, they find their income niche, creating that satisfying lifestyle—on their terms—doing things they want to do that simultaneously allow them to make a living and thrive. They have convinced others of their value, and hence others have valued (and paid) them.

Thus, the more you believe you can—the more you know you can—the more others believe you can, until it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And that is why you have to assign yourself a value first and then present yourself to the world.

© 2012 Eva Blaskovic. All rights reserved.

References:
Multiple Intelligences: Howard Gardner of Harvard
Life = Risk – Motivational Video: YouTube
Dictionary.com: addled

Posted in Business, Dreams and Goals, Education, Food for Thought, How-To, Inspiration, Investing In People, Parenting, Relationships, Return on Investment | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Investment: It Applies to People

When one hears the word investment, perhaps visions of money come to mind. However, in the greater scope of the word, to invest in something means to put something forth in the hope that it will return more value than was originally put in (also known as ROI, or return on investment). This can be true for people, goals, services, and infrastructure.

Dictionary.com defines one usage of invest (verb) as “to use, give, or devote (time, talent, etc.), as for a purpose or to achieve something.”

Investing in people

Investing in people may take infusion of money, time, skill, patience, and so on. Think of raising children, either as parents or as educators. Yet our investment in our children is an investment in our own futures; that is, where our society goes, what it will embrace, and how we will be treated when we are vulnerable and elderly people in that society.

Another example is investing in someone’s education. It is based on the premise that with better education, a person will be able to get a better job, make a better living (and thus be more self sufficient), and pay more taxes. Thus, an infusion of a certain amount of money now will translate into considerably more money later, and usually result in an ongoing source of it. For a parent, investing in a child’s education goes beyond the monetary reward: it is peace of mind that the child will do well long after the parent is gone. Extending that even further, that child, upon becoming a parent who is financially comfortable, will pass this well being on to his or her own children, thus the grandchildren of the original investor—a gift that keeps on giving.

How many volunteers have been amazed by the effects of their contribution? I have heard many say they felt they received more than they gave. This came in the form of emotional satisfaction, in the friendships or connections they made, or in the knowledge and experience they acquired. Sometimes they received credentials or got a link to a job. But at the fundamental level, their contribution of time and energy translated into helping someone to achieve something, who then ended up better off than they were before, whether it was a single person, a collective of people, an organization, or an institution.

People invest in

  • their goals
  • their education
  • their families
  • their jobs
  • their own businesses
  • causes they believe in
  • themselves
  • their hobbies
  • their relationships

in addition to any assets or financial instruments.

They invest any combination of

  • time
  • effort/energy
  • skills/talents
  • emotions/commitment/faith
  • patience
  • material resources
  • money

When what you give comes back multi-fold

Who has not heard “two heads are better than one” or “the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”?

If a person is part of your close-knit collective, not investing in that person when he or she has an opportunity to become something better is cutting yourself off at the knees. Their loss is your loss just as their gain can easily become your gain. This is particularly true in cases of shared living expenses, such as with spouses, where an increase in salary of one spouse benefits both spouses, raising the living standards of both to a new level, higher than either spouse could achieve individually. To not only deny but to actively prevent support of such an endeavour is self-destructive.

Stated in such a way, the mechanism seems obvious. Yet, in real life scenarios, it may not be as clear.

  1. To be sure, any investment involves risk, and not all investments pan out all of the time, especially when conditions change along the way. In contrast, taking no action is guaranteed to bring no improvement. Therefore, risking a number of actions may eventually lead to a success large enough to warrant any mistakes or situational changes along the way.
  2. Although the goal is clear, the path to get there and the magnitude of success, should the endeavour succeed, may not always be apparent at the outset, may be subject to change, or may come with no guarantee.
  3. A person may believe that he or she is simply giving, not realizing or forgetting that, should the investment succeed, both will receive. An example is when one spouse pays the rent/mortgage (and sometimes even contributes to fees) while the other spouse upgrades his or her education or professional development. If the second spouse starts earning double the original income because of the investment in education, then both spouses benefit. Whatever the first spouse invested—money and/or faith—can return in multiples. At double the income of one spouse, the couple’s yearly combined income is much higher than their previous potential, and this continues year after year.

Investing in others—the ones you select and want to invest in—often equates to investing in yourself, either directly or indirectly, and can manifest as true gains or simply a healthy satisfaction. I have known people who were either too selfish or too fearful to invest in others. They were driven by the idea that it was a one-way transaction, so they felt they were not obligated to help anyone. Well, certainly they weren’t. Investing in someone is a choice, of course.

It all comes down to how one defines “investment,” and what one feels it is worth.

* * *
Are human beings worth it? Read Amy’s story in Return on Investment: I’m Talking People.

Posted in Business, Dreams and Goals, Education, Food for Thought, Inspiration, Investing In People, Parenting, Relationships, Return on Investment | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What is Plagiarism Really?

What is plagiarism? It is more than copying someone’s written work directly. It is using their ideas without a proper reference.

Liz Broomfield explains this beautifully in her article “On plagiarism,” where she states that plagiarism is really “passing other people’s work off as our own,” which includes things other than simply copying text.

This means that using ideas from a book, article, or a blog without citing (referencing) your source is plagiarism. Having someone write your work for you, Liz explains, is also plagiarism.

Confused about what plagiarism is or isn’t? Read Liz Broomfield’s complete article, “On plagiarism,” here, where she explains what plagiarism is and provides examples on what it includes.

The difference between content curation and plagiarism

We are used to information circulating on the web. Information may be taken from other sites but normally includes a reference and often a link back to the original source.

When your information is rewritten in a “fresh” article but there is no reference to you or your site, this practice crosses the line.

Daniel Sharkov, in his article “Content Curation, Plagiarism and the Difference Between the Two,” points out, “the umbrella of plagiarism actually extends beyond simple copying and pasting. For example, if you completely re-word another writer’s work, along with their sources and facts, and fail to attribute that knowledge to the source you found it from, that is also definitely considered plagiarism and is simply bad form.”

In addition, he warns, “Most websites will make an effort to cite others’ work, but sometimes shady tactics are used where the citation is so small it is unnoticeable, or the reproduction fails to include a link back.”

Curation, on the other hand, is selection of content from different sources compiled in one area with a common theme or particular slant. Curating involves transparency and contains references back to the original sources. That is the crucial difference. (See “Content Curation, Plagiarism and the Difference Between the Two” by Daniel Sharkov).

Thus, companies who hire writers to research and rephrase material on the web without citing their sources are, in effect, plagiarizing. The fact that they are re-wording the information is not enough. Without a reference, they are taking credit for the knowledge themselves.

* * *

You may also be interested in “Who’s copying your web copy?” on the Find A Proofreader site, which includes the link to Copyscape, a free online plagiarism checker.

References:

On plagiarism” – by Liz Broomfield, LibroEditing.

Content Curation, Plagiarism and the Difference Between the Two” – by Daniel Sharkov, Reviewz ‘n’ Tips.

Posted in Business, Education, Food for Thought, How-To, Inspiration, Investing In People, Parenting, Return on Investment, Writing and Editing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The New Fad of “Your”

I’m sure some of you have noticed that there is an unprecedented misuse of the homonyms “your” and “you’re.” There have always been cases of homonym confusion in the past, but today the “your” problem is out of control. It is used in all sorts of articles, e-mails, blogs, and ads by professionals, and is certainly more common among average people and youth than it was in previous decades.

What is interesting is that “your,” used incorrectly, appears with far greater frequency than an incorrect use of “you’re.”

“Your” (to mean “you’re”) is even used in the same sentence or set of points that also contains “you are.” To me, this is fascinating. What is the mechanism driving this?

  • Perhaps “your” is seen as some kind of short form of “you’re,” or that they are interchangeable.
  • Perhaps the meaning of the apostrophe is lost (like so many other forms of punctuation), and the s/’s problem could be related. (That’s the other plague that makes many people, and especially editors, rip their hair out—using apostrophes for plurals that are not possessive plurals.)
  • Yet another reason may be that people use sound as their only guide to spelling, rather than applying the meaning of what they are saying.

This last point is one of my fundamental focuses when I teach writing.

Apostrophe review

An apostrophe is used to indicate when letters and spaces have been removed. So if you want to say “you are,” you have to use “you’re” (not “your”). The apostrophe indicates that two words, a subject and verb, have been contracted (shortened) to form one word by removing a space and the letter “a.” Ask yourself where is the verb in “your”?

Other examples:

  • they are –> they’re
  • he is –> he’s
  • we will –> we’ll
  • she would –> she’d
  • we are –> we’re
  • you are –> you’re

Don’t forget the apostrophe in “we’re” as well; otherwise you have “were,” which is also a word–a past tense verb.

Notice that homonyms and words that exist, even if they are improperly placed in a text (such as “we’re” and “were”), will typically not be picked up by a spell checker in a word processor, which is one of the reasons you need to edit the text yourself, and not just rely on the program.

So “your” and “you’re” are not interchangeable. One is a possession: “your hat.” The other is a subject and verb: “you’re = you are.” Think about what you intend to say and keep this in mind when editing your own work before posting, sending, or publishing. If you mean to say “you are,” then it’s “you’re” that you need to use, not “your.”

Your clear on all that now? No! It’s “You’re clear on all that now”–isn’t it?

See also
Language Devolution: How Will It Affect Our Thinking?

Writing Tips: When to Adhere to the Rules and When to Break Them, and Why Should You Care, Anyway?

Unconfusing the Confusion About Writing: Is There Room For Imperfection?

Did You Know It’s An Editor’s Job to Work With the Author, Not Against the Author?

© 2012 Eva Blaskovic. All rights reserved.

Posted in Business, Education, Food for Thought, How-To, Investing In People, Return on Investment, Writing and Editing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Do We Understand the Value of Custom Work?

Custom work is not a bunch of products on a store shelf. Unlike one-size-fits-all items put through an assembly line, custom service is a specialty item designed for one buyer, and tailored to that buyer—you.

What’s so special about custom work?

The benefit to you is what “custom” implies: targeted and designed for you and no one else, to serve your specific needs, which are usually identified by initial and ongoing communication and relationship-building between the service provider you hire and you, the client.

Some people make their living delivering custom service, often in the form of one-on-one sessions to fill a need over time. Thus, custom work does not come free. It requires the service provider’s time to get to know you and your needs, along with knowledge to analyze what’s needed and, in response, create—yes, like an artist or composer—an original product that has been designed for you only, much as a tailored suit. This is why a tailored suit fits so well and why you pay so much more for it versus the one you pull off a hanger. You pay for the tailor’s time, knowledge, and commitment to the job. The more unique your body shape and size, the greater your requirement for a tailored suit may be, and the greater the difference in the final result. It is the same idea with writing instructors, editors, life coaches, one-on-one educators, and tutors, except their services may be in a less tangible form, or the benefits and results not immediately visible.

By the very nature of custom service, the person or company who provides it sets aside and commits to a certain amount of time that, especially in cases where continuity is required over multiple sessions, is difficult to fill by substituting in someone else, and even more so if a cancellation comes at the last minute and/or only affects one scheduled session at a time. The consequence is that the service provider loses the revenue, even though his or her own bills and overhead remain constant. When this happens too often, it becomes impossible for the custom service provider to earn his or her living.

Travel: the benefit to you and the added cost to the custom service provider

In some cases, the custom service provider travels to you, which may be a benefit and convenience for you and, indeed, the reason you chose this service provider. Travelling to you increases not only the service provider’s time devoted to you, but he or she incurs additional expenses such as gasoline and wear and tear on a vehicle. This, of course, is reflected–or should be–in the price of the service. You as the client need to realize that this is the case.

Do we understand and value “custom”?

The concept of “custom”—what it truly means—is not well understood in our disposable, immediate possession, pick-and-choose-from-a-shelf of ready-made, mass-produced products society of today. (This includes free or cheap stuff on the Internet.) The value of what custom implies is under-appreciated. Perhaps some folks feel that mediocre is good enough as long as it is cheap, and some just don’t comprehend fully what they are getting for their dollar with custom-designed service. In some cases, the custom service provider actually undervalues him- or herself just to get business precisely because the value of what they’re giving is not fully understood or appreciated. Interestingly, although some people cite cost as the primary factor for not buying into the service, these same people often have no shortage of money to spend on material and entertainment items.

What do we really care about?

What it really comes down to, then, is what is considered to be important and valuable in our society at any given time. What are the demographics, but also the trends? Do we want excellence or mediocrity? Are we informed enough to know the difference? I fear in some cases we are not. Would we rather pay a fancy company thousands of dollars for a “form” solution rather than a less shiny individual who provides a superior one-on-one service that, in the long run, is more effective?

The writing, education, and literacy sectors have been hit particularly hard in some areas. Cutting corners and bandage solutions have become acceptable in some industries, such as writing and self-publishing, where a human editor is often the first service to be cut when there is a low budget. Workable options are often ignored because they are not recognized as viable solutions; this happens in education and also affects private service providers who support the education system, especially those working in a one-on-one capacity. Individual custom service providers charge reasonable fees in these sectors, often lower than most other service industries, and yet they are viewed as expensive and at the same time dispensable.

Our society’s values point to somewhere else. We dismiss that which is not immediately evident and tangible. We are not unlike crows filling our nests with shiny objects we can see and touch rather than the substance of knowledge for which our over-developed brains are designed.

This is where cultural values enter, and determine the direction in which we go.

© 2012 Eva Blaskovic. All rights reserved.

Posted in Business, Education, Food for Thought, Investing In People, Parenting, Relationships, Return on Investment, Writing and Editing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments