Every project has more than one backstory. From the individual experiences of its collaborators prior to the beginning of work, from the spark that created the idea, within the process of creation and production itself, and in what manner the process continues, if it does, there are always stories behind the scenes.
It’s been an interesting and wonderful few days since Lori Hoeck and I launched our e-book, The Narcissist: A User’s Guide. Thank you to everyone who has downloaded it! (If you haven’t yet, you can get it here.) The conversation is flowing and that is a very good thing. 🙂
Having never collaborated in quite this way before, I found myself discovering how other creative people are inspired. When their preferred form of creative output is so different than yours, it’s doubly fascinating. Seeing how our collaborators transformed inspiration was magical. I want to tell you about it.
Right after New Year’s, I was startled to receive an email from Lori whose subject line said, “Big News . . . response needed.” Sirius Graphix was planning to promote their e-book services. As part of that, they were offering to showcase our e-book as representative of their design capabilities, and provide additional logistical assists.
Holy Buckets! We didn’t even need to think about it! We were writers, not designers. Sirius could give us the visual aesthetic we coveted. Plus, there were other possibilities with this proposal. Perhaps there would be input regarding the launch process, or they might know people who would be open to reviewing the e-book. Why not?
So, things began. The most evocative exchange occurred at the very beginning. Deborah Dorchak asked a simple question: So, what has been your wish list for your vision of the perfect ebook?
Lori and I each responded separately, but in similar ways. And our responses were reflected back to get even more sense of what the e-book wanted to be. Just like that, the conversation started.
Lori: For this book, the word of the day would be “empowerment.” I don’t like self defense books that show the horror of an attack, but rather the successes. I want those beat up by narcissists to feel like they are OK and life will get better. I want the book to be a catalyst. Does empowerment and motivation have a color?
Deb: You bet it has a color 😉 Clean like a zen garden with a tasteful touch of color or texture here and there. Nothing so strong as to detract from the main focal point, but quietly enhancing it.
Me: I want something evocative of the peace I felt when I finally had put my narcissist at bay, but the segments in the e-book evoke stages in a narcissistic relationship. I think the scary photo we chose for the cover had the searing, dreadful quality that someone desperate for help would recognize. So somehow we want the graphic design to acknowledge the dread, but also be hopeful and promising.
I further went on (as I generally do): The strength of empowerment that Lori describes is the positive counterpoint to all this yuck. But I don’t see the strength as steely or muscular. I see it more as confident and serene. Also, I think the serenity and confidence has the element of awareness. So yes, it’s very zen in that way, but I don’t know as if I want to see overtly Asian elements. I like the African greeting of “I see you.” It’s a peaceful acknowledgment in its main context. But when a narcissist knows that you “see them,” that’s different. They’ll give you a wide berth.
And Wendi Kelly came back with: It sounds as if we have all lived through this experience in our own ways. . . I remember living through this time period and thinking that it was a very gray time. In fact, I even called it the Gray Zone. I am envisioning this as a gray-green color scheme.
When the mock-up for the cover and interior page came, Lori and I were both stunned. The graphic elements we were seeing had captured “it” exactly. The shattered mirror effect was perfect – like we were taking a hammer to the object of a narcissist’s desire – them, of course. The peacock feather was indicative of pride gone awry. But the feather image was also beautifully colored in contrast to the gray, foreboding impression, so it seemed hopeful.
The brick wall sidebar made me think of achieving a breakthrough, although Deb pointed out that she had repeated the element from the cover photograph we had already selected. “Sometimes a brick wall is merely a brick wall.” LOL! But then Wendi said, “I love the brick wall. I don’t think I can count the times I felt like I was beating my head against it.” Okay, it was time for us all to stop. The design had a life of its own.
Deb kept us moving: If you’re all set with the basic layout and it looks good to you both I can start the typesetting. I’ll leave the sidebars empty in the meantime and if you want to send me a list of tweets or quotes or other stuff you’d want on them, that would be great.
The finished product was done within several days, ready for final edits and tweaking. Overall, this process lasted three weeks from start to finish. I was amazed how quick the transformation had been.
Pete and I have often marveled that when you tap into creative flow, you become a conduit. The best work has an element of effortlessness, as if you are a messenger rather than a crafter. You don’t mind working hard on something, because you’re producing it with clarity of purpose. And you’re attuned to the signals of what something wants to be. Purpose magically transforms process from work to joyful activity.
There’s no question that producing this book was a lot of work for everyone, and my fellow collaborators may feel differently about the process than I do. But I can tell you, it’s been a great journey for me. I revisited some places I’d left behind and came back to where I am now. I was heartened by fellow travelers. We all learned separately, as well as from each other when we came together. What we could each say in our own way with our own talents has taken form.
That seems magical to me. I know I’ll be on the lookout for similar magic when it presents itself again. It’s out there for everyone. And that is one of the best of all things.