Wednesday, February 23, 2011

8 Ways the Grocery Store Checkout Resembles the Publishing Journey

I have my entire grocery shopping experience down to twenty-two minutes point four seconds. By that statement alone you should be able to tell I’m not a huge fan of aisle grazing. I charge through grocery stores (unless I’m at Trader Joe’s. There, I take my time).

Recently I started thinking about all the ways standing in line at the grocery store is like the waiting game in the publishing industry.

And now you have the immediate pleasure of reading my thoughts. :D

The Comparison Trap
While standing in line we face the temptation to study how fast the person in line next to us is moving. Is she buying healthy? How much will she spend? Will she give her kid candy when they beg for it? All the equivalents of will she be published before me? Do I believe she’s a better writer and how much has she invested in the process? Will she finally get that editor she’s been contemplating?

To Self Checkout or Not
Somewhere along the writing journey we need to decide whether we’re open to self publishing. Will you wait in potentially long lines or check yourself out? (Some people love to check themselves out…sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Follow the Light
We scan which light comes on so we can hop over to a new aisle with a shorter line. Same goes for watching for new agents and editors who show interest in our genre. We study the trends, faithfully read Writer’s Digest and Publishers Marketplace. (It’s worth it to network on Twitter and through blogs.)

Coupon Central
We put in the work ahead of time (clipping and cutting) hoping it will pay off when it comes to the final sale.

Avert Eyes & Focus on the Prize
Whether its Hollywood gossip or glossy magazines donning stick thin models in swimsuits decorating the checkout aisle, we’re bombarded by similar distractions in this industry. Best-sellers, vampire crazes, this genre rules, this genre is out…we need to write what we’re called to write. Keep our eyes on the prize.

Paper or Plastic?
Every day we make choices about how resourceful we are—how many books about the craft we read, if we seek help from critique partners or editors, etc.

How You Treat the Checker Matters
Relations with agents, editors and fellow authors impact our journey. If we’re courteous and thoughtful, we won’t find our eggs smashed. We won’t have to deal with ripped bags and tumbling groceries upon noticing the heaviest boxes and jars of spaghetti sauce shoved in one.

Dress Etiquette
Performing our duties in our pajamas or sweats isn’t all that unusual. In fact, we might make most surrounding stressed out moms feel more comfortable than if we were dressed to the nines while buying grapefruit. Whatever works, but in this business, while getting the words down it doesn’t matter what we wear.
Can you think of any more ways checking out at the grocery store resembles the wait in publishing?

*photo by flickr


  1. Hahaa, no, I've never thought of this. I hate grocery shopping too so I tend to shut down all thought processes while I'm there and just forge through the annoyance of it all. :-)
    Cute post!

  2. My brain never would have put those two things together. Good time to think in that check out line. I usually read one of the celebrity rags for laughs. :O)

  3. Hmmmm. I always use the self-check lane but it's all about controlling the bagging so I don't think that equates to self-publishing for me.

    Living in the city, I'm much more apt to make quick daily runs than a major weekly trip. I shudder to think how that compares to my writing.

    Have a great day, Wendy. I hope it doesn't include the grocery store.

  4. This is TOO cute! And so true! How witty! And profound...I love what you said "write what you are called to write." AMEN! rule is I NEVER take my daughter grocery shopping with me. I leave her with her dad. Grocery shopping for me is a solo is writing. No distractions. When I've taken my daughter in the past, I end up spending way more than I cared to and I come home and think "what was I thinking?!" Same with writing! My sentences make no sense when they've been interrupted by a little voice calling "Mommy!" I do it while she's at school or asleep, or I leave her with her dad and steal away to Barnes and Noble (with Starbucks coffee at my disposal! :))

    Thanks for your kind comment on my blog! I had to laugh about how you said you're glad I've "reached out through Twitter" because I am STILL trying to get the hang of it!!! It's like learning a whole new language! The learning curve has been high for me, lol!

  5. that was a great analogy. i've never thought of it that way. i have to say that self-check out is a great description of self-pub, esp. when you have a lot of groceries/things you have to do yourself.

  6. What a terrific analogy! I loved your comparisons. Along with treating the checker with respect, we need to treat the other customers with respect too. Not only does that build a relationship, but you never know their connections to someone else. You don't want to be known as the check-out diva before you even have a chance to cash out.

  7. This is great! And I'm glad I'm not the only one who does the comparison thing.

    Paper, plastic, or reusable bag? I hope my writing is something that won't disintegrate any time soon--that my words can be used, re-used, and shared for a long time.

  8. Delightful comparison:) The next time I'm at the grocery store I'll smile thinking of this.

    All the similarities are there- which is a bit scary since grocery shopping takes me at least an hour and half!

  9. hahaha. I've never thought of it this way either, wendy, but how fun. :)

  10. I'm more of a Costco girl myself! I do love wandering around looking at all the fun seasonal goodies. I'm easily distracted with shiny things ;) Does that bode well for me in publishing? Yikes!

  11. I'll never be able to go to the grocery store again without thinking of this.

  12. Those are some great comparisons!

  13. Great comparisons, I love it! I'll have to think about this the next time I am grocery shopping and see if I can come up with more:)

  14. Great post, Wendy. I have nothing brilliant to add, but I will say that I just got home from Trader Joe's, and I would LOVE a book contract so I can spend more than $22 there at a time. :)

  15. I hadn't thought about it like that. I especially like the bit about treating the checker right!

  16. Ahhh, don't be a sucker for the sales, and promises. Writing-do your homework and know what's really good.

  17. Isn't it amazing how we can see the everday things we do and somehow relate it back to our writing lives? That's an awesome analogy, Wendy!

  18. Jessica, I feel like I've become the queen of learning how to distract myself during wait times.

    Diane, I laugh and cringe at those. And you might be surprised at all the crazy stuff my brain connects. ;)

    MaryC, Quick daily runs reminds me of market shopping. I love fresh fruits and veggies!

    MfD, Great tip about leaving your daughter at home. For the record I'm not one of those moms that tosses the Snickers bar in the cart b/c wee ones whine for it. Whine away. Mama don't play that.

    Michelle, Self-pub does have that do-it-yourself flare to it. Not something I'm feeling led to do, but I know it works for some.

    Lisa, Loved this diva comment! Such a great point. I've been blown away by the kindness of strangers in the grocery store before, waving me ahead if I have fewer items, etc. I appreciate that quality in writing friends too. Hope I dole it out.

    Sandra, Excellent thoughts. I hope my words are used and re-used too!

    Tamika, Ouch. That's too long. Get in and get out, woman. Do you list it?

    Courtney, Thanks. I wanted to have a little fun b/c I knew my Mon. post was a little heavy.

    Tana, I have expensive taste, so I know what you mean. I automatically gravitate toward the most expensive items (regardless of the store). So what does that say about me in publishing. This IS getting fun.

    Patti, Glad to change your shopping experience.

    Angie, Thanks.

    Kara, Come back and share. Or tell me on Twitter. Sometimes I'll read a post and days later it will still be on my mind.

    Marla, Oh, I so get you. I'm praying for you on that one. Our Trader Joe's is reasonable though. I was surprised how much so.

    Wendy, Agents and editors are human too (and to Lisa's point, so are other authors). It's worth it to consider others as we take steps ahead.

    Karen, Didn't P.T. Barnum say there is a sucker born every minute? True, know what's good for you too, I'd say.

    Heather, It's a sickness or maybe the fact that it's a wee bit on my mind right now. Thanks.

    Enjoyed reading your additions. We are fighting cough and cold here. Makes me crave warmth and sunshine soooo badly. Someday!

    Until then, can't wait to plunge into writing a new novel next week. Plotting is almost ready. Need to do a little more research, but I plan to research as I go too.

    And I selected the breed of dog for my MC. Rescue Greyhound.

    Sleep warm.
    ~ Wendy

  19. What a fun post, Wendy! I love the way you think outside the box--or grocery bag.

  20. Ha! Love this, Wendy. The averting eyes one cracks me up. You can see everyone at the grocery store taking a quick glance, then looking away as if they don't want to be caught.

  21. Fun thoughts! Did you think this post up standing in line? :)


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