The Power of Miscommunication

As an author, it is important to communicate my thoughts and ideas to my readers. If I see something in my head, I have to be able to explain it in such a way that a reader can also see it. Once the book is published, I have no idea if the person sees the same exact image as I do. All I can hope is that I do my job to the best of my abilities to convey my idea.

In other communication I don’t have forty or fifty thousand words to explain my thoughts and ideas. I need to choose my words carefully and articulate precisely. Too often I let my nerves and insecurities keep me from saying what I need to say.

This week I took books to a local library. A friend of a friend wanted to read my books, but they were unavailable at her library. During the summer someone else had mentioned they’d asked for my books at the same library. Completely cold, without calling or introducing myself adequately, I handed over my books to the busy library worker and told them I’d like to donate my books. When she told me to put them in the box for their sale, I tried to explain, that no, these were books I’d written that I wanted to donate. They were busy with patrons and I was a bit intimidated, but I felt we’d managed to reach an understanding.

Later, I ran into my friend and excitedly told her I’d taken the books to the library and her friend would soon be able to borrow them. She called her friend to tell her the news and the friend called the library only to be told that no, the books would not be put on the shelf, they had decided to put them in the annual book sale where the books would sell for $1 or less. My brand-new books. I was devastated. If they didn’t want to shelve my books, why not simply tell me they were not interested. Why would they take my books and treat them like a yard sale item? My heart was broken.

This morning having slept little and torn between whether I should confront the library and ask about this or just let it go. After all, I did donate the books, they had the right to do with them whatever they wished. Though, had I believed they intended them for the sale, I would have given them a cash donation and taken my books back home with me. I don’t like confrontation. I didn’t want to cause a scandal. I’m a community leader, a businessperson, an AUTHOR. So, the conundrum was, do I call, go back to town (forty-five minutes away) or do I just eat it. It was eating at me. Since I live in a small town, I asked people I like and respect what they thought. The overall consensus was, get your books back. Call. Find out if there had been a misunderstanding. Be nice but let them know, if the books were not going to be available for patrons to borrow, then asked that they be returned.

I called. The librarian I spoke to was very nice, but she’d not been working the day before. She wasn’t sure what had happened. Usually when books were brought in and donated, they went into the Friends of the Library book sale. Feeling as if I’d not gotten an answer, I went onto my appointment where once again I asked the ethical question of what should I do? How should I handle this in a professional manner? Again, I was told to get my books back.

On the way home, my friend and I decided to go back to the library where I’d left my books. I’d take a monetary donation and be prepared for rejection. I was greeted by a pair of very kind librarians. One of the librarians was the lady I’d spoken to that morning. She found my books, not in the sale pile but in the box to be processed. When we discussed what had happened and the young woman who’d wanted to check out my books. We realized there was several miscommunications. After a few laughs, a bit more discussion, I left my phone number. They did not promise to put my books on their shelves but said they would send them to be processed, but they were hopeful that the books would find a home in their library.

I am not a brave person. Before publishing my books, I avoided confrontation as much as possible. For years I hid my stories away in notebooks under the bed or in the closets. When I finally listened to my family and friends and started trying to do something with them, I was terrified. Each step along this journey I have had to learn to speak up, stand up and look my fears in the face. This miscommunication could probably have been handled Tuesday had I not allowed my insecurities to back me down. Instead I had to have a sleepless night, make an agonizing phone call and a second trip to the library to handle something I should have made clear at the very beginning.

For those of you who are like me who need to learn to speak up. Remember no is just a word, it can sting but it only hurts for a little while. You cannot get a yes unless you risk getting the no. Anything worth having is worth taking the risk.

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