Are You a Forest or a Tree Person? by Susan Lute

The other day I was having a discussion with the Mr. about why folks approach their jobs differently. You see, he’s the person who sees the trees. I see the forest. Details. Big picture. I think by the end we came to an interesting understanding of our long-lived marriage, which I’m finding, I’m quite proud of, but that’s another topic altogether.

So there are people who see the trees. They love detail. It matters to them, being precise, having all their i’s dotted and t’s crossed. And then there are folks who languish in the big picture. Don’t bother them with details. It doesn’t matter how a thing gets done as long as it does. A favorite saying (of mine), there are many roads around the mulberry bush.

I got to thinking about this forest versus tree phenomenon in relation to writing. There are writers who plot. They are the ones who have to know the details (or trees) before they can start the story. There are the pantsers, those who just sit down and write, because they know all roads (the forest) lead to The End. And, of course, there are those in between, whose brains are most comfortable seeing the trees in the forest. That, unfortunately, would not be me.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m a big picture girl. I don’t need to know all the details. In fact, I don’t want to know the details. I just need to know what you want me to do. I’ll make sure it happens. My tech partner calls this being an implementer. There are times when it makes me a little crazy.

Last night Jessa Slade asked me, now that I have a few self-published books under my belt, what did I think about being an indie author. My immediate response was, I have a love/hate relationship with it. And it wasn’t until that moment I realized why. Writing the book, editing the book, polishing the book, creating the cover, writing the back cover blurb…I love it all. Absolutely love it all. For me, that’s the forest. It makes sense. In the end, I’m putting together a novel. How I get there is half the fun. So what if I have to go around the block occasionally to get on the right road.

But as an indie author, all of a sudden I’m also the one responsible for getting the word out, marketing, making sure readers hear about my novel. That’s the trees, details, I don’t want to have to deal with. There is a solution, of course, and that is to hire someone to do this part for me. There are certain aspects I, and you, dear authors out there, will always have to deal with. Facebook, Twitter, and those personal social gathering places that we find comfort in visiting. But it is true, the rest can be hired out.

So here I am on my publishing journey, discovering why I have a love/hate relationship with this exciting career. How about you? Are you a forest or a tree person?


About Susan

Author, wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, dreamer.

Posted on November 20, 2011, in General and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Editing the book, polishing the book, creating the cover, writing the back cover blurb — I think that by and large these are trees activities. They certainly require engagement with details. Maybe you’re not quite as forest-oriented as you think. I’m not saying that there aren’t forest components to these activities. After all, you have to make connections among ideas to write the book, and you have to understand those connections to edit and make the cover, and connections among ideas is the forest being built out of trees. But consider the details that you are spending love and attention on as you edit and polish and design the cover. Enormous engagement with detail, isn’t it?


  2. Cathryn! OMG! Thanks, and thanks for the heads up. I just read the review πŸ˜€ Sending JANE to RT for a review is just one of the decisions to be made along this journey. Holy Smokes πŸ˜€


  3. Su,

    Can’t help noticing you are doing a stellar job even of the part you don’t like so much–saw your book in RT, with a great review!

    Good job, writer! Keep getting your books out there where readers can discover them



  4. Great discussion. I’m also a forest while hubby is into the details, except when I have to focus on the details when he wants the forest. πŸ™‚
    The forest/tree analogy is interesting since commercial fiction is the biggest expansion of the electronic publishing market which saves the forest and the trees.


  5. lol Maggie! My head hurt after I wrote the post, too. Lovely discussion. Thanks πŸ˜€


  6. Hi Su, I’m also a forest person and my husband is a trees person. Definitely an opposites attract kind of thing–and opposites drive you crazy kind of thing. πŸ™‚ However, as with many people who must work in a day job, I’ve also learned to be a tree person when necessary. Also as I’ve grown in my craft, I’ve found that my vision of what a “forest” is has expanded. When I began writing, to me the forest was the big idea(s) of the novel. The actual writing was the trees. Then the actual writing became the forest and the editing was the trees. Then the idea, writing, and editing became the forest. I think you get the picture. It’s only recently that the cover has also become a part of the forest for me.

    Interesting that you think of the marketing, distribution piece as non-forest. I suspect that marketing types think of that piece as the ONLY forest, and the actual writing/editing as the trees. True marketers look at what genre makes a fit. Is it hot/trendy? And how to market to that genre without very much care about what’s actually in the story. I suspect that’s one of the many reasons authors clash with marketers/distributors so frequently. From a purely product standpoint, I suspect the marketing is the forest.

    Hmm. My head hurts now. This is like one of those never-ending philosophical discussions I would have in college. How do you know a chair is a chair? Why is not a table? πŸ™‚


  7. Nancy, isn’t that funny? Each of us have aspects of this business we find challenging. And they’re not always the same, which is probably an extension of our ‘other’ life.

    I agree Jessie.


  8. Great post Su. I have always thought of myself as a Big Picture thinker but it’s prettier to think of myself as a “forest”.


  9. I’m definitely a forest. I don’t mind the marketing, nearly as much as I hate futzing with the details of final reads and editing. My personal opinion is that formatting will be the death of me.Good post, Su.


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