You can learn a lot about a person by what’s hanging on her corkboard. It shows you what inspires her, what makes her laugh, and what’s important to her. Of course, looking at my own corkboard above my desk, I think I might be just a little twisted.
I have a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon that’s a particular favorite and always has a place of honor. (I considered scanning in the cartoon, but with copyright issues, I decided against it.) It shows a spaceship surrounded by Earthlings and several aliens standing at the top of the steps descending from the craft. Another alien lies at the foot of the steps, upside down, obviously having just fallen ungracefully down them. The caption reads, “Wonderful! Just wonderful! …So much for instilling them with a sense of awe.”
This one is a favorite of mine for two reasons.
1—I’m a bit of a klutz myself, as regular readers of this blog know already. In addition to slicing myself with sharp objects on regular occasions, I also tend to trip over my own two feet quite a bit. (Yes, most people think the whole ballet thing means I’m graceful poetry-in-motion. Nope. Put on some music and strap me in to some pointe shoes and I’m good. Put me in tennis shoes on a flat surface and I’ll fall on my ass.)
2—My mother instilled in me the importance of a good first impression and the lack of a second chance to make one. Yet, like the poor alien at the foot of the spacecraft’s stairs, I, too, have made first impressions upside-down wondering if I’ve broken a bone.
My M-I-L’s first impression of me wasn’t all that great, and it took me years to quit being “That Girl.” There’s an editor I made a whopper of a first impression on; I can only hope she doesn’t remember my name the next time I try to query her. We’ve all made less-than-spectacular first impressions that we spent ages trying to live down (or at least move beyond).
And, no, I will not be sharing the details from either of those situations here. Sorry, but no. Don’t even ask. Let embarrassing moments die the deaths they deserve. (And those who do know better keep the details to themselves as well.)
I’m thinking about this because I’m judging a contest right now. Granted, the presentation of the manuscript is not a score-able item, but I can’t help but be negatively influenced by the entry that is littered with typos and a disregard for some pretty basic ease-of-reading and professional presentation techniques. My first impression isn’t great, therefore I don’t want to keep reading.
And the Playfriends wonder why I nitpick them to death on things they give me to read—it’s because I care. I only do it out of love, you know. It sucks to be the alien at the foot of the stairs. I speak from experience.
So how important are first impressions to you? Have you ever made a really bad one? (You don’t have to share all the embarrassing details—unless you want to, of course.) How did you try to make up for that not-so-stellar first impression? (Or are you still living it down?)