Speaker and Author
Dr. Perry W. Buffington, Ph. D.
By Joyce Dixon
Perry Buffington is a licensed psychologist who lectures full time to
business, educational and professional organizations on leadership and
problem-solving. A native Georgian now living in Florida, Dr. Buffington
is a former contributing editor for Delta Air Lines in-flight magazine, Sky.
He hosted "The Dr. Buff Show" and "ParentWise" on
radio. Dr. Buffington has been a guest expert on CNN, and his
articles on human behavior have appeared in national and international
media. He is the author of eight books on parenting and
practical applications of psychological techniques, as well as an
anecdotal history of Atlanta.
is currently working on Cheap Psychological Tricks for Moms and Dads
(available Spring, 2002) and a new cheap tricks book about money.
have mastered marketing your field of knowledge in a wide variety of
outlets (radio, TV, columnist, seminar speaker, books, etc.). Did one
outlet lead to another? What is your trick for time management and
Any genius here, I think, is just an accidental illusion. They've just
been one luck break after another. I wish I could tell you that I started
out with the desire to be a nationally syndicated writer, but the truth is
it happened by accident, and one thing lead to another to another to
another. I finished up with a Ph.D. in child psychology, and the writing
career started with a cold-call letter. Here's the story. One day I
was flying from New York to Atlanta. I was bored, so I picked up a copy of
Sky Magazine, the official magazine of Delta Air Lines. In it was an
article entitled, "Blame it on the Croats." The writer was a
Ph.D., and it was an article about the origin of neckties. I read it, and
thought out loud, "That's one stupid article." In a flash
of insight, I remember thinking, "I can write stupid articles just
like that." So I wrote down the name of the publisher, but neglected
to jot down the name of the editor. Got home, sat down in front of my
green Remington manual typewriter, and didn't know how to address the
letter. How do I start the letter. "Dear Sir?" "Dear
Madame?" When all of a sudden, I saluted the editor with "Dear
Gentlepeople." Well, it turned out that the editor was a textbook
feminist. She was so flattered that she received one non-sexist letter
that day, well, she called and hired me on the spot. I wrote 125
consecutive monthly articles for Delta, 60 million readers a year. This
run ended in 1991.
I call this my 15 cent investment. That was the price of the postage
stamp, and my entire career can be traced back to this one cold-call
As far as time management, no trick. I enjoy juggling lots of projects at
the same time. When I hit a wall with one, I move to the other. Somehow
magically I make the deadlines. I've never missed a deadline in my life.
For Southern writers, ARCHIVAL
ATLANTA, your book with Kim Underwood, is an interesting collection of
obscure facts about the history of Atlanta, Georgia. Was the book an
exercise in fact-checking items of which you had knowledge; or did you
discover most of the facts through research? As a trivia buff (couldn't
resist), do you have plans for future books of this genre?
A lot of the stories, I knew. And if you look closely at the book,
you'll see that there are two clear parts. I teasingly referred to them as
B.C. (Before Coke) and A.D. (After the drink.) I was more interested in
the parts B.C., and Kim was more interested in the stuff A.D. I was glad,
because I think Atlanta after Gone With the Wind is pretty boring. Many of
the stories I remember because of good old GPTV when I was growing up.
There was a lady named Bernice McCullar, and she could tell a story better
than anybody I've ever heard. Well, when I was in the fourth grade, this
lady did a show on GPTV called, "This Is Your Georgia." That's
where I got the foundation for the book, and then the rest was the result
of lots of hours in the Atlanta History Center. Wonderful people, by the
Your column for Universal Press Syndicate has become one of the most
active in their catalog. Do you see self-quizzes as a tool for personal
inventory, entertainment, or a bit of both? Do you find interactive
self-quizzes on the Internet more user friendly then those in magazines?
There's no doubt, the quizzes are popular, and I think they're lot more
fun on the internet than in magazines. When you take them on line, the
computer scores them for you, and then you get a "Dr. Buff
interpretation," which are pretty fun. I write them in a way where
the response from me catches the reader a little off guard. When they read
my answer back to them, I want the reader to say, "I didn't expect to
hear that." I write a feature and a quiz for Universal Press each
week. Some papers buy only the feature, others buy the quizzes, and some
buy them both. It's a creative trick to come up with a column and
tangentially related quiz. You see, they both must stand alone, and be
related at the same time.
As we move toward a society of telecommuters rather than in-office
staff, what impact do you see this having on the corporate ladder and
Interactions and office relations will become more cut-throat. If I
don't have to look at you face-to-face each day, in essence if I don't
bond with you (pardon the psychobabble), then if it's necessary to
down-size, right-size, up-size, out-of-sight is out of mind. In other
words, emotional attachments will fall by the way side, and this teamwork
garbage will be just another management fad. After all, since the 1970s,
corporations have adopted one new management fad every 1.5 years. They'll
What advice would you give to depressed writers with a stack of
Everything we do in this life in general is "on approval."
With writers, editors put our approval or non-approval in writing. I got a
reject letter just the other day from an editor who said she thought my
ideas were totally wrong.
line: Expect a 15:1 ratio. Even the most seasoned writers get fifteen
rejections before they ever get one acceptance. I've got seven books to my
credit, and editors still want a proposal. How to deal with rejection,
just get over it. The best advice I can give is one a friend gave me years
ago. Do something, some little thing, no matter how small to further your
career each day. When you do that you may get a lot of rejections, but
you'll get more "atta boys/girls," too!
What is your favorite exercise for maximizing creativity in your
It's hard to use the words, creativity and routine, in the same
breath, but routine is my best creativity exercise. I've learned the times
of day that I'm my most
productive--mornings for me--and I work my writing schedule around those
times. Also, I stop projects in mid-sentence. I don't wait until I get to
a good place to stop, I just stop. Years ago I learned in psychology
school about the Zeigarnik Effect. It's the tendency for the brain
to forget completed tasks and remember non-completed tasks or failures
longer. So, if I stop in mid-sentence, I just let my brain think it's a
failure and allow it to continue to work longer and harder subconsciously,
while I work on other stuff.
Psychological Tricks (interactive column)
Perry W. Buffington Ph. D.: Psychologist, Author, Media Personality
Books by Dr. Perry Buffington
Psychological Tricks for Lovers, Peachtree Publishers, 2000
Psychological Tricks: What to Do When Hard Work, Honesty, and Perseverance
Peachtree Publishers, 1996
Behavior is Showing: Forty Prescriptions for Understanding and Liking
Hillbrook House, 1988.
Atlanta: Electric Street Dummies, the Great Stonehenge Explosion, Nerve
Tonics, and Bovine Laws. with Kim Underwood. Peachtree Publishers, 1996.
© 2001 Joyce
Dixon, All Rights Reserved