Tag Archives: professionalism

Time Management Looks Like Success (The Marketing Author 001, Part 3)

Missed an article from this series? Look for it here.

“Time Management Looks Like Success”

Last week we talked about budgeting our money. This week we’re going to talk about budgeting our time.

Before we go anywhere with this, I think it’s important to acknowledge the value that we put on each. If you’ve started building a marketing budget, and if you’ve made any progress toward securing payment on your next big marketing need, then you probably feel accomplished and progressive. Good for you; you recognize the value of money. But have you actually created the work that you’re going to pour all of that marketing dollar juice into? If not, then perhaps you need a refresher on the value of time.

Let’s start with a brief narrative about my state of mind the day I wrote this article’s first draft:

Even though I’m posting this article on Wednesday, March 15, 2017, I’m writing it on Monday the 6th, while I am currently on vacation.

And, guess what? I’m also sick. Yay!

Okay, so what does this mean for The Marketing Author 001? It means I had plans to be up early today, at an hour when I’d normally be at work, and get loads of writing, research, and whatever important things I can think of done, “whatever” including anything I normally can’t do when I’m at work. But because I’m sick and don’t want to face the world today, I slept in. I slept in hard. I’m writing this in the evening, when I’d be home from work anyway, because I got a late start today. My opportunities for accomplishing more were inhibited by my reality for having time for less. When I’m sick, I don’t want to think, or speak, or do anything other than sleep. If I don’t have to work, my excuses for sleeping in grow. That’s what happened this morning.

(And now for a quick writing break because my pizza is here and I must eat it.)

Okay, see? Distractions abound, and distractions like dinner will happen. Sickness, too. Having these things happen on vacation when I’m supposed to have all the time in the world to get anything and everything done will also happen. At some point, I just have to expect the distractions and figure out how to get around them. We all do.

This is not a surprise. Distraction is an enemy of time, and one that we all fall into at some point.

But so is disinterest. That, too, is something we all fall into at some point. Surprise!

Okay, so let’s pause, breathe, and explore this idea for a moment. We write because we want to. That’s what we tell ourselves all the time. Right? No one is forcing us to produce our business books or novels because we’re beginners who have no writing contracts. Right? We write because we want to.

But, do we really want to?

Really?

Often, unprofessional writers will make the excuse that they don’t have time to write because they work too much or have families to give attention to or have too much content on their DVRs going to waste, and if they start writing, they have to neglect those other things, and why would they want to do that? And sure, that may be true if they think they have to devote eight hours a day to writing, or fit in those requisite 2000 words before bed that every professional writer claims to write every day.

But those are just excuses. What does excuse even mean? To get out of something? What are we getting out of? Something we want to do???

Tell you what; to save time, let’s just skip to the list of ways we can manage our writing time better, since that’s what we really want out of this message. It’s always about the lists, right? Here we go:

  1. Make sure you want to write.

The end.

Yep, that’s the whole list.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Aren’t writers always having to force themselves to write? The answer is no. No, sometimes writers actually want to write. Just depends on what they’re writing. To paraphrase a quote from my favorite author, Max Barry, if you’re lacking the motivation to write a particular scene, chances are that scene isn’t very good and probably doesn’t need writing anyway. So, work on a different scene. If the whole book is going downhill, then write another book. I think this also applies to nonfiction. If you’re struggling to work through a particular piece of information, ask yourself if you really need to include it in the book. If the whole thing is flawed, ask yourself if you’re working on a topic that anyone can actually benefit from reading about.

But, what if we have an interesting or helpful topic and still have to force ourselves to write? Well, the straightforward answer is that we just force ourselves to write, just like we force ourselves to go to work. End of story. If we want to write, we will. If we don’t, we won’t.

Or, if we’re professionals who actually want to develop a business through writing, we’ll write anyway, even if we don’t want to. We’ll sneak writing into the crannies of our days. Or we’ll carve out large chunks of hours at those times we know we’re at our creative best. Or we’ll hire an assistant to type while we dictate over the phone, assuming we’ve established a budget for that sort of thing.

It’s important to realize that we give most of our time to the people or things we care most about. If we find ourselves making excuses why we can’t make the time to do something, it’s time to figure out where our hearts have gone because our hearts clearly aren’t in the business we say we’ve sunk it into.

Truth is, it’s easy to make excuses why we can’t write today. And those excuses can cut a deep gash into our allotted 24-hour days. But if we really want to become successful at this craft—the learning, the doing, and the sharing—then we gotta stop making those dumb excuses and get back to work. We don’t have to spend eight hours a day writing. You’d be surprised what you can accomplish in just eight minutes (I mean, if you can improve your abs in that much time, imagine what you can do to your brain!), so stop coming up with reasons why you can’t write. If you want to be a professional, then start acting like one, and if you are a professional, start setting a good example for those who are trying to learn from you. I still have to decide if that’s a blanket statement to all professionals, or if I’m just talking to myself here.

Next week we’ll focus on rejection.

Please be sure to subscribe to Drinking Café Latte at 1pm to receive alerts when new posts go live. The handy blue subscription button is located at the bottom of this page.

Advertisements

Why It’s Okay to Write for Fun (Part 3): The Importance of Imperfection

Missed Part 2? Read it here.

“The Importance of Imperfection”

So, let’s take a hypothetical situation here. Let’s pretend we’ve written something stupid, incoherent, and laughable. But let’s also pretend that we wrote it for fun. Let’s pretend we wrote it knowing it would be stupid, incoherent, and laughable. Should we present it to the public?

I’ve been part of two camps when it comes to authorship: professionalism and completionism. With professionalism, we acknowledge that we have a goal to produce quality work for a quality customer. If the work we produce falls apart, injures the end user, or sows the seeds of discord, we probably don’t want to share it with the public, not unless we’re evil supervillains bent on taking over the world. Doing so could damage our brands. However, with completionism, if we have the obsessive-compulsive need to provide everything we’ve produced to satisfy those obsessive-compulsive collectors who wish to acquire our entire inventory of products, past, present, future, forgotten, conceptual, and should’ve-been-destroyed, then it might make sense to share it all with the public, warts included, even if presenting ugly work will still, inevitably, damage our brands. I can sometimes justify leaning on both, as professionalism will keep people coming back for more while completionism will give true fans a chance to see a career charted, from terrible failures to resounding successes, and feel as though they are part of the author’s journey toward greatness. We all want to be a part of something great, don’t we? But should there be a choice between professionalism and completionism? Can both coexist?

In either case, we have to acknowledge that genius is rare, crap is inevitable, and neither should end a person’s career before it begins. Consider this: The original draft of To Kill a Mockingbird was probably decent but lackluster. Harper Lee had time to refine it, of course, and refine it she did. She refined it so well that high schools now teach it as important literature. But, one of the reasons she could refine it so well was because she had actually written Go Set a Watchman first, which wasn’t so well-refined, and her editor knew that and convinced her to write a prequel and release that book instead. Her experience with the first book not only helped her to figure out her story and characters, but it allowed her to write a masterwork for her second.

But, was writing and releasing a perfect novel on her second attempt really the best thing for Harper Lee, or for her readers for that matter? For over five decades, To Kill a Mockingbird was the only Harper Lee book we knew. Go Set a Watchman is older than To Kill a Mockingbird, yet Harper Lee was wise to hold it back for as long as she had, according to her editor, her sister, and probably many others, for it does not measure up to the same quality standard as To Kill a Mockingbird, not then, and not now, and to release anything of lower quality would have inevitably driven down her author stock. If we consider her legacy, however, we could argue that maybe she should have released it sooner anyway, perfect or not.

Question is, why could we argue something so preposterous? If releasing Go Set a Watchman could damage her perfect record, then why bother releasing it at all, decades ago, or even today? Didn’t we ruin Jurassic Park with all of those terrible sequels? Isn’t Star Wars tainted by those awful prequels? If we had left Indiana Jones with just three movies, couldn’t we say, forever, that it’s the perfect adventure series, and not one where the hero can survive a nuclear blast by hiding in a refrigerator?

Maybe the release of Go Set a Watchman in the 1950s or 1960s would’ve damaged her perfect record. But it also could’ve led her to writing and releasing a third book, a fourth, and so on, furthering her career, as now the high standard set by To Kill a Mockingbird has been challenged and ultimately failed to match, and thus the need to remain perfect is diminished. Maybe by failing at sustained perfection, the world could’ve been blessed with a vast library of Harper Lee books to follow, ranging across decades of southern life, with some being lackluster, but others being masterworks. If only she (and her editor) had just taken the chance to release Go Set a Watchman to the public decades sooner, we might’ve seen a brilliant writer fulfill her brilliant destiny of having a robust range of brilliant titles in her bibliography instead of just two (one perfect and one flawed).

We want to produce perfection, and we want to make sure that perfection is all the world will see from us. But, if we wait on perfection, we will never build our careers. Likewise, we potentially shoot ourselves in the foot if we achieve perfection anyway. Think about that. I’ve been saying for the last year or so, “We can’t improve on perfection. Any change we make to it will just make it worse.” If we write the perfect book, we damn ourselves to that perfection, and we can never write anything else ever again, lest we ruin our perfect reputations. So, maybe it’s better that we tell ourselves it’s okay to write crap, and that it’s okay to release it to the public whenever it reaches a stage just above crap. Maybe we’ll give ourselves a chance to succeed with that attitude.

If the masters want to stall their careers because they’ve achieved self-actualization, that’s their business. I like writing, and I like sharing it with anyone who identifies as a fan, so I’ll keep producing, even if it’s simply enjoyable and less than life-changing. Doesn’t mean I won’t try to write the stuff that impacts the world. Just means I’ll probably follow it up with something fun. After all, Nicholas Cage may have won the Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, but it didn’t stop him from following it with Con Air and Face/Off. And let’s be honest, the world is better off for that decision.

Next Week: “The Importance of Managing Fun