Unnecessary Work

Continuing with my series of “unnecessary” blog posts (last week Unnecessary Words), today we cover unnecessary work, which I define as making something more difficult than it needs to be.

So you understand my worldview, I always take the escalator, elevator or moving sidewalk, I know all the shortcuts on my computer keyboard and I love microwaves.

Why make something harder than it needs to be?

Here are a few areas where authors might create more work for themselves than necessary:

Platform Development

Some aspiring authors attend writers’ workshops about development of author platforms hoping for the announcement, “There is no need for platforms. Just write books!”  When they hear the steps to developing a platform, they are momentarily discouraged, but still believe the industry will someday abandon this apparently ridiculous requirement.

It’s never going to happen, so move on.

Developing an author platform is much more about consistent and intentional work than rocket science knowledge and herculean effort.

There are many things in life which could be made much easier if you simply worked on them for 15 minutes a day rather than spending hours and hours dreading the task before you, and compressing a month’s work into one mind-numbing marathon.  The quarter hour spent doing the task each day, frees one to do something else and accomplishes a task in less time overall.

Think of how much work can be avoided if you simply did a little each day and skipped the time spent dreading and procrastinating, which is no fun at all.

Networking and Professional Growth

This might be construed as part of platform building, but I am defining this as a slightly different process involving connections with professional people who can help you progress in your literary career.

How can you work unnecessarily at this? Actually it’s pretty simple to identify.

You will spend a lot of wasted hours if the only person you think of is you. Others see through this behavior rather easily.

Frustrated looking for mentors, reviewers and endorsers? Become a mentor, reviewer and endorser.

Anyone who successfully networks with people for any purpose does so for mutual benefit, not a one-sided benefit.

When you focus on serving or helping others rather than yourself, you will be amazed how quickly others will want to connect with you. The time and effort of making connections is dramatically reduced.

The more you work to get others to network with you, the more difficult it becomes. The more you think how you can bring value to others, the less time it takes.

Finding an Agent or Publisher

I know what you are thinking, “This will be interesting how he handles this one. Agents and publishers intentionally make things difficult for authors!”

An author makes more work for themselves when they believe all agents and publishers are alike. Rather than spending six hours investigating and researching, and three hours targeting the right agents and publishers for their purposes, aspiring authors spend dozens of hours blanketing the countryside with proposals to people who have no stated desire for their type of work, creating many more hours of angry reflection and loathing toward agents and publishers.

Doing a little research and firing fewer but more targeted arrows will save a lot of time, work and unnecessary anxiety.

There are many more areas where authors work unnecessarily, from not intentionally planning their time at conferences, to using out-of-date technology.

This isn’t about becoming overly obsessive about how you use your time, but spending time on something unnecessarily burns hours from your life you will never get back.

 

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The Curse of the Writer

Speaking from an agent’s perspective…
I have more conversations with clients about their feelings of anxiety, apprehension or insecurity than almost any other topic. Almost every writer I have ever worked with as an editor or an agent severely doubts themselves at some point in the process.

Doubts occur in the midst of creation.
Doubts occur when the disappointing royalty statement arrives.
Doubts occur … just because…

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Once I had an author with dozens of titles in print and over three million books sold turn to me and say with a somber voice, “Do I have anything left to say? Does anyone care?” I didn’t quite know how to reply so tentatively said, “Well, I like it!” The author responded with a grump, “But you are paid to like it.” After we laughed, we agreed that this lack of confidence would pass and ultimately was very normal.

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I download this list every year and read it with increasing wonder at the speed of our cultural changes.

The college graduating class of 2014 was born in 1992. Think about that for a second. If you are a writer, you can no longer assume that your audience will understand your cultural references. In a mere six years, today’s 18-year-olds will be adults…possibly with families and jobs and children…they will be reading your books and articles.

And you will only be six years older than you are now.

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