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.


15 Responses to Unnecessary Work

  1. Deb Haggerty November 21, 2017 at 5:27 am #

    Great ideas, Bob. I especially liked what you said about networking. My philosophy has been to always meet people with the purpose of learning enough about them so I can connect them with others who may need their services or who may be able to help them with their needs.

  2. BONI DANIEL November 21, 2017 at 5:31 am #

    Thanks for this one. I need it to stay on course.

  3. Judith Robl November 21, 2017 at 7:21 am #

    Thank you, Dan! The old Nike slogan, “just do it” applies here. Don’t spend hours dreading a task. Just do what you can when you can. If you keep on keeping on, it will get done. But that “when you can” has to be an everyday segment.

    Your blogs are totally on target for me. Thanks for your fidelity to the job and the thought you put into it each time. I learn not only from what you say, but also from what you do.

  4. Sarah Hamaker November 21, 2017 at 7:43 am #

    My contribution to “unnecessary work” authors do: trying to copy another author’s path to success. Sometimes, we fall into the trap of believing if we just did things like So-and-So Successful Author, we too will find success. And we end up spinning our wheels and having large chunks of our time sucked away from the things that really matter most to us in the process because one size does NOT fit all writers.

    If we take the time to figure out what does make sense for us where we are on this writing journey, we will find our own success, which will look different from author to author.

  5. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser November 21, 2017 at 7:47 am #

    Great article, Dan. I always used to take the escalator if I could, and used the rails as parallel bars to get in a bit of upper-body conditioning during the ride. It was fun seeing parents point me out to their kids, and say, “DON’T do that!”

    If I may, I’d like to add a suggestion for avoiding un-needed work…be patient.

    Building a platform will take months or years, and if you’ve not got a built-in attention-getter, you’ll probably flail around a bit before getting traction. Your platform will find you; let it. (Though I sometimes would have preferred that mine had overlooked me, but that’s another story.)

    Also, be patient with the writing process. The draft of a requested full manuscript that you send to an agent should be the best you can possibly produce. When I did custom sheet-metal work, and would be asked how long a particularly challenging piece would take to finish, my answer was always, “It will be ready when it’s done.” My reputation rode along with the work, and it took far less time to produce good pieces than it would have to salvage a damaged name.

  6. Carol Ashby November 21, 2017 at 9:47 am #

    Spot on again, Dan, and we should be careful about what we call unnecessary. When people get in too much of a hurry and want to take shortcuts, I’ve often used the saying, “If there isn’t time to do it right, there sure isn’t time to do it over.” Many times, that do-over isn’t even an option.

    Doing it right for an author means doing many edits until you can’t see anything to improve. Some might say those edits are unnecessary work, but I call them essential to doing it right the first time.

  7. Beverly Brooks November 21, 2017 at 10:09 am #

    convicted and ready to change.

    Thanks for taking time to line up a helpful target for writers.

  8. rochellino November 21, 2017 at 10:11 am #

    Unnecessary work, necessary subject. I learned a long time ago that there are a number of ways to meet or exceed work requirements/goals.

    Immediately, the first thing I do is to make a decision. Will this work be more efficiently handled by self (me) or executively. By executively, I mean from the very start to have the work handled by someone else. Many times this means either hiring the work done or “trading tasks between entities of higher expertise”.

    For example, in” trading tasks of higher expertise” I may do someone else’s cover design and they will do my edit. We both acknowledge that I am a better cover designer and that they are a better editor. Being better many times produces more efficient, more enjoyable and higher quality work.

    In real life I develop story and write scripts well and enjoy it, my associate is FAR better in post production (downright genius in Adobe Creative Suite, particularly After Effects). Together, one and one adds up to more than two.

  9. Marcia Laycock November 21, 2017 at 10:12 am #

    Great post, Dan. Thanks for these tips. I especially like this one – “Frustrated looking for mentors, reviewers and endorsers? Become a mentor, reviewer and endorser.” Hit the proverbial nail on the head with that one! 🙂

  10. LK Simonds November 21, 2017 at 11:26 am #

    Dan et al, I really like these three main points because they seem to go to the root of who we are professionally.

    Honestly, “platform” has befuddled me a little bit. Time will tell whether or not the term retains its current popularity, but I think the components it tries to capture – our reputations, and our particular gifts in the body of Christ, the work itself – stand for all time, whatever they are called. (Do you all agree?)

    Andrew mentioned reputation. So important. I’ve begun to try and transfer the things I felt brought success in my former career to this new career writing fiction. The biggest of those were reputation and trustworthiness. People knew what to expect from me, even if they didn’t always agree or like it, and that reputation opened doors that I don’t really think anything else would have. In light of reputation, I think of “platform” more as an iceberg than an oil rig. A lot of unseen heft keeps stable the one tenth people see.

    Same for building professional relationships, which really can’t be separated from reputation and trustworthiness. We’ll either have an ear or be dismissed, depending on how we present ourselves, not just one time, but over time.

    Lastly, it seems to me that successful publication is most likely to grow organically from our reputations and professional networks. Not that it doesn’t take effort, but maybe it doesn’t take querying dozens of agents in hopes of a bite (as I’ve done my share of).

    Anyway, that’s how I’m beginning to think about these things, and it’s changing my strategy, changing the type of work I’m producing in the short term and where I’m submitting it, the goal being to get something going and build some “street cred.” Have had a couple of small success that seem to suggest this is a good path.

    • Carol Ashby November 21, 2017 at 12:04 pm #

      Great points here, LK. Reputation matters. I want even my enemies to be able to say, “I hate her guts, but I trust her word.”

      Love that image of the iceberg versus the oil rig for the platform.

      • LK Simonds November 21, 2017 at 1:12 pm #

        I feel the same, Carol.

  11. Joanne Reese November 21, 2017 at 12:01 pm #

    Great post, Dan. I appreciate the way you touched on some of the things us writers tend to grumble about. I am coming out of a season of tidying, which has added so much space to my life. This includes everything from clearing clutter out of closets and drawers, to the way I choose to spend my time. The whole process has carved a lot of the “unnecessary” out, and I’ve even applied this principle to my writing life. What I’m left with, is the room to be intentional.

  12. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D November 21, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

    Thanks for the posting, Dan. i appreciate your insight into the world of publishing.

  13. Meghan Weyerbacher November 22, 2017 at 6:01 pm #

    This is very helpful, thank you. It makes so much sense.

Get New Posts by Email

Get New Posts by Email

Each article is packed with helpful info and encouragement for writers. You can unsubscribe at any time with one click. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!