amwriting, blogging, book, books, cubicle, CYA, deadlines, goal, goal-setting, gossip, indie, marketing, motivation, Mr. Money Mustache, networking, office job, office life, optimization, optimizing, platform, publishing, schedules, side hustle, writing
For many of us, creative writing is not our main job. (Cue sobbing.) Just in my small circle of writer friends we are CEOs, sales clerks, IT nerds, teachers, technical writers and office drones. Lessons gleaned from those jobs, however, carry over into our writing, revising, platform building and marketing.
Here are a few things I’ve gleaned from cubicle life.
- Don’t overpromise and under-deliver.
“I’m negotiating with the executive committee to give you a nice raise this year.”
“When we upgrade, one of those licenses will be yours.”
“That position will be created in Q4 of 2017.”
“You’re a gem and I fully support you.”
If you consistently tell people what they want to hear and then don’t come through, it makes you look unprofessional at best, untrustworthy at the worst. There are two obvious ways to avoid this:
- Don’t make grandiose promises. Or as my dad sometimes says, “Don’t write checks your ass can’t cash.”
- Follow through on your promises. No excuses, no flaking. This is easy to accomplish if, for instance, you provide a generous timeline and then finish early (or under budget, etc.).
If you’re not going to have your draft done on time, be honest. If you don’t have room on your blog for a certain feature, don’t blow smoke and then bail. (Can you tell this is a pet peeve?)
Your reputation and integrity are everything in writing just as in business.
2. Watercooler gossip is never a good idea.
We’re not in high school, people. There’s genuine concern and information sharing, and then there’s gossip. You know the difference. Have a questions? Ask the source. Heard troubling rumors? Go get facts from people who know the truth.
This kind of behavior is also closely related to being a drama bomb and/or stirring the pot. A word of advice: Save the drama for your novel.
3. Schedules and deadlines are your friends.
Telling a Type A person to just “turn it in whenever” is likely to cause a panic attack the same way that gifting a Type B person a bullet journal is a pointless waste. Determine what works for you and DO THAT. Simple, right?
If your boss needs a report at 9 a.m. Friday and you hand it to her the following Monday, your ass is grass. FAIL. You get fired, demoted, yelled at, she takes away your cookie and Starbucks or some other unpleasantness occurs.
Apply that logic to your writing habits/gig.
If you’re a Type A, get up and write at 5 a.m. (there’s a 5 a.m. writers breakfast club on Facebook. Message me and I’ll hook you up). Then you’re done for the day and you can happily relax knowing you aced that mofo. Cross it off your alphabetized to-do list.
If you’re a Type B who HATES to plan ahead and has a hard time getting started, break everything down into tiny tasks. Write 500 words before work. Write 500 more on your lunch break. Pfft, you got this.
And no one gets their cookie taken away.
4. Think like a business—even if you’re the only employee.
This is a difficult concept but super important, especially for those of us who are more artsy types, and I’ll admit it took me a ton of trial and error (and failure) before I finally understood the concept. And honestly, I think having a job outside of writing is helpful in getting into this mindset. We have this notion that writing is an art and therefore aesthetically above the barbarism of money.
If you are independently wealthy or making enough in royalties to live how you want, then fantastic – this blog post isn’t for you. If, however, every tax season your accountant makes a comment about your consistently failing to make a profit, then honey, we need to talk.
Google the phrase, “side hustle.” Or if you’re really badass, look up Mr. Money Mustache and his thoughts on optimization. Tracking expenses and setting goals is so important for writers who intend to publish. It means the difference between being a sustainable activity or a strain on other parts of your life.
Don’t be afraid of money and mathing. They are not dirty. They are facts of life. Set a goal of X dollars in royalties or X dollars in profit (above what you spend on marketing, giveaways, events, etc.). Decide you’re going to write and publish two novels this year. If you really must avoid money amounts, set another measurable goal – increasing your royalties by 10% or doubling the number of books you sell this year compared to last year. Get out your calculator and map it out, or use one of the many free budgeting software options. There are any number of goal-setting, countdown tracking programs and apps, as well.
5. Play the game and network.
Playing the game and networking is not a contradiction to the above advice to avoid gossip. What I’m referring to here is the art of diplomacy, which can be insanely difficult for some of us, or even a completely foreign subject especially when applied to the workplace (whether that’s an actual office or an online one).
It took me 37 years to realize that 1) not everyone is as blunt and straightforward as me, 2) not everyone is as emotional and altruistic as me, and 3) there are people who will take advantage of those first two attributes.
As writers, you and I may be excellent at creating put-together characters who know just what to say, when and how to say it, and what to do in each situation. And when we don’t, it’s an admirable character flaw. Usually.
But place us in a real-life situation where we have to interact with actual people and think quickly to say the correct thing and, well, there’s a reason we choose to stay behind the keyboard.
Getting along with people with whom we work on a regular basis can be learned. So can self-advocacy and self-preservation. There is a certain mindset that can be put on and taken off as needed. I happen to have someone I can turn to who is excellent at sniffing out bullshit and who has helped me learn CYA tactics, as well as how to say things … without actually saying them and pointing fingers.
As a blunt person, this has been incredibly difficult, but I’m getting there. A great resource is The Muse. I’ve searched for any number of oddball situations and they usually have an article on how to handle the issue. Good stuff and it’s free. (No, I don’t have any sort of affiliation with them. I just like what they put out.)
The second part of the equation is networking. Chances are you already have an awesome social media presence, just be sure to keep it fresh and be open to meeting new people who may not even be your target audience. That’s okay. If you’re in an office, you don’t only make friends with people in your department or who directly affect your upward mobility. That would be pretty shallow. Apply the same concept to your social media. Make friends and contacts outside of your readership and circle of writerly types.
HOWEVER, that’s not to say you should avoid those who have the ability to positively affect your career. I would encourage you to specifically seek out those who LinkedIn calls “influencers.” They can’t help you if they don’t know you exist.
Before you go, let me know if this article was helpful. “Like” it, comment, reblog or share if you took away something valuable. Thanks!