"It is not enough to have great qualities; we should also have the management of them." La Rochefoucauld
Ok, so for the sake of this post, let's swap qualities for talent.
There is a lament shared by those of us who work with writers (teachers; consultants(me); agents(used to be me); editors; and publishers (please forgive if I've left out a group)). It is the one that usually starts with: He was such a brilliant writer but couldn't get out of his own way! or She has the potential of becoming the next [insert name of favorite brilliant author here] but she always misses her deadline!
This lament ends with the reality that the brilliant writer will never fully realize their potential because they lack the clarity of mind and desire to order their lives in such a way that only their best will flow from them. The best effort. The best success. The best writing career they could have ever imaged for themselves. All because they couldn't make good choices. Couldn't manage their time well. Couldn't manage their talent.
This is why I do what I do - consult writers; not just about the business of publishing - that's just the half of it! I also talk with writers about the challenges in their lives and help them find ways through them so they can realize their own success to the fullest. I was so tired of seeing brilliant writers fail in their careers or not fully enjoy their potential because they couldn't manage their time, their attitude, their choices, their life! There were so many excuses! Here's the most popular; I'm having a crazy day/week/month/life! I'm crazy busy! Oh, to hang with it, as my grandma would say! I've really begun to dislike that word, crazy. It's a bad word. Crazy has been the culprit of missed deadlines, lost contracts, beyond rude tardiness or no shows to important meetings/lunches/phone calls/signings, etc. (And yes, some of this has to do with integrity and choices, but we'll get to that another post.) So, you'd think crazy means things are out of control right? As in, too many things out of your control. It's crazy's fault! Well. There are 10 definitions of the word crazy (as found on dictionary.com) and not one of them define or allude to crazy as a definite or general loss of control.
The root of too much "crazy" is a general lack of organization. You could also be making better choices that keep you on a positive path toward producing your best work and/or finding your way toward publication. Pain and simple, my dears. Yep, it's time for the mama talk.
Ok, let's break this down. Let's look at organization first. If you're totally type A and a minimalist, you can skip the rest. If, on the contrary, you're like me, you'd rather watch a Hannah Montana marathon than organize your desk space, clean out your email inbox, and put stuff away where you can, you know, find it when you need it. Sigh. I know. You'd rather be writing, researching or connecting - the fun part of creativity! But writers, you've got to strive to become more organized. Because when you are, my dears, life just clicks into place almost effortlessly. It's a beautiful thing. And the benefit of having a place for everything and managing what comes in and out is that you're not wasting time searching for whatever it is you've lost...which usually dominoes into you being late or feeling frazzled, which tumbles into you having a "crazy" totally less than brilliantly productive day. What a waste!
So, if you can control something that would streamline your entire life, wouldn't you? Or do you like the feeling of being out of control...which does nothing for your writing, FYI. A disorganized life show up in your prose. Most agents can spot this dead on.
Your Action: Take a day or at least a few hours to totally organize your working space and email inbox. Today, if possible. Toss or donate what you don't need or haven't used. Keep what you always need or use and find a permanent home for those things. Keep them there and put them back when you've used them! My mom is the queen of this. Aren't all moms?
This is a totally messy process and that's ok. So is editing. You'll eventually find the right clean, organized workspace (major extra credit if you tackle the rest of your house). When you do, strive to keep it clean and let that positive, clutter-free energy flow into your writing. And music is important. Listen to music while you're doing this. Mondays are my organizing days. I think I'll stream in some Stevie Wonder...
And, hey, wield the word crazy only when truly appropriate.
Tomorrow we'll take a look at how making the right choices positively affect your writing and your writer's life.