Writer, Do You Know Your Job Description?
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One of the most powerful fears a writer experiences is one of not being accepted. The fear that others will not like what we write. It’s what leaves us staring at our first line in terror. It’s what makes us tell the first person to read it “I’m not sure I’m done with it yet but…”. It’s what causes that stuttering pause as we position our mouse pointer over the “post now” button. And sometimes, it’s what makes us realize we have reached the end of our “work day” and have nothing to show for it but a blinking cursor.

But, is fear really the culprit when “writing time” ends and you have nothing to show for it?

I suppose, at some level, it is. But, I don’t believe that fear is always the most generous contributor when it comes to our days of distraction. I believe it is almost the opposite. Our enthusiasm to learn and hone our craft.

Yeah, I’ve read a LOT of information and advice lately. And, as I mentioned in my earlier post, there is plenty of it out there and most of it is well worth reading!

 

A MOMENT TO QUALIFY

Realize that nothing I am telling you is hard to find if you browse sites on the subject of writing. I am only hoping to provide a different perspective on all that advice and mix in a bit of my personal experience.

Also, I am a member of the “practice what you preach” club. If you already know what I mean by that, then we’ve probably been reading the same advice (or, it’s your advice I’ve been reading!).

 

AND NOW, BACK TO THE PROGRAM

With so much to learn and so much great information available, how do you have time to write? Especially these days.

In the “old days”, if you wanted to learn about something, you did it one book, magazine or newspaper article at a time. Finish one page, turn the page. And you could say “I’m going to read three chapters on this today.” and when you got to the end of three chapters, most likely, you put the book down.

Today is a whole different world. You go to your search engine and find sites on writing. You click one. It’s great! And look, there’s a link to another great companion article! I’ll just open that in a new tab just like I did with all the other live links that were peppered throughout the article!

You see where I’m going with this, right? If not, to help make my point a little clearer, here’s a bullet list account of how one day went for me this last week:

  • Woke up before sunrise.
  • Poured a cup of coffee.
  • Powered up my laptop.
  • Let the cat in.
  • Talked to the cat, as usual, like he actually understood me.
  • Sat down at my laptop and checked my email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Checked a couple of great links, about writing, that were in my email and on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Rubbed my eyes, stretched, let the cat out and made a sandwich.
  • Sat down at desk to eat lunch and start writing.
  • Stared at blinking cursor.
  • Noticed blinking Twitter and Facebook tabs.
  • Checked a couple of great links, about writing, that were in my email and on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Rubbed my eyes, stretched, let the cat back in, turned the porch light on and went to make a late dinner.

Ever had a day like that?

I hate to say it, but I’ve had a few. Thankfully, not too many, but enough to make me decide to stop writing.

Not for good. But long enough to re-evaluate my approach and, ultimately, re-write my “job description”.

See, that’s just it. If I’m going to commit to something “full-time”, it becomes my “job”. And, if I want to keep my job, I have to go to work on work days.

 

JOB DESCRIPTION

“If you don’t know where you are going,
you will probably end up somewhere else.”
  ~Lawrence J. Peter
 

If you’re going to be productive, you must have, at least, a general idea of how you will use your time each day. Not every day will be the same. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need a plan.

“But, I’m not a ‘full-time’ writer yet.” you say? That’s fine. This still applies. Just portion it accordingly. But, to keep this from being an all-day read, I’m going to use a “standard 40 hour week” as my time canvas.

Remember my bullet list? That was one of those days that I “forgot” I had a job description. My job title is “writer”. My job description, were I to work a nine-to-five week, would probably look something like this:

 

Objective: To give the world an opportunity to enjoy magnificent experiences through outstanding works of literary genius.

Time Commitment Required: 8 hours per day of five days per week. (and occasional overtime as needed)

Duties & Responsibilities:

  • Write no less than 3 hours per day (blog, novel, essay, to self, whatever. Just write!)
  • Average (x-amount) words per (day/week).
  • Drink lots of coffee.
  • Blog at least 3 times per week.
  • Spend at least 1 hour per day learning “the industry”.
  • Pause – take a break. Eat something. Go outside for a few.
  • Tweet a little (but set a time limit).
  • Read 5 articles on writing (preferably similar focus) per day.
  • By the end of the day, make list of things to focus on tomorrow.
  • Talk to cat.
  • Write more.
  • STOP!

Yeah, I know. Not the perfect model of a corporate listing, but it serves the purpose for now.

It doesn’t matter whether you want to write “no less than” 6 hours a day, 1 hour a day or 2 hours a week. That’s up to you. The point is, commit to something.

And take a moment to figure it out. You don’t have to create an actual schedule for every little thing you think you should do every day. My recommendation? Start with just one or two things. Maybe something like “Write no less than 2 hours per day”, “Read 5 articles on writing per day” and “Blog at least twice per week”. See how that works for you.

 

PAUSE. GET OUTSIDE. STOP!

Did you notice these words in my job description bullet list? If not, take a moment and find them. Notice where they are placed. Not rocket science, is it? But still, it’s important.

Take breaks if you’re going to slot long periods of “work time” in a day. Yes, writing can be hard work but, hopefully, you and I chose it for the same reason. We love it! So don’t make it torture.

I get up and leave my office, completely, every so often. I go to the kitchen and make a snack (or finally do the dishes), step outside and get some fresh air or maybe grab my guitar and pretend I’m a rock star for a few minutes. I’ve even been known to turn on a game console and become a covert agent from time to time.

It all works. It clears my head and lets my eyes adjust to a point further than 18-24 inches away. And, the funny thing? Half the time, that’s when inspiration hits! It makes sense though. I’m not stressing over particulars at that moment, but I’m not completely removed from my work day yet.

Which brings me to my last point of the day. STOP!

Again, not rocket science. Pick a “clock out” time and stick to it! Sure, there are going to be days when you have a deadline to meet or you’re having one of those moments of inspiration that just can’t be dismissed. Just don’t work past your “clock out” time on a regular basis. And, just so I make my thoughts on this clear… it doesn’t have to be the same time every day. Be flexible. Enjoy the freedom of making your own hours. The trick is to commit, but don’t create a schedule that results in burnout.

 

TAKING MY OWN ADVICE (STOP!)

That’s right. It just so happens that it’s the end of my “work time” for the day. But, it is not the end of my thoughts in this area. As a matter of fact, I have a pad of paper sitting next to me that has notes and scribbles that will, most likely, amount to quite a series on this and like subjects. A “tome”, if you will.

Until then, think on what I’ve written about today. Create your own job description with time to write, read, learn, build and socialize. Commit to it. Then, let me know how it works for you. Send your new job description, and any other thoughts you have, to: grbliss@blisstome.com

We can learn from each other, deal?

Thanks for spending time with me!

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