Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Answer the Bell

What’s the most valuable business skill that you’ve used in your writing career. Can be anything from contract negotiation to typing to computer programming, like HTML and making your own website, or anything else?

Happy Fourth of July

From Jim

Before I embarked on my writing career, I worked for many years in academia and in Hollywood post-production. Putting to one side the everyday skills one acquires in business, such as typing, pencil-sharpening, and water-cooler banter, I’d say that the most valuable thing I learned in my past career was a strong work ethic. Early on in my professional  life, I learned that honest toil, while not necessarily a guarantee, tended to pay off, both for the company and for me. Over the course of eight years with one company, I never took a sick day. Eight years. Some years there was a certificate to acknowledge perfect attendance, but most times there was nothing. It didn’t matter to me at the time. The streak became an all-consuming, self-sustaining inspiration of its own.

And that attitude has carried over to my writing career. Who cares if I call in sick now? No one but me. I answer to myself and to my own expectations. But that’s just the point. Whom better to work your butt off for than yourself? I don’t get perfect attendance certificates now, but I do get to look at my books lined up on a shelf. Each one represents a year’s work. A year of writing even when I didn’t feel up to it. A year of of doubt, but also a year of hope and determination. A year of refusing to call in sick, even when I was hung over. Or actually sick. One of my favorite mantras is that you have to answer the bell. If you want to play, you have to deal with the consequences of your actions. Never more so than when you’re your own boss.

My point here is that while writing is a creative process, it’s also a business. At least if you’re trying to make a go of it. The two are not necessarily in opposition. For me writing is the greatest job I could ever imagine doing. But at the same time, it’s hard. It’s work. It’s a job. Why do it at all unless you’re trying to produce something of value? You might just as well as watch TV. Take it easy and relax.

Speaking only for me, I’d much rather work my butt off for myself, my own career, and my own books than for some company. But I recognize that much of this work ethic was acquired through the toil and sweat that I gave to previous employers along the way. You can’t simply switch on the work ethic gene when it suits your purpose. You must be willing to to show others and yourself that showing up—every day—is the first step to success. One book at a time.

1 comment:

Paul D. Marks said...

Jim, I agree with everything you said. Since we work at home we have to be disciplined. What I find a little annoying is that other people often don't think of what we do as a business. They expect us to be available at the drop of a hat. Whereas if we worked in an office or something like that they wouldn't. And I'm not talking about Amy here. She's terrific. But I have other friends and family who get annoyed when I can't or won't talk or do something because I'm working. I don't think they see it as real work. But if we want to get our jobs done we have to look at it what we do as a job.

Happy Fourth of July!