Monday, July 8, 2013

How my day job makes me a better author

I've been working in the business world for a long time, and in a management position for twelve years. While I would love nothing more than to be a full time writer, I have come to see that a lot of what I've learned in the business world has helped me in my writing career. My writing is a business to me, and I treat it as such. Some skills I’ve acquired have helped in managing the “business” of writing, while others have helped in my actual writing.

Interpersonal communication - helps me communicate effectively with the business professionals I need to deal with regularly, such as editors, reviewers, website designers, bloggers with whom I advertise or guest blog, businesses I deal with to order promo materials, cover artists, and other writers and readers. As a writer you'd think this would be easy, but apparently it isn’t for everyone. Being able to communicate information in an organized manner, asking questions to clarify concerns and confirm understanding, facilitating mutual understanding by probing for more information, rephrasing, summarizing, clarifying my own understanding before passing information along, and communicating professionally regardless of the situation or circumstances are all important skills for a writer to have when dealing with all of these people.

Teamwork - while writing is a solitary pursuit, I have found great rewards from being a part of a team such as the one I belong to here at Nine Naughty Novelists. Working with a group to accomplish a common goal has its challenges, but we all know the value of teamwork (Together Everyone Achieves More!) and many heads are better than one! At my day job, I see the importance of contributing to and supporting the team ― we all have to assume responsibility for day to day work for the team to succeed, completing tasks as agreed and informing others when work can't be done. Being punctual, dependable and reliable are important when a group of people are relying on you. I also consider the people I work with at my publishers a "team" ― the publisher, my editor, cover artist, final line editor and others are all working with a common goal ― to make my book the best it can be, publish it and get it out there for people to read. We need to work together and count on each other, and I respect deadlines, reply to business communication promptly, share thoughts and ideas, maintain confidentiality and make sure I deliver the best product I possibly can.

Planning, Organizing and Follow up - even before I became a manager, this competency was a huge part of my job working in a fast-paced, multi-disciplinary environment. I was known as a "paper pusher", not in a derogatory way, but as someone who could rapidly get through a whole lot of administrative tasks in a short period of time so I had more time to focus on spending time with clients and delivering client service. As a manager, my staff who struggle in their performance often have poor planning and organizing skills. I can’t stress enough how critical these skills are to success. As a writer with a full time day job and a family, using my time wisely is so important, especially now that I am multi-published and have increasing administrative/business work to do. Being able to distinguish between critical tasks and ones that are less important is an important part of that. (That’s not to say I’ve never frittered away an hour on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest!)

My wall calendar with sticky notes

I use many tools to assist in planning and organizing my time. I use a calendar, both electronic in my Outlook email program and a paper calendar hanging on my wall. Because I'm so visual, I love having that calendar hanging right there beside me so I can see at a glance what I have coming up that day and that week. I do a lot of work on weekends and I try to look at what's coming up for the week ahead and do as much ahead of time as I can. As I became multi-published with multiple demands on my time, this became even more important ― signing up to guest blog and failing to deliver your post on time (or at all) will not enhance your professional reputation in the writing community. Same for missing a deadline with your editor, or forgetting to send in a contract.  I also like to make lists of what needs to be done, especially when there is a LOT that needs to be done, and I prioritize the list in order of what needs to be done first, next and what can wait. I also use a lot of sticky notes, which is a low-tech tool but still effective! On any given day there will be several colourful reminders stuck on my desk/computer!

Other technology helps in this as well. For example, the ability in Blogger to schedule a blog post ahead of time. (Ha! Which I am doing right now! Because I'll be away on Monday, my scheduled day, without internet access, I'm doing this on Friday night before I leave for the weekend.) I use Tweetdeck to manage social networking there, which also gives the ability to schedule Tweets ahead of time, important when I'm at the day job, also the ability to create lists of people I follow; for example I have lists of people who I want to see ALL their Tweets (like the NNN, or my editors). I have my blog linked to Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Amazon so I don't have to spend time posting at all those different places. I have a few tricks I use when guest blogging so I can respond to blog comments. I use flags in Outlook to flag messages that I need to follow up on later, and folders where I keep important emails.

This was becoming a long post, so come back next month for Part Deux - including Client Service.


Skylar Kade said...

Kelly, I hadn't thought about viewing the EDJ in this context. It's refreshing and heartening to view those non-writing tasks through this lens.

I wish more writers/industry types were more adept at interpersonal communication too :P

Kelly Jamieson said...

Sky, I can see that a lot of your day job helps you in your author career too... :-)

PG Forte said...

I have to admit, the administrative aspect of the writing business is not my favorite part. But I do love calendars and making lists...which might be my only saving grace. ;) I can't wait to read Part Deux. :)

Jennifer said...

You've always seemed so organized and professional, and now I understand why! It's great to hear your inside secrets on this topic. Looking forward to the next installment!

Kate Davies said...

Love this! Also love that both of us put together our posts early because we were going to be away on our assigned days. :)