Thursday, September 9, 2010

I Knew I Majored in Business for a Reason...

Drawing for WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET by Tricia Springstubb open till Sunday the 12th! Scroll down one post. 

...and at the time, the reason was to become more employable than a math major alone would make me. (Not that this actually worked: the job market was lousy, women were viewed as chancy-to-lousy hires who'd just get PG and quit, and my business goals were lousy-to-nonexistent, but I digress.) I've since learned that my temperament type isn't really cut out for business; however, it IS cut out for writing and teaching, so Marcia has found her niche, if not her fortune. Still, with all this, that business major wasn't a waste, and not just because no education is wasted or because God can make sense of things even when I'm bumbling around. You know where I'm going with this, don't you? Writers are businesspeople! Even if we have agents. Business may not be our favorite aspect of writing, but fortunately it doesn't have to be dull. (Okay, taxes are DULL. But again I digress.)

I took a leadership course through my church recently, stressing casting vision, strategic planning, and goal setting. Now, I like dreaming, the big picture, and the future, so I can get into that. And when I picked up The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell, I was all over it. The section of the book called Strategy begins with Step 1: Cast your Vision! I'd been hearing "cast your vision" for months, and here it was in a writing book! Not that I couldn't have figured out on my own how to apply what I learned to my writing, but I like the affirmation and integration, you know? While people often write a paragraph-long or longer vision/mission statement, I wanted a sentence, and I wanted 25 words or less. Yup, my life in an elevator pitch! And after many drafts, I arrived at the following. Though they meet my criteria there are two of them, one a bit broader and one specifically about my writing. They are:

Broader: To be a scribe -- writing speaking, teaching and singing words born out of worship.
Focused: To write artistically excellent fiction born out of worship.

Bell also covers specific goals (e.g. words per day, target dates to query), plans (e.g. days and hours for writing, a spreadsheet for agent/publisher research), networking (being a giver as well as a receiver), and writing six days a week and taking a Sabbath on the seventh. He also, like my leadership class, talks about the Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule: 80% of your achievements come from 20% of your activities. Once we know that, we can prioritize, schedule, fund, etc., the 20% and ferret out waste in the 80% (80%!!) of our activities that produce no more than 20% of our results.

How about you? How do you view the business end of writing? Do you have a vision statement? Care to share?


Mary Witzl said...

Great post, Marcia.

For two years, my husband and I ran our own business and it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. We made a profit in our very first year and won an award too -- and I'm still amazed we survived. Selling the business was painful, but exhilarating.

I want my writing to unite, entertain, and change people, in a good way. (It makes my cheeks flame just to write that, but it's true.) I want people who might normally not like or respect each other, to have at least a glimmer of understanding of one another after reading what I write. I want to write for both teenagers and adults, and I want to consider the humanity of everybody I write about, even the not-so-nice ones.

I aim to write 1,000 words a day (though I don't kick myself if I only manage 800). I keep a careful record of all the competitions I enter -- and lose -- and all my rejections and acceptances. But spread sheets give me cold chills!

Bish Denham said...

I am not a business person. I hate numbers and columns. I'm terrible at setting goals and when I do, terrible at keeping them. I can go months without writing much of anything and then go months when I'm writing furiously. It has always been so with me. I do write well when I have dead-line and am under a bit of pressure and I write well with an idea grabs hold of me and won't let me sleep at night.

karenbschwartz said...

As a former math major, this rings a lot of bells for me. I'm going to work on creating some of these goals for myself.

Marcia said...

Mary -- A profit the first year is so awesome! I'm amazed at how many people think "the boss has it easy." I love your points about unity and considering the humanity of even the villains. 1000 words a day is great! Also smart not to beat yourself up over 800, I think.

Bish -- I love math -- higher math. I did great in college accounting courses too, but to me that is NOT math and over the years I've found taxes more and more of a grind. Because of the types of forms we file, having someone like HR Block do it is prohibitive, so all I can do is be glad I no longer have to do my kids' taxes or file financial aid forms on top of it. I'm not a "natural" with goals either, but I really like vision. :)

Karen -- I think the vision statement is the most exciting, but then of course that leads to goals to back it up! The goal that works best for me so far is setting aside days/times to write rather than word goals. In general, when setting deadlines for myself I prefer to make them generous and then beat them. I tinker with my goals A LOT. (Ahem, as opposed to sticking with them for weeks at a time...)

Vijaya said...

Great post, Marcia. I loved the Art of War, as well. I'm a very practical person and from the first day I started writing, I set aside Fridays for studying the market guide (I still remember how incomprehensible it was at first) and submitting things. That was a while back, when I only wrote 15 minutes a day. I wrote 100-word stories and 3-line poems. But it paid off.

My broader vision is to give a voice to the voiceless (this includes fiction and nonfiction) and to always speak God's truth.

And this I accomplish by writing and teaching every single day.

Marcia said...

Vijaya, I'm not all that practical (but I'm responsible, so I can hide it :D). I think 100-word stories and 3-line poems are great training for writers. Talk about writing tight and making words count! Setting aside specific marketing time is such a good idea. New writers don't often realize that ten minutes spend browsing the guide before you send something off isn't enough -- you did so much right even when you began! My current schedule is to write MWF and teach TThS. While I learned over the years to work with what was available, I work best with swaths of time to immerse.

Lynn said...

That book sounds very interesting. I'll be looking it up now! I like the concrete aspect of business, even accounting. I love the messiness of writing, but there is comfort in the neatness of equations.

Marcia said...

Lynn, that's a neat line -- "comfort in the neatness of equations." I agree. I did the accounting for a public library when I worked there eons ago, and I enjoyed it. I also did taxes for extended family with much more gusto back in the day. Now, tax forms make my eyes glaze over. My personal shift, I guess.

Laura Pauling said...

Too bad we can't always tell what the 80% is that isn't producing much - well, okay, tv doesn't produce much. :)

Christina Farley said...

Very interesting post. You seem so motivated! I'm not much of a business type of person or good at math. Well, I can do math but I rather not!

Marcia said...

Laura -- No, we can't always tell what all goes into the 80%. But I think a lot of the time we know in our gut, even if it's tough to admit. Those business types would just tell us it's our job to find out! :)

Christina -- I guess it varies. Sometimes I look at others and think they're so motivated and I recall plenty of times when I wasn't at all, that things were only fun until they got hard. And every once in a while I feel like the motivated one in a group and think, what is wrong with all these slackers? :)