Friday, January 18, 2008

What To Know

The ancient Greeks said it best: know thyself. As people, especially as writers, it is amazing how little we know about ourselves. But I'm beginning to realize more and more that knowing thyself is necessary to succeed in this crazy business.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses. Utilize your strengths while you work to improve your weaknesses.
  • Know your work habits. Know whether you work best during the day or at night, if you work quickly or slowly, carefully or carelessly. Know if you prefer writing first drafts or if you love the revision process. Know when you procrastinate and know when you need a break.
  • Know your goals. Without goals you have no direction. Even if the ultimate goal changes along the way, you have to know where you're running to.
  • Know your limits. I've been chasing down an article subject for over a week now trying to get an interview. The deadline is Tuesday. I know that the last possible time I can get the interview and still make my deadline is Monday evening. Anything past eleven, I can't work effectively and waking up at 5am to send something off for a 9am deadline isn't reasonable. Don't make promises you can't keep. If an editor asks for a tight deadline or if your publicist wants you to visit 20 bookstores in one day, don't say yes if you can't do it.
  • Know your priorities. Yes, I think we all put writing as a top priority, but there are other things that are important as well. Should you be attending a book launch or attending your child's school play? Have drinks with a visiting author or have drinks with your girlfriend/boyfriend? Call your agent or call your parents? It's easy for anyone to get wrapped up in their career, but I find it's even easier for writers. Know that there are things besides writing and promoting that are important and know where those things stand on your list of priorities.
  • Know thy gut. I've found that the gut never lies. If something isn't sitting well with you, chances are, it's wrong. You can know the facts, know the stats, know the norm, but ultimately, you gotta go with your gut.

1 comment:

Quinn said...

Don't forget to know thine enemies. My biggest enemy is probably the Internet, with its vast reservoirs of thoroughly useless information that I could really use to look up right now instead of writing, because come on, if I don't know the name of the guy who played Mr. Belvedere right now it's going to drive me nuts. If I were smart I'd turn off the wireless card on my laptop while I write, or maybe buy a typewriter.