Work and Life Lessons Learned from My Writing Journey
When friends learned, I had a contract with Akashic Books they said, “Wow. You worked so hard for this and finally made it.”
This comment puzzled me. It sounded like I’d been toiling for years climbing a mountain and finally achieved the summit and my reward. My reality is quite different.
I love to read and write. I love learning and getting better. I love “failing forward.”
There’s been, however, no toiling. The journey was and is a blast.
When I think of all the lessons writing taught me, that is number one.
Enjoy the Process. You spend eight hours or more at work every day, eighteen years or more raising a family, countless hours volunteering. That’s a lot of hours, days and years. Each one should provide some joy. Creating characters, thinking through plot twists and turns, writing it down, editing, and re-writing was absorbing and fun.
“Persistence is more important than talent,” said singer and songwriter Ed Sheeran. I agree. Grit and resilience (the ability to overcome setbacks) help you succeed. You have to nurture both in yourself, teach them to your children, help your colleagues cultivate both competencies.
Keep Learning. I’m sure you’ve met them. Individuals who know it all. Their hubris leaves no room for learning something new. Wearing their years of experience as a shield, the new idea from the young assistant has no chance. The first draft of my novel was terrible. I know because I shared it with friends, writers, editors. “Adjectives,” yelled one reader. “You’re killing me with adjectives.” I took classes, I re-wrote. I read books. I paid attention to every type of storytelling (movies, books, videos, talks). When you continue to learn, you grow.
Seek Feedback. As part of the learning process, I asked for feedback from trusted friends and colleagues. As a young manager, I asked my team to fill out an anonymous leadership questionnaire. I wanted to know how I was doing and how I could be better. I was stunned when my team rated me a 3 out of 5 in giving praise. “This can’t true. I’m great at this.” It turned out that the way I gave praise was, “That was excellent. You know what we could do better next time.” Ouch. A “but” takes away the joy. Ask questions. Listen to understand. Feedback is a powerful learning tool. It keeps you moving forward.
Take Time for Yourself. People are crazy busy. They brag about it, like a badge of honor. We’re too busy to workout, read, go on a date with our spouse, or meditate. From the time I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to write. School, family, career sidelined that dream. Until it didn’t. As a fundraiser and consultant, I traveled weekly. I wrote my first novel on airplanes, in airports and hotel rooms. I stopped waiting until I had time. I made it a priority, which meant saying no to some things. You are important. Your mental and spiritual well-being makes you a better employer, employee, spouse, friend, sibling.
Learn How to Say No. The late, great Stephen Covey said, “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically – to say no to other things. The way to do that is to have a bigger yes burning inside.” On my writing journey, I learned that saying no was simply a yes to something more important.