Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What I Learned In The Last Five Weeks

(Originally, this spot was a horror story about a guy who sent my old mentor a bottle of bourbon, porn and a kitten in order to get published. The story was about a paragraph long. In short, my mentor and I drank the bourbon, gave the porn to me and he kept the cat. The cat died in 2007, long after my mentor did.)

What's here instead is me being honest. I hope you don't mind.

It's been a great five weeks for me. My calendar is extra loaded with fun work projects, and depending on where you look in some niches and circles, you'll see the first bits of my work coming out. It's an exciting time for me professionally.

Personally, it's also been good, but that's not for this blog.

Here now are some things I've learned in the last five weeks. I will effort to keep this list all-business related.

1. Be honest. Not 'whenever possible', not 'whenever convenient', ALWAYS. I can point to a few people as being big springboards for my success, and I should probably point to a few more than I normally do, but if I had to point at one thing I'm doing that's helping it's being honest. This isn't to say I wasn't honest before, but that I didn't make it a priority. I had some weird hurdle that I made situations and people climb before they got to know me, and it gave them an impression I was a jerk or difficult or mean or something. Whatever they thought, I'm glad they don't think it now. It's still hard work making sure my tone is how I want and that I'm coming across how I want, but it's easier now. Every day the new successes help.

2. There's no substitute for outright loving your work. I am so fortunate to have the job I do. All the people I work for are GREAT, easily accessible, friendly, helpful and absolutely committed to putting out great products. My clients are incredibly hard-working people, who manage and juggle a thousand things I couldn't even conceive of and still find time to scribble out books I'm lucky enough to read and help make better. If I didn't love this job, if I didn't want to wake up every day and do this, I'd..probably be working a job completely beneath me or have sunken into years-deep depression by now. People can tout high-paying glamor jobs all they want, but for me, I love what I do, and I won't replace it for anything or anyone.

3. I don't need to be a Lorax, or carry around a soapbox. Over the weekend, there was a little battle on the interwebs about some writers not getting paid and some other people spoke on their behalf about it. Now, admittedly, I am biased in this fight - I know and work with/for a lot of people who participated in that discussion, as well as with the company being spoken at. And because they're my employer(s), I'm not going to get into who-said-what-to-who, because I do not know the particulars and because to the best of my knowledge it's a non-issue by now. But it made me aware of just how far I've come in working on my tone. I would have SO been the guy on the soapbox spitting fire and drawing heat for other people, because I used to need that cause, I used to need a fuse lit under me to give a damn. But I don't need that to make my life better any more. There's enough on my plate and I'm happy with it all so that I don't need to go stirring things up on the internet for either attention or sport. My days as a professional shit-stirrer are over.

4. Those skills I take for granted are often those for which I am praised, admired and loved. I do a lot of things differently than others. For a long time I felt like those were hindrances or signs of my worthlessness and inferiority, because honestly, who reads at least eight books a week and memorizes whole chunks of game mechanics, canon and material for fun? And who answers emails within minutes of their transmission to the depths I do? These are not the skills typically found in people. These are skills I just sort of assumed everyone has, because when I was developing them (read: young), it was no big deal that in elementary school I was reading so much or that in junior high I was writing speeches for people and working on college-level material. While this did create a blindspot for me that I'm occasionally smacking into (you mean you can't describe the whole day in first grade where your teacher explained how to spell the word 'miniature'? Or that you don't remember what you wore the day you stood in a foreign airport and had a hot coed blow smoke in your face almost twenty years ago?) - Those are not the skills of the cave troll of Moria, Frodo, these are the skills that I can contribute and offer to those around me. Realizing I actually have the ability to matter to others has been huge.

5. I get listened to. For much of my life, professional and otherwise, either because of my tone or whatever, I didn't think that what I say mattered. I'd make recommendations or give advice or write out reports and messages and then see the material totally ignored. But lately, and this is probably because I'm talking to/with a better class of people and working in ways that are positive and healthful, I'm getting listened to. I have actual evidence that what I'm saying translates into real-world stuff. Whether that's a project taking shape based on my ideas or having my contributions to a Google document not just get deleted out...I thrill at seeing things I say actually mattering to other people to the point where something positive comes out of it.

6. It's not about boundaries, it's about budget. I once got told I have trouble building boundaries, that I don't appropriate separate or afford things adequate distance. But they I also got told that I keep too distant from things, too objective and too cold. It's hard to rectify that. Instead, what I did, because I am forever finding new routes between Point A and Point B, was look at the problem from a management issue - am I giving issue 1/issue 2 enough time or too much time? Are there tools I can use to make this more concrete? It turns out that given enough material and a good objective, I can manage a lot and do a lot effectively. This isn't me bragging, because I'm NOT saying I can do more than you can, this is me saying that I don't have a problem with boundaries. I have a problem with budgeting time and staying motivated and interested. Do you know why it's been less of a problem lately? Because I'm doing more things that actually interest me. It's quite cool.

I've learned a lot in the last five weeks. I look forward to what the next five teach me.

Happy writing.