“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.
Sir Edmund Hillary
Just a tad odd, I know, but I found some advice from Irv Rothman, the author of a business book called Out-Executing the Competition, that seems relevant to our writing. In an interview in which he was asked how new job-holders can build value in their new position, Irv suggested four steps they can take. Since I believe that we are actually often battling or competing against ourselves when we write, Irv’s pointers seem worth noting:
Don’t say no: If someone asks you to do something you don’t know how to do or are afraid to fail at, Irv suggests that you say yes instead of no — that your answer should be: “This isn’t something I’m familiar with but I will find out how to do it and I will deliver a quality product.” Our writing takeaway: If a writing challenge comes our way — a skill we need to improve, like writing dialogue, instead of shying away from it, let’s embrace it. Let’s figure out how to do it and keep on doing it until we get better at it.
Keep learning: Irv suggests that you should always work for someone you can learn from. Our writing takeaway: Let’s find mentors who can help us get where we want to go. They can be writing instructors or the authors of helpful guides, or writers we love whose work we analyze closely to learn how they touch and hold their readers.
Take on something big: To really demonstrate on-the-job value, Irv advises that you take on a tough assignment — one that may take you out of your comfort zone. Our writing takeaway: Let’s not play small, let’s go big! Let’s take on writing challenges that really stretch us in new directions. Let’s play around, experiment. The sky’s the limit!
Build a support system: In today’s complex world, says Irv, everyone is interdependent and we all have to learn to function as part of a team and “make the rest of the people around you better.” Our writing takeaway: We all need to receive help — and give it. We need seasoned advice about craft, encouragement, and guidance as we navigate the publishing world. While it’s easy to isolate ourselves, we need to care and connect with fellow scriveners.
And write on.