What an entrepreneur can learn from a literary conference: Part III

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By Leo Valiquette

Focus.

It’s what distinguishes talkers from doers, which I touched upon in last week’s post about lessons learned at a literacy conference that apply to entrepreneurs as much as they to do authors.

While I was at that conference, I ran into Canadian fantasy fiction author Ed Greenwood. Over a span of less than 30 years, this man has published scores of books, hundreds of magazine articles, a pile of short fiction and worked on countless other related projects. He is a working writer well accustomed to navigating the often-absurd complexities of the publishing industry and trying to earn a fair living while doing so. Anything beyond a month to crank out a draft of a novel is a luxury for him. He’s scarce on social media and I’ve probably just given you the reason for that.

On one panel, Greenwood talked about how as a youth he chose to study journalism. This was back in the day when classrooms (and newsrooms) were filled with rows of clattering typewriters rather than computers. He had no intention of becoming a journalist, but he wanted to develop a journalist’s work ethic – that ability to just sit down and hammer out clean copy on a deadline whenever it was necessary to do so.

Such conference sessions are always filled with new writers eager to glean mystic secrets from the veterans that will turn them into the next Big Thing. But it starts, simply, with developing the good habits that result in getting words to page on a consistent basis. Many new authors preoccupy themselves with having everything just right – the right music, the right pair of fluffy slippers, the right ambience in the coffee shop, or what have you.

And that’s fine, if all you want to do is putter around. If you want to make a serious business of it, you must learn to produce on demand—just sit down and do it.

But creativity often does not come easily, even for creative people. And this is where it becomes another lesson that applies to the exhaustive effort to get technology to market as much as it does to the discipline of writing.

Make the most of your golden hours

It doesn’t matter if it is high-level marketing messaging, that pitch you have to make before a room of angel investors, or resolving an issue that users are having with your new interface. Sometimes, the door just needs to be shut, the email and the social media channels turned off, and the phone sent direct to voicemail.

The road to product launch is riddled with potholes that have signs reading “insert content here.” And as the roguish Tara Hunt has written before on this blog, content doesn’t just appear out of thin air. Content, by my definition, is anything that will be heard or read by a target audience, which includes that investor pitch as much as it does that next blog post or the tutorial for your app. Even if the purpose and the audience differ, each situation requires a creative process.

While there are always those eureka moments that strike in the most inopportune times and may leave you reaching for a notebook, dripping shampoo suds on the bathroom floor, producing the final polished output is still a grind. That’s where it comes back to focus and carving out those necessary blocks of time in which casual interruptions by co-workers, clients and others are reduced as much as possible.

In this shop, one approach we take is to schedule all meetings in the afternoon and reserve the mornings for writing, phone calls and the like. I personally find that my creative juices flow best before noon. It’s not that I can’t produce good material after that, but it comes easier earlier in the day when my brain is fresh.

I’ve met many business people who start the work day at the crack of dawn and assert that they get a day’s work done before most of their team arrive in the office. One author at the conference said that she enjoyed a big gain in her productivity after getting in the habit of rousing herself early and blocking off time to get her creative writing done “before they find me.”

It all comes back to striking a manageable balance between the natural ebb and flow of your workplace, your workday and your own ultradian rhythms. Try to schedule everything else in your day around that period of time when you are at your creative best and use that time exclusively for whatever creative tasks are on your to do list. As Canadian sci-fi author Julie Czerneda said in one panel (I paraphrase), “these are your golden hours. Honour them and don’t let them go to waste.”

But as Ed Greenwood would add, sometimes you just have to sit down, isolate yourself from all distractions, and grind away until the job is done, regardless.

Image: Do It In Time Diva

 

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