Job-hunting and writing: these have been the major focus of my life lately. Being the former grad student I am, I started comparing them: the techniques they involve, the different things that can lead to success in each.
Sadly, I haven’t been writing lately. Haven’t worked on my WIP in a week. I’m just too frustrated and too stressed to feel like dealing with it. That said, I have picked up a lot of leads on the job front: so hopefully I’ll find myself employed soon, which will help me feel more secure.
Anyways, this post isn’t supposed to be about me. It’s about those things that help us writers both write and find jobs. (I know I’m not the only writer seeking employment. I have heard from LOTS of you guys in the same boat as me).
These abilities and resources will really come in handy:
YOU HAVE TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
Be creative: leads for a job can come from anywhere, and the perfect job for you might require some fun explanations in a cover letter and/or interview about how your experience–while not an obvious fit–has really prepared you for a new and exciting challenge.
As for writing: I don’t know any author who wouldn’t stress the importance of creativity. Of mind-mapping; of brainstorming; of not discarding the crazy, “out there” ideas, but rather using them as a jumping point to develop something different and intriguing.
SAY ONLY WHAT MATTERS
When interviewers ask you, “Tell me about yourself,” they don’t care about how many brothers and sisters you have. And it’s illegal for them to ask how many kids you have.
They want to know things applicable to the job: how your professional experience has prepared you for the challenge ahead. What you are looking for in a career and what you would bring to the company.
Managers are busy, and you’re not getting the job if you waste their time talking about stuff that doesn’t bear upon the topic at hand: why you are a good fit for the open position.
The same goes for writing: fluff is BAD. Really bad. First drafts always have a lot of it, and editing always involves a LOT of cutting down–sometimes even deleting whole scenes.
I’ve written a guide of questions to ask before you cut something. Generally, if you can’t define a specific reason to keep a sentence, paragraph, or scene, you don’t need it. If you can’t explain what it contributes to the novel or story as a whole, it shouldn’t be part of the novel or story.
In the case of a sentence, or a phrase, you could ask what it contributes to the paragraph or the scene (rather than the global picture). But you should be able to defend its presence somehow.
Valid defenses do NOT include the following:
- “I like it.”
- “My book would be too short without this scene.”
- “It’s well written.”
- “I spent a lot of time on it so by gosh, I’m keeping it.”
Anyone who has successfully found work in the current (read: dismal and depressing) economy could tell you the importance of networking. Of involving your contacts and asking them for references or for leads. Of letting people know you need work, and asking them to let you know if they hear of anything you might be a fit for.
Community matters in writing, too. Writing and critique groups support each other and help each other grow, both personally and as authors. We help each other create our best work and to improve as we go along. Beta readers and editors are essential.
None of us can go it alone. Not successfully.
I have read tons of blog posts and articles with tips about job hunting: interview “do”s and “don’t”s, follow-up tips, where to find leads. I have met multiple times with the career office at my old university, learning how to best present my experience through the resume format.
This has really helped me put my best foot forward. Even though I haven’t gotten offers yet, I’ve had a number of great interviews, which is encouraging as I keep plodding on.
Some of those interviews I might never have gotten without the tips I learned from “studying up.”
The same goes for writers: READ BLOGS. Read author blogs. Good heavens, lots of us run them, and I have found them such a goldmine of information I have written a post about the benefits authors get from being active in the blogosphere.
Even if you haven’t published yet, even if you don’t have a blog yourself, be active and read. Make the contacts (remember, community matters).
This is can be tough on both counts: writing and job hunting. Few experiences are as disheartening and as emotionally crippling as repeated rejection.
Repeated rejection is part of the game whether you’re seeking employment or an agent/ publisher.
When you go months with lots of interviews but no offers–when even interviews are hard to come by–it’s easy to start to feel like there’s something wrong with you.
There isn’t. You’ve just got to plug on and keep going: keep following up, keeping seeking out leads, and if necessary, reassess your approach and get some outside input to present a better image of what you truly have to offer. (In other words, study up. See how all these things connect?)
As for writing: even if you aren’t actively seeking an agent or publisher, you WILL experience writer doubt. Chances are you already have or are currently feeling it. It’s pretty much an epidemic. (It hit me bad earlier this year.)
One of the things that help me through writer’s doubt is simply understanding that it’s normal, because it is. It hits us all.
Here is what writer’s doubt means:
- That you’re human, which means you aren’t perfect. Join the club.
- That you have an advantage over blind narcissists who don’t think they can ever improve themselves or their work.
- That you have a real shot to make something of yourself, because that doubt, that knowledge that you are “lacking,” is great motivation to make improvements
So try to stay positive, as tough as that can be sometimes. Take things one day, one chapter, one character sheet at a time. Perhaps one job application/ interview at a time.
Life is about the JOURNEY. I forget that all the time. I focus on the destination and feel like a failure because I’m not there yet.
In reality, none of us are “there” yet because life is about the journey. The adventure. Writing and job hunting are sometimes part of life. As such, they’re also about the journey. They’re about enjoying the journey (writing) or growing from it (job hunting).
So, I hope you enjoyed this post. Like I posted earlier this week, I’m cutting back on daily posts to publish new material on Sundays and Wednesdays (and the occasional Friday).
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