Friday, May 01, 2009

Who's On Your Team?

A while ago, I completed a series of teleseminars with Randy Ingermanson and Alison Bottke. I've mentioned these before, because the first one was about getting rid of all the mess and clutter in your office. It's an ongoing project. I'm not finished yet. That's all I'll say about that (but I do have bags of stuff for the charity shop, and more for the rubbish truck every week). But one of the things I had to do in a later seminar was think about who is on my team. My writing team.

First of all, I thought - that's obvious. Me. No one else can write for me. If I wanted to stretch it a bit, I could say my laptop or computer was on my team, too. But that wasn't what they meant. So when I got right down to it, the people on my team were:
* my agent (that became obvious, too)
* my writers' group
* my two fellow writers with whom I swap critiques
* my accountant
Then I stuck on the next one - my publishers/editors. Were they really on my team? Wasn't it more likely that I was on their team? (Insert picture here of me and the people from UQP or Penguin all wearing matching hats and scarves.) But the definition of team is anyone who is working or helping me to reach my writing goals. So yes, I added them.

And then I added my husband, who I have assiduously trained to be on my team, and my family. I knew my family were definitely on my team when they flew all the way from New Zealand to be with me for last year's CBCA awards.
So who is on your team? Think about it for a few moments, or longer if you want to, and make a list. Then answer this question: Who is NOT on your team?

If team means helpers and supporters, then the NOT team means those who hold you back or de-stabilise you in some way. This doesn't mean those publishers and editors who reject your manuscripts. That's just part of the industry you're in. To me, the NOT team consists of:
* family members who actively or sneakily undermine your confidence and belief in yourself and your writing - the evidence is in statements as blatant as "When are you going to get a real job?" or as cunning as "You're going to write? Wouldn't you rather watch TV with me and the kids? We haven't seen you all day..."
* writers' group members who don't want to work, just socialise, or who show their jealousy at your successes, or who make it their job to harshly criticise every piece of your writing (to help you develop a thicker skin, of course)
* scam agents and vanity publishers who just want your money
* you!

Surprised by that last one? Well, think about the things you do that undermine your writing. Procrastination via housework or socialising or simply putting other things ahead of the blank page. Giving into fear. Getting angry over rejections instead of trying to understand what they mean. Not bothering to read in your genre, or to learn about the industry so that you don't look unprofessional. Not looking after your health, so you are either too hung-over, too ill or too tired to write well.

So, tell me - who's on your team? And who's NOT?


Snail said...

No agent yet but I'd have to list my two lovely editors.

Also supportive friends who know the business. Unfortunately, I lost one of those last year.

As for self-sabotage ... Ir seems to be a feature common to most writers! Is this a function of working in isolation so much?

Sherryl said...

I'm not sure about the isolation, but I think the likelihood of rejection plays a big part. You just have to grow a thicker skin, and treat it more like a business (and I know new writers hate it when I say that!).
It's also about faith in yourself. Many of us suffer from low self-esteem in certain (or all) situations. These days, I seem to crumble under the withering scorn of tradesmen! But publishers and rejections are not a problem.
(OK, I'm exaggerating about the tradesmen, but that's how it feels because I'm unsure of what I'm doing.)