Thursday, April 19, 2012

Don't Worry About What You Don't Know: Some Words of Advice

As many of my regular MNINB readers know, we're in the midst of a month-long platform challenge right now. It's been a pretty incredible experience for me to throw out a task each morning and see how everyone responds. Plus, I love it when my ideas are challenged or improved upon, as well as seeing people offer completely new advice. It's great.

Are you focusing on what you don't know?

Notice that I am not upset when I don't know everything. Also, notice that I consider myself in a perpetual state of learning from others. And after you notice these things, I encourage you to apply the same thought process to your writing, your writing career, and well, your life.

In the comments on this blog, on social networks, in our recent Twitter chat, I've seen writers comment upon how they don't know X, Y, Z, etc., and say how hopeless they feel that they don't know certain things. I understand wanting to learn more, but please realize you will never know everything.

That's not a threat or a put down. It's just completely impossible to know everything (unless you're this guy).

So what can I do?
Here's my best advice: Treat the process of improving your writing skills and building your career as if it is a process. There's no finish line. There's no set in stone checklist of things to complete. It would be nice if such things existed for writers, but the playing field is always changing.

If you treat your career as a process, you'll constantly spend some time learning new skills and applying those skills toward advancing your writing career, while spending a huge chunk of your time writing and producing great content. This is true whether you write fiction, nonfiction, copywriting, poetry, or greeting cards.

The trick is to change your focus from what you don't know and what you haven't done to building upon what you do know and what you have done. It's a small change in wording, but it's a huge difference in mindset and worldview. If you're currently doing the former, try out the latter. I think you'll like the change in scenery.


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Beth Stilborn said...

This is excellent, Robert! Thank you!

Anne Birdsong said...

I think I just breathed for the first time all month.

YA Sleuth said...

Amen :-)

I've learned so much already, and made new friends through this challenge. It's pretty cool, and fun too.

Annie Neugebauer said...

This was a good day for me to read this reminder! Thank you!

Marie Elena said...

Love, love, LOVE your attitude, Robert.

Amanda Socci said...

Thank you so much for this insightful advice. You are so right - - a change in mindset is always a good thing. I love learning new things.

I do not get overwhelmed with what I don't know, but I do get frustrated by not having enoughtime to write. The solution is the same - treat writing as a continuous process by building upon what you know, as you have advised.

Unknown said...

One of my bosses would always tell me, when he thought I was looking at something as too challenging, that it was a "process." I love the visualization that inspires, for anything.

Lynn said...

YAY Robert! Thank you.

Kiril Kundurazieff said...

Thank you, Robert, I printed that out.

I've got a lot on my mind right now, not related to my writing efforts, but title of your post alone is helpful.

I can't let myself be worried about a future I don't know what it might hold for me.

I just need to find ways to do what I must to get me thru to the next day, the next week, the next month, and trust that everything will work out for the best.

caryl said...

I think I love you.


imunuri said...

Ahhh. Nice reframing, Robert. Thanks for that.

Muddy said...

Thank goodness! This was just what I needed! I echo Anne Kimball's comment: "I think I just breathed for the first time all month." Nicely said, Anne, and a nicely timed post, Robert!

Monique Liddle said...

Thank you for reminding me of this. When I first started the challenge, I was very excited about all the things I was going to learn. However, along the way, I forgot about the main thing I like about life the most: is that I will be learning until the day I die and who knows? Maybe I'll continue to learn after death as well.

Writing and reading is a continual process. I will never read all the books in the world, and I will never be the best writer, if I want to continually challenge myself. Like you say, there is no deadline and it's not a race. So I should be happy about that!

D C Hubbard said...

You're my favorite spin-doctor! Everyone needs one. said...

Wise words, Robert! Thanks.

Brooke Ryter said...

I see my writing career as just that, a career I am pursuing. Just like years ago when I began pursuing the career I have now as a day job, I started out with a bit of knowledge on how to do the job and a lot of questions. As time when by and work experience happened, many of those questions were answered. I learned along the way. I see my writing career as the same thing, a growth process. I have to take this one step at a time (one book at a time) just as I did before (one week at a time). The great part about this career process that I didn’t have last time around…all you guys! If I have a question…I have a great group of people to toss it out to. So, with that I say…THANK YOU!!

Nichole L. Reber said...

Like so many people in this comments log have mentioned this is an amazing post. Something happened with my writing a couple weeks ago and things just started to flow on a book I've been toying with for 1.5 years. It's so easy for me to keep trying to go back to the writing I did before but each time I try this newfangled (and better) stuff keeps coming out. It's really liberating to eschew the closedness of journalism and marketing writing I used to do. My writing feels free as a US flag blowing in the breeze. You mean I can actually narrate?