The rule of thumb I used for myself in my first career was to spend on average at least twenty percent worktime in maintaining and improving my knowledge and skills. If you average a fifty-hour workweek, that means ten hours of developmental time. Note: I am not talking about paid time working. Much of career development time is extra, unpaid.
While we are in school, almost all our time is spent learning. (We won’t discuss how efficiently that time was spent.) As entry-level whatevers, our employer invests considerable time and energy making sure we learn the job, or learn to do it better, or learn the skills for the next level job. The further we progress, the more likely we need to take over this work ourselves.
If we are entrepreneurs, we are responsible for our own development.
When I started learning to write, I attended conferences and workshops to teach me the craft. I devoured books on writing. I spent substantially more than one-fifth of my time learning to write better. In short, I invested heavily in my new career.
Flash forward a decade plus. I have three books traditionally published and one more accepted for publication. Draws on my time include not only writing and revising the next books, but the time sink of sales and promotion. This past autumn I took time to reflect on the current state of my writing career. It did not take long for me to realize I had not been investing in my continuing education.
I started carving out time for craft writing books and exercises, but I felt that was not sufficient to bring my writing to the next level. I need a deeper understanding of my writing strengths and deficiencies; I need to learn specifically how to modify my writing. That, I decided, would require a multiple-day intensive workshop to immerse myself in making a transformation.
I contacted a number of writer friends who I knew (well, believed) shared my understanding about my need for intensive intervention as a road to improvement. Two seminars kept popping up: Bob Duggoni’s Novel Writing Intensive with Steven James, and Donald Maass’s Writingthe Breakout Novel. Because of course dates, only Writing the Breakout Novel fit my schedule. I’ll be attending in Hood River, OR the week of April 6, 2015.
I have submitted the pre-workshop assignments, including my goal for the week and a self-assessment of my strengths and weaknesses.
My goal is “to gain specific understanding of what I need to change in order to propel my writing to the next level.”
I listed five strengths:
(1) I am willing to work hard.
(2) I listen carefully to constructive criticism, ponder its value relative to what I am trying to accomplish, and change to reflect new understanding.
(3) I have moved past the stage where seeing my name on a book cover is my goal.
(4) I am comfortable with my voice.
(5) I am reasonably intelligent.
And fessed up to four weaknesses (It’s better to have at least one more strength than weakness, don’t you think?
(1) I do not actually know my writing strengths and weaknesses.
(2) Writing synopses.
(3) The ephemera of writing-related activities (blogs, blurbs, lectures, etc.) can distract me from the writing/rewriting.
(4) I use a larger vocabulary than some of my readers prefer.
I’ll report on my learnings in future blogs, but in the meantime, my questions for readers of this blog are (1) Do you agree with my assessment of how much time we each should spend on development activities? (2) What are your plans for 2015? (3) Those of you who know my writing, what do you think I do well or could improve?