A Job Description
I wondered if anyone might be interested in a broad job description as a way of understanding how I work and perhaps as a means of improving their own production. This is a casual look, therefore, at what composes my work life - or any work life, if looked at closely. If you look it over, you might be able to find some aspects of it that you could use to boost your level of output.
The whole thing starts with Ideas. These include purposes. This area is the primary one because without it nothing else really happens, but that’s not to say that I sat down one day and wrote out a series of ideas upon which I still operate - not quite. Rather, in quiet moments, or minutes eked out of a busy schedule doing something else, and over a period of years, I jotted down what I thought were the ideas closest to my own heart - the things upon which I wanted to work, or towards which I hoped to progress. In my case, this was a life based around writing and creating; again, in my case, this involved locating myself in a very specific place, an area of the country of which I was extraordinarily fond. I also wanted to do something that was spiritual important, not just self-serving or commercially based.
In your case, the Ideas zone might be different: places might not be so important to you, and you might have other goals. What your ideas are is not as important as the fact that you have them: without strong ideas, even if they are not clearly understood or articulated, the rest of this will tend to dissipate and fall apart.
The next ‘level’ or ‘phase’ of this was to do with making those ideas and goals happen. I knew that I would need to be self-disciplined and organised. In fact, for a while, I wondered if I would have the necessary ‘gumption’ or self-control to get the things I wanted to do done: I knew that discipline would be required for long periods of time, and worried that I might get distracted and waste precious hours on pointless activities. Part of this phase is, therefore, scheduling and removing distracting elements as much as one can. One has to adopt a series of personal policies that will result in a degree of production being accomplished, which is a formal way of saying that one has to turn up and do the work.
With those things in place, the first thing to do in the next phase is to find out what is at the core of one’s ideas and goals in such a way that one can attract others to participate in them. If you are a writer, you need to be able to figure out what it is about your writing that is going to attract readers, and work to develop that.
Strangely enough, the thing that will attract readers is often the thing that you yourself find most attractive about what you do. This is often the case, no matter what activity you are engaged upon. Whatever that heart of attraction is, it needs to be clarified and strengthened so that you grow a readership or audience or public, or are capable of doing so.
Then you need to figure out the physical and commercial side of all this. You have goals, you have a work schedule and ethic, you have the power to attract - what exchange will you expect from your public? How are you going to ensure that you have the physical tools - the premises, the equipment, the wherewithal - to accomplish anything?
With all that under control, the next phase is the actual production. You need to get on with it. You need to work out how you can spend the most time generating the most production possible within the resources that you have.
Once you have a flow of work going, you have to make sure that it is of sufficient quality. It’s easy to lose track of this and to get caught up in the workflow to such a degree that the quality suffers. Introduce some kind of external system for checking quality, and make sure that improvements are implemented all the way along when recommended and as part of the daily routine.
Finally, you have to tackle the logistics of getting whatever it is you’re producing out there to your audience or public. If you’re a writer, for example, you need to have channels along which your readers can find you and acquire your material: websites, blogs, sales points, etc.
But that’s all rather abstract. What does it all mean in practice, especially for writers?
Stepping back from it all for a moment, you might be able to see that a writer, sitting at home on his or her computer or with a notebook and pen, is probably submerged into the Production phase and often hasn’t even considered the other phases. Write, write, write is the main focus - whether or not the writing is based on any core ideas, is sustainable in terms of organisation or logistics, or is attractive at an audience may have not been assessed. What happens, if this is the case?
a) lose focus and interest in their own work, because they somehow feel that they are not saying anything of importance
b) lose control of their time and have it taken over by other pressing concerns in their lives
c) don’t understand what it is in their writing that is of any interest to potential readers - and so they are just writing instead of communicating
d) fail to get together the necessary logistical support, which means that their writing lifestyle crashes as soon as an obstacle arises.
Because they are also stuck in production, many writers also either fail to assess the quality of what they are doing, or, conversely, over-assess it, self-editing themselves to death because they haven’t yet understood or mastered what it is exactly that they are trying to communicate or even that they are trying to communicate at all.
Needless to say, they never get as far as distributing anything.
What can writers do about all of this?
Work out Ideas.
I keep a journal of ideas. I don’t mean ‘story ideas’, which can occur at a rate of several dozen a day; I mean ideas about Life, how it works, how things connect. I add to it whenever I have a profound thought. Over many years, this has developed into a working philosophy. I don’t pretend to have all the answers to everything, but I have workable answers to a few things, and this gives me a framework of Ideas. That framework acts as a foundation for the other phases above.
Then writers need to work out a schedule and personal policies that will ensure that they actually set aside the time and develop the attitude needed to get something done.
Then dive into what they have come up with and work out what within it is of importance to anyone else - in other words, what is it that they are trying to communicate to another. Once they have that nailed, it’s relatively easy to pull together the logistics that they need to accomplish that communication.
That brings you back to production, but in a different and heightened condition: now you’re ready to tackle the world and quality and distribution have something to work on.
There's a bit more to this, but you probably get the idea. Please let me know if you have any questions.