With the peaceful transfer of power in the U.S. government, I can’t help but feel as if we’ve all turned a new page. Every four years Americans have an election where we give ourselves the opportunity to try again, to start anew, to move in a different direction. Some people are happy with the outcome, some are not—that’s democracy.
With this new president, a lot of people are looking forward to a government filled with people who actually know what they’re doing. President Trump was proud to claim that he was a disrupter. In pursuit of this goal, he filled the positions of the American government with people who knew very little about the agency they were put in charge of or wished to actively dismantle that agency. With President Biden, the government will be filled as it always has, with people with experience, who know how to manage the agency they are tasked with managing.
You may or may not agree with my political leanings, but you cannot but agree with what I’m saying. Trump was deliberately a disrupter, Biden is deliberately a traditionalist.
So, what does all this have to do with writing and publishing?
It makes me think about competence. About being confident that you know what you are tasked with doing.
As writers, we are perpetually questioning whether we know what we’re doing. We are constantly beset by feelings of inadequacy. This is true of absolutely every single stage of the writing process—from the moment we conceive of an idea (is it really a good one? Has it been done too many times before? Will anyone want to read a book with such a story?) through the writing of the book (would he really say that? Is this historically accurate?) to the editing of our work (should I put a comma there? Is the structure right? Should I reorder these scenes? Is there enough conflict? Too much conflict?) and even to where and how we decide to publish our finished work (should I put it into Kindle Unlimited? Publish wide? Maybe I should try sending it to a traditional publisher instead going the self-publishing route?).
We are swamped with worries that we don’t actually know what we are doing.
I would argue that this lack of confidence extends also to editors and book coaches. Who decides if we’re right to say that a comma should go there or that your book should have a different POV than the one you wrote it in?
We are all always questioning our competence.
This, I think, is a good thing. If we were secure that what we were doing was always right, always correct, would we ever strive to grow? To learn more? To do better? If we were to not ask those questions and not try to learn new things what would that say about us as writers and editors?
Just as I believe President Trump’s choices to lead agencies were not good ones—in government not having any competency can lead to seriously bad outcomes—I equally believe that Biden’s choices of people who have complete competency may not be great either. We need people with new ideas who can look critically at what they’re being asked to do and, even more importantly, who can accept criticism regarding what they’re doing (that, I think will be the topic of next week’s blog—accepting criticism). Hopefully, most of his choices will turn out to be good ones.
But how much competency is necessary, how much required to do a job? I would argue that we need a good amount. We should have a foundation in what we are tasked to do (either by ourselves or others). Without that foundation, we flounder and are more likely to fail.
So while I am new to book coaching and am constantly questioning my competency, I am well experienced in writing, teaching, and I’ve taken courses in coaching. I have that foundation. So, too, do you need to have a foundation in writing when you start out writing your first book.
Take classes, read books, go to seminars and conferences (virtually). It is vital that you have that foundation as you begin to do something that is entirely new to you. Just as it is important to build on that foundation as you continue in this endeavor.
If you ever need any help in learning how to be a better writer, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. You can always get in touch here.