Monday, April 21, 2014

For Writers - Who's The Boss?,

This is an article I wrote for Writer's Weekly a couple of years ago. I think it still has legs. What do you think? As I re-read it it occurred to me that I should be taking my own advise. May and all it's appointed days looms, though. It's gonna be tough. 

How to Keep Your Job
When Your Boss is You
By Susan Sundwall

Well, that’s a silly title, isn’t it? I chose it because of a little read-in-the-bathroom book a friend gave to my husband last Christmas. In it there was this saying: ‘I became self employed and I still have a jerk for a boss.’ It gave me a chuckle but it also got my gray cells going in the direction of writing. When it comes to this area of my life – and maybe yours – I’m self employed. And sometimes I don’t like my boss. Why? Let me count the ways.

1.    Not showing up for work – I had to force myself to start this article because it’s night time and I’m pooped. I spent the whole day dealing with masses of tomatoes from our garden. I deserve to not write today.
2.    High expectations – I should be making six figures by now and if I’m not doing that I can’t be any good. I should quit.
3.    Empty idea bank. Nobody but me is even trying to come up with things for me to write about. What’s with that?
4.    That ladder of success? I’m stuck on the middle rung and can’t seem to go up, but refuse to go down. It’s paralyzing me.
5.    Editors are judgmental, short sighted, lack imagination – I could go on.

And the worst of it is, sometimes these five points all hit in one morning. Ugh. So I have to pull back and examine each one, coffee and doughnut in hand, and go toe to toe with the boss, me. Here’s what I tell me.

  1. Recognize a few things about not showing up. Just like that sink full of dirty dishes in a bachelor’s apartment, when you finally do show up those nasty, crusted up dishes are still there. Nobody is going to do them for you. C’mon, your Mom told you that. Get behind the sink – uh, keyboard – and do something about it. Start cleaning up and do things writing related every day. That way the dirty dishes won’t reach disastrous levels. Getting them done means getting paid. Got it? And taping your electric bill to the computer screen helps.
  2. Keep shooting higher. It’s a good thing. Any figures are better than none and proves  you love to write enough to stay at it. Pat yourself on the back for being one of those who have hung in there. The glory at the end will be all the brighter; especially when the paycheck grows.
  3. You were created a curious creature for a reason. All kinds of things delight and surprise you. All kinds of things alarm and disgust you. Sometimes the ‘F’ word even comes to mind – fodder – for an essay, a list article, a greeting card, ad copy, a poem, a column, or a novel. Okay, maybe you’ve hit overload and have flipped the situation around to ‘no ideas’ status. That can happen. The brain puts on the brakes with overstimulation and you come to an abrupt halt. What you’ve got to do is put override into play. Pick something, focus, and write.
  4. You may be stuck on the middle rung for a long time to come. Get over it. Remember, someone below you is trying for your spot. Cling to your rung! Only look at where you’ve been if it helps you go where you want to go. Otherwise strive on. Even a toe on the rung above is forward movement. Now think of this; maybe everybody can’t ‘stand out from the crowd’ a nebulous phrase if there ever was one, but sister, you’re in the crowd! You’re standing up there writing and competing with the big guys not down there in that ‘one day I’d like to write’ stage. If you’ve sold one thing you’re ahead of someone who hasn’t. Cut yourself some slack here.
  5. Editors are people with loves,  hates, expectations and a point of view. Each one hopes your submission will be the brilliant piece they’re looking for. Stop complaining and strive for brilliance.

Sometimes being your own boss really sucks. We long for the days when the paperwork, the patient, the dirty floor, the classroom full of kids, were all there waiting for us when we got to the job. But balanced off against the joy of putting your own words on paper, having someone benefit from what you’ve written, and getting paid for it – man, that trumps everything doesn’t it?



  1. Excellent points, Susan! Very well thought out. I like the reminder that someone on a rung below you would love to have your spot. That does help with perspective.

    This still has legs.

    1. Oh, thank you, Rhonda. Means so much coming from you!

  2. I like the way you ended this, Susan. It's true that the joy of putting our words on paper and getting paid for them trumps the option of working for someone else.

    I also like your point that even a toe on the rung above counts as moving forward. That reminds me of the saying that even if you fall on your face, you're still moving forward. Lol.

    Thank you for the pick-me-up. Be well.


    1. Janette, I've fallen on my face a few dozen times. Doesn't feel good but it is forward. LOL Thanks for stopping by.