By Rosanne Bane
When we aren’t performing at our best as writers, we tend to blame it on ourselves (I’m blocked, I don’t know what to write, I lack will power, discipline, talent, ambition, etc.) or on the circumstances of our lives (I’m too busy, I’ll get it to later, I have other responsibilities, etc.) In short, we see it as the result of some form of resistance.
Rarely do we consider the possibility that it’s not that we’re resistant, but that we are under-assisted.
According to the Gallop Organization, the factor that most clearly predicts the performance of an employee is her or his relationship with her or his supervisor. Obviously, a bad boss is one of the worst things that can happen for your ultimate success as well as your job satisfaction. And though I wouldn’t have believed it back when I worked in corporate America, it turns out that a mediocre boss is better than no boss at all. A good boss is a great gift.
A good supervisor:
- Creates positive expectations
- Provides accountability
- Recognizes and rewards performance
- Defines or helps define the parameters of a project
- Gives direction
- Sets priorities
- Ensures the employee has needed resources
- Provides feedback
At the most basic level and yet the most significant level, a supervisor sees you in the position and expects you to do the job. Who sees you as a writer and expects you to write?
For many freelancers and nearly all aspiring writers, the answer is “No one but me, and sometimes not even me.” No one else sees you as a writer and so it’s harder to see yourself as a writers No one else expects you to write, so you don’t write the way you truly want to write.
If you’re employed as a writer, you have a supervisor, but if you’re like most employed writers I know, you also have a personal writing project – a novel, a memoir, a screenplay, poetry – that your employer isn’t paying for and doesn’t care about. This personal writing languishes, in part because no one else sees you as a novelist, a memoirist, a screenwriter or a poet. No one holds expectations, provides accountability and defines the parameters.
It’s true that writers have to take the initiative. We have to motivate ourselves and regulate our behavior. We are our own supervisor much of the time. But we can’t give ourselves everything a good supervisor can – even the most gifted surgeon hesitates to operate on herself.
You may have several people in your life who play some of the roles a good supervisor plays, but chances are you aren’t getting all the key benefits. It helps to identify what’s missing and consider who could give you what you need if you asked.
I’d love to hear what your situation is, so please comment. Who serves as your writing supervisors? Your agent, editors, writing group, spouse, life partner, business partner, writing buddy, writing coach? Have you talked recently with these people about what you need from them in this key role?