Last month, over the course of one week, I spent over five hours drafting an email.
On an email.
It wasn’t to The President or The Pope or The Duchess of Cambridge. It wasn’t a final will and testament or a life altering confession or an appeal that would effect all of humanity for all of time. It was a note to say a quick hello to a warm, friendly, super-easy-to-talk-to blog editor.
Still, I spent multiple hours drafting and re-drafting what should have been a simple note.
Because I was wallowing in my intentions.
I have several guest posts outlined that I plan to polish and pitch over the course of this year. In the first draft of my note, I mentioned this to the editor. Then I wrestled with the note for four and half more hours. I deleted and rewrote. I reworded, edited, tweaked, saved, returned later, and repeated the debacle. More than once.
Because I knew in my heart of hearts sharing my intentions was a rookie, unprofessional mistake. The road to hell, and all that, and for whatever reason, writing that note was a turning point. I’m past the point of telling people what I’m going to do. The only way forward is action.
Intentions are great, for a while. It’s where we all start, but it’s action that separates the professional from the beginner. Action leads to opportunities, which leads to experience, which leads to more opportunities, which leads to, yes, even more experience. You get the point. Experience is the cornerstone of professional growth, and without action, it doesn’t exist.
Instead of spending five more hours telling the editor how I intended to write and pitch her an article about X that was really going to be super-duper, I just wrote the article about X as best I could and now I’m working on the actual pitch letter.
Ridiculously simple, I know. But sometimes the simple things bring on an attack of over-analyzing-induced paralysis.
Why did I want to share my intentions? I wasn’t confident in my standing as an experienced-enough writer to pitch outright to the site, so I was looking for some extra encouragement from the editor. I wanted to grease the skids and get her input ahead of time on my ideas to see if I should pursue or change course on the topic.
This is a detrimental approach on many levels.
- I put an unnecessary burden on the editor. It’s not her job to be my personal cheerleader, validator and action facilitator. Also, the website provides very clear guest post guidelines and I don’t have a guest post history with the site that facilitates a deviation from these guidelines. It’s presumptuous and unprofessional to ask the editor to comment on a post that isn’t even written based on what she is able to perceive about the topic from a half-paragraph summary I’ve buried in an email.
- I’m not doing myself any favors, either. Deferring my evaluation of the quality of the idea before it’s even written to what this one editor thinks costs me more than I gain. Granted, she is an extremely talented, experienced professional and her thoughts might be (are probably) 100% correct. My idea might be dung. She might turn it down. Or, maybe, it’s just my idea isn’t right for her readers, or she doesn’t care for my particular style and voice, or maybe she already has an entire series planned on the topic I loosely hinted at possibly pitching, so she says, no thanks. And if she passes, because I put all my teetering confidence in her response, I doubt my ability to spot a relevant topic, I lose my excitement and momentum on the topic, and I don’t write the post. Then I lose the experience and opportunity that come from of actually writing, which means ultimately I lose the opportunity to a) see where else the article may take me and b) pitch the article to another site where it might fit perfectly.
Intentions are safe, comfortable domains full of hope and promise. Actions are scary, dangerous places, wrought with mistakes and failures and shortcomings. It’s easy to see why one can rest so easily in the former. BUT DON’T!
Get a serious case of intention-itis. Get sick to death of all your intentions. Then the only cure is to turn them into action.
I developed a list of measurable, ACTIONABLE, goals for 2013 to help keep me on task. It’s a long list, but that fact you’re reading this post means I can check one off.
What action have you committed to taking toward your writing goals? Have you checked any off this year?
Image Credit: The Typewriter 2 – Front (H.P. Lovecraft’s Study https://flic.kr/p/e5yE39 by Thorsten Bonsch license link https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/