Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wearing My "Technician" Hat

One of the three hats a small business owner wears is that of technician. This is the person who does the work — writing, designing, developing, baking, or whatever the business exists to produce and sell. In most cases, it is the technician who decides to “go into business” so that she can do whatever it is she does without someone else raking in all that delicious profit. After all, she figures, I design websites; therefore I know how to run a website-design business. Well, if you read “The E-Myth Revisited … Again,” you know it takes more than a technician to create, manage, and grow a successful business.

I am a writer and all that such a designation implies. In other words, I am a technician. I don’t like to think of myself that way — a professional, an artist, even a hack, but not a technician. Well, like it or not, that’s what I am, if one is to accept author Michael E. Gerber’s definition.

I started my own business because I wanted to write … full time. Of course, it didn’t work out that way, but let’s assume for a moment that it did. Here I am, writing, editing, proofreading, revising, and all the stuff that writers do, every billable hour of my day. That was my dream. Now, I’m living it. So, what is it really like to be a full-time writer?

Well, there are good days, and there are bad days. There are highs, and there are lows. There are moments of flow and transcendence, and there are even more moments of tedium. Yes, tedium. There is subject matter that would put a speed addict to sleep. There are times when getting words onto the screen feels more like a rockslide than a flowing stream. There are hours upon hours when I ache from my eyelashes to my toenails, but I can’t stop because I have a deadline. And there are those dreaded times when no words come. None. Nada. It’s called writers’ block. And it is real.

So, why did I ever think this would be a great way to earn a living? For one thing, I honestly didn’t know what to expect in real life. I had a romanticized image of words flowing effortlessly, my muse at my side, and fingers flying over the computer keys. While words do occasionally flow, mostly, they are placed like bricks, one at a time. Poets have muses; journalists and freelance writers do not, as least not in my experience. And flying fingers? While I actually know people whose fingers move very quickly, alas, I am not one of them. I am a dyslexic typist with arthritis. If it weren’t for spell check to alert me to all of the words that are inside out, I would have gone insane long ago.

OK, so it is not what I expected. It isn’t romantic; it is very hard work, even for those of us who have spent years honing our craft. It has always been hard work. Why did I think it would be different when I became my own boss? To be completely honest, I never thought that, instead of having one boss, I would have many — as many as there are clients or editors. If someone is paying you for your words, that person is your boss.

I didn’t think about the other two hats I would have to wear (entrepreneur and manager), mostly because I didn’t know about them. I didn’t think about how it would feel to be alone most of the time, living at home, working at home, and never being able to run down the hall to another office to get an opinion or just shoot the breeze. I didn’t think about a lot of things because I was, as Gerber put it, “in the throes of an entrepreneurial seizure.” (Read previous blog post for more on that.)

Now, it is 20 years later, and I’m still here. Twenty years of good days and bad days, of the mechanics of writing and the drudgery of writing, but mostly of the magic of writing. Yes, even after all of the above, it is still full of magic. Would I do it again, knowing what it’s really like? In a heartbeat.

(This is what a fellow writer once called a Readers Digesty ending. He was right.)