Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Motivate Me, Motivate you Guest Blogger Terri Bruce

Terri and I met in the Speculative Fiction Forum over at AQC.  She is an amazing writer, and the more I learn about her the more I apprecieate the fact that she is willing to work with me on projects.  The Blog Ring of Power was her idea, but my teasing her about it made the name I gave it stick.  It has been a win/win for all involved and I have really enjoyed the author interviews.

Terri and I were chatting about getting things done one day and she talked about skills.  I was so taken with the topic she agreed to do this guest post for me.  So here is Terri with some great ideas...

Motivate Me, Motivate You
Every person has strengths and weaknesses. But not all strengths (or weaknesses) are created equal; knowing the difference between a motivated skill and a burnout skill can be a huge time (and life) saver.

As a writer, we know the areas in which we struggle—perhaps we have a hard time writing dialog. Maybe it’s creating place-immersing settings. And, as a writer, there’s very little we can do to work around these weaknesses. Sure, we can try to stick to genres where our weaknesses aren’t such a big deal, but generally, a writer has to strengthen his/her whole craft to succeed.

But being a writer is so much more than just putting words on paper—there’s all the tangentially related writing stuff, such as coming up with character names, editing, and generating book titles. And then there’s all the “author” stuff—networking, marketing, public speaking, and platform building. And this is where the difference between “motivated skills” and “burnout skills” makes all the difference in the world.

Career counselor Dick Knowdell ( famously classified skills into four categories (
·         Motivated Skills—things you enjoy doing and you are good at. These skills give us great pleasure and we continually seek out opportunities to use them.
·         Development Skills—things we enjoy doing but for which we lack the desired skill level. These are the skills that, with training, can become motivated skills. These are the areas where we should seek out training, mentors, and opportunities for improvement.
·         Burnout Skills—things we are good at and do NOT enjoy doing. The difficult thing about burnout skills is that we are good at these things—so we are continually called on to use these skills. But the problem is that using these skills takes pleasure away—we hate doing these things. And so we become burnt out. We should avoid using our burnout skills—even though we’re good at these things—at all costs.
·         Irrelevant Skills—things we are neither good at nor enjoy. So don’t do them! Too often, we’re told to put a lot of time and energy into developing our weaknesses. Don’t do it! Marcus Buckingham, in his strengths based approach to personal development, points out that no one ever said Mozart should spend more time studying math. Just the opposite—once it was clear his greatest strength was music, he was encouraged to focus exclusively on that. Taking time away from the things you love and/or are good at to pursue some arbitrary goal of “well-roundedness” doesn’t make lot of sense (where did this idea even come from, anyway? Ever since Henry Ford invented the production line we’ve know that specialization is the key to productivity.

So how does this relate to the writing life? Very simply—first and foremost, if you’re getting called on to do things you don’t like because everyone knows you’re good at them—stop telling people! Second, find ways to get burnout and irrelevant skills off your plate. If it’s time to update my author website and web mastering is one of my burnout or irrelevant skills then I’m spending time on something that is, quite frankly, sucking my soul dry. And that is time I could be spending on a motivated skill—like writing—instead. Struggling artists that we are, it’s very unlikely that we can afford to pay for a professional web master to maintain our site for us, but there are plenty of opportunities for bartering. How about mentoring a high school or college student in English in exchange for his/her web mastering skills? How about helping a fellow writer with his/her dialog if he’ll help you with your commas?

We can’t get out of doing everything we don’t like, but by thinking about our skills in a slightly different way, we can get a lot of dross off our plates and ensure that we’re focusing our limited time and energies to the areas where they will do us the most good.

What do you think? What are some of your burnout skills and what’s a way you could do less of that?


Terri Bruce said...

Thanks for having me, Dean! I love it when my "world collide" (as George Constanza says) - who knew my experience as a career counselor would be able to inform my life as a writer?! It's true when they say that no experience is ever wasted.

Dean C. Rich said...

We are the sum of all our parts! Experience is great isn't it?

T.W. Fendley said...

Enjoyed the post! I'm definitely for getting dross off my plate and focusing on what matters. :)