Before I became a writer, one of my jobs was to advise business owners on a variety of subjects. My background was financial, but much of what I did was offer guidance on matters related to employees—because that was often the most pressing issue for my business owner clients. How to get the best results from employees is a question as old as work itself. Small business owners, the majority of my clients, often treated their employees in one of two ways, like shit, or like family. That strange dynamic is a good indicator that most of those owners were in way over their heads and didn’t have a clue on how to manage people.
My advice generally ran along the lines of creating a respectful environment for work, pay appropriately for the skills and the market, and never promote someone for the wrong reasons. Sounds simple but it’s not. Respecting employees, all employees, is a challenge. My experience suggested that about 20% of the workforce are excellent employees—which means that 80% are not. That does not mean they are bad employees –just that they are not excellent. The owners consistently expected all employees to be above average. Those expectations led to anger, confrontations, firings, a work environment without respect—all bad stuff.
When I offered my advice to one owner, his response was that I just wanted him to lower his standards, he said that like it was bad. He was exactly right. Don’t expect everyone who works for you to be a super employee—they are not, and if they all were; that would be a problem. Cultivate the 20% to be super stars and appreciate the 80% for what they contribute—even if below your standards. That 80% will often be the most loyal, dependable and honest employees you have. They just are not super stars.
My family heritage is based on a strong work ethic. This was more than a work hard and you will be successful someday mantra—it was your duty to work hard. We owed it to the labor gods to work our butts off. My father worked hard, his father worked hard and on and on. To say there is some psychological baggage here would be a gross understatement. But I knew from a very early age that lazy people were evil. This also got all mixed up in Christianity—after all I was raised in puritan Oklahoma; often a confusing place. Work hard or go to hell was never stated, but often implied.
With that quasi-masochist upbringing, it is not surprising I owned my own businesses in my early twenties. These were food service businesses and at one time probably had a hundred or so employees. That was the beginning of a long career dealing with employees—I learned a lot those first years. Most of it was that employees were an incredible burden. I know many people who have expressed a desire to have their own business which would require employees to be able to run it—my advice has often been; don’t do it! I know that sounds harsh– like I’m anti-employee; I’m not. Some of my best memories are of the great employees I have had in various business ventures. But, suffice it to say, my goal later in life was to be an employee or be in a business where I was a one-man-band.
Now I write books, alone, in my little office. I work on my schedule and stop when it suits me. I still carry around the burden of a strong work ethic; but I’m learning to temper my expectations even for myself. I do have a small group of people who help me produce these books so that they are as readable as possible and, I bet, they would say I’m still learning how to control my expectations. Probably true. I still want things done immediately. I don’t find it unreasonable that everything should be perfect. Working at a frantic pace is not abnormal to me. Me missing deadlines is not the same as you missing deadlines!
In my career as an adviser, I believe I always gave good advice. I also believe that most people who advise others are often hypocrites. Do as I say, not as I do, is a cliché for a good reason. Advisers more often than not are flawed people—but their advice can still be very helpful.
This post has only tangential connections to writing and books, but maybe offers a little insight into my background and how that affects the characters you read in my novels. The other point buried here somewhere is that a successful author must treat their writing much like a job. It is not a “fun” lark –it is hard work. When my writing is at its best, I am working with great energy and discipline. Writing everyday on a schedule, even when you don’t want to, is the best way to reach the goal of a finished book.
When I was in my twenties and owned my own business, I knew I didn’t know what I was doing. I also knew I was learning every day and getting better. It was exciting but also very demanding. My ego never got in the way of my learning, and I was never afraid to say “I don’t know.” I’m no longer in my twenties, but I’m still learning—every day. For me, it makes the day interesting and exciting. I look forward to each and every new chapter. Can’t ask for much more than that.
Fiction No More was recently released and has been acquired by a good number of readers. I am grateful. I’m an indie writer and every day is a struggle to get my books into the hands of readers. I’ve discussed in this blog the various ways I go about that—and I have enjoyed a certain level of success.
Anyone who has read my books or even used the free “look inside” feature on Amazon knows I use cuss words. Yep, I do. I use them in appropriate circumstances and with characters who “talk that way.” There are many readers who find cuss words to be vile language and they are greatly offended. They have every right to feel that way. They should not read my books if they are offended by those gritty words.
The success of my books is very much driven by reviews–bad reviews will equal bad sales. This is obvious. Readers value other readers’ opinions—even though those other readers may not be people they would seek advice from on much of anything, but an on-line review carries a great deal of weight.
Fiction No More has just started getting reviews and they are good. But one reviewer was offended by a bad word on page 2. One-star review. I know you are probably saying—so what, just ignore it. I will—I’ve even said these reviews are helpful to other readers who might be offended and I’m glad the reviews are there. But this is my 9th book—plus there is the “look inside” option—page 2 is there to view and avoid being offended. But maybe this is really a crusade to get rid of authors who offend with language, nah, that would be a stupid crusade.
Thanks for being a reader!