Sidestepping the boobies and their traps

This entry from Seth Godin’s marketing blog, on dealing with people who expect you to fail or underperform, offers some valuable tactics for writers.

I’ve unwisely spent too much time in organizations in which I was the only writer/editor. Often my work was looked upon by many people as an unnecessary extra step in the process (“doesn’t everybody know how to write?”) or a burdensome expense to the organization. The upper-level managers who valued professional writing and editing capabilities, and who hired me, seemed oblivious of the need to explain the role I was to play, leaving me to justify my own existence. As a result, I usually spent more time politicking to be able to simply accomplish my work than I did writing or editing!

One amusing tactic Godin suggests is to dramatize the difficulty of your work. “Magicians are really good at this,” he notes. “If people think what you’re doing is really difficult, they root for you.” Such as turning their arcane research into a front page news story, perhaps? Abracadabra, press releaseum!

As a rule, I was much happier in situations where I was part of a team of writers and we were all focused on our writing work. I’m sure my boss, or my boss’ boss, was busy justifying our existence to someone, but I didn’t have to know about it! Now, as an independent contractor, I’m extremely careful to work only for people who value writing and appreciate someone who does it professionally.

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