This has been a horrendous week. There are some (my husband for example) who think most of my work weeks are horrendous to some extent, but I think it’s one of those “eye of the beholder” things because his career is on my short list of jobs I never want any part of. In any event, on top of my usual assortment of projects and assignments – this week brought additional shades of horrendous to my life.
Me, I’m one of those “love to bring order to chaos” kinda people. As a result, my career to date has been a series of new and different “opportunities” (corporate code for assignments that either make or break your career) to test my abilities. About 90% of the time I am extremely successful, it’s that 10% that I guess has kept a promotion to the corner office and a staff of dozens from coming my way. I suppose I bring this on myself. I like challenges, and I really like learning about new areas of whatever business I happen to be working in. One could say that I am not as selective about the projects I agree to take on as I could be when given a choice in the matter. So, this week when my boss asked to talk to me about an “opportunity” – I was enthusiastically on board.
Day one: I totally understand how a deer feels when facing down an 18 wheeler on a dark and lonely highway.
Slack jawed and stupid is not a look that works for me, but apparently I tried to rock it anyway. The result was a disastrous “Stand and Deliver” meeting at close of business to the CIO and others with fancy titles. My obvious state of “OMFG what did I agree to?” caused my boss to see me first thing the next morning to offer to extract me if needed, since at this stage all could be attributed to being parachuted into the midst of a forest fire with a squirt-gun.
After being chewed up and spit out at the end of day one, I had spent some time regrouping and trying to fit the pieces together so that I could understand what was going on. Partly to decide if I was going to beg for extraction or whether I thought I could put on my “big girl panties” and make it work. As you are sitting there listening to the project sponsor explain things at the 30,000 foot level, it really doesn’t bring the reality of the situation to focus until you find yourself in the middle of ground zero. When I joined the team that day, I was clear on what I was supposed to do but how I was going to get the information I needed to proceed was more than a little iffy.
By the time my boss popped in to check on me first thing on day two – I had my game plan and my list of questions as well as an appointment lined up with the person most likely to provide the background and answers I needed. The Stand and Deliver meeting at the end of the second day was exponentially better and by Friday I was able to see how my addition to the team was adding value.
Some of you may be wondering what has this has to do with writing. I have a point – I promise.
I think the two are very similar. No one likes to go down in flames be it publicly (a meeting in front of senior leadership) or privately (getting a rejection letter to your manuscript) and sometimes it can be tough to let it roll off your back. The way I look at things, the critiques and rejections we get from agents, readers, publishers, and editors (much like the butt chewing I got from the CIO) can teach us a lot about where we are missing the point as well as what we are nailing on the first try. It is all in how you approach it.
Don’t get me wrong, there was a part of me that was mad as hell that I got chewed on for not being up to speed on things less than 5 hours after being pulled into a project with no prior knowledge of the players, facts, and issues. There was also a part of me that had a knee jerk thought about begging my boss to take me off the project. I also had a bit of a “what’s wrong with me” session for not immediately grasping exactly what to do and say to make things perfect. In the end, I put my ego and neuroses about being perfect in neutral and focused on what was said to me. It helped me take a fresh look at what I had produced and re-evaluate what I thought I knew.
And, on a side note, it helped me figure out how to re-write a scene in my current manuscript that has been driving me crazy.
Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead reviews books for Crystal Reviews (www.crystalreviews.com) and writes paranormal romance. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing (www.secondwindpublishing.com) or Amazon.com.