Post 96 | By Christine Carron
Once I grabbed a client’s arm right before he introduced me to the team I would be leading for the next few months. “Please don’t say that I’m a process improvement consultant,” I asked. “Just say that I’m a consultant.”
For writers, specificity is golden. In process improvement consultant mode, specificity—at least when I am introduced—makes my job harder. Eyes glaze over. Bodies subtly stiffen. Smiles become a little more forced. A lot of folks have had negative experiences in the arenas of process improvement and project management.
Perhaps they had a jerk project manager who made their lives a daily slog with extra busy work and reporting. Perhaps they had to sit through useless meetings with the process-expert-de-jour who spoke in word salads like “seamlessly streamline seamless initiatives” or “synergistically build mission-critical, transformative intra-team connectivity and collaboration.” And perhaps folks just wanted to do their work, because they knew how to do it, so back off already with your initiatives, improvements, and Powerpoint slides ad nauseam, thank you very much!
Writers can be even more skeptical about the whole process and project management proposition. Perhaps due to the artistic, freestyle nature of the writing adventure.
Indeed, my own awareness of that skepticism led me to dance around what I (and Goodjelly) offer for well over a year. It’s only recently that I fully started communicating: Look, peeps, what I’m doing here is helping writers up their process and project management skills, because I know that will help them make their writing dreams come true.
I’m not hiding out anymore. I’m not grabbing anyone’s arm and asking them to conceal what I do. I do process. I do project management. And I help writers do both in ways that are fun, energizing and engaging. Shazam!
But before we can get to that level of process joy, we have to deal with a few common misconceptions about process that can get in the way of writing progress. Let’s tackle them head on.
Note: In the end, project management is simply a set of processes. So I’m focusing on process misperceptions here. Clear these and you clear key project management misperceptions, too.
Writers know, of course, that they are participating in the creative process. That is process at such a high-level that most writers are cool with it. Where writers can get antsy about process is when it gets into nitty-gritty levels like time management, organizing their writing work, how they set themselves up to make progress, etc.
For many writers, mucking about in low-level processes can seem contrary to writing as an art form, and to their (perhaps romantic) notions of what writing should be like, feel like, and how it should happen. Natural, organic, effortless, and muse-driven, yes please!
Here’s the truth: good, low-level processes are what will set your writing free.
A bold statement. Also a true statement.
All writers use processes. Even the least process-oriented writers on the planet have a bunch of processes they use. As do you. You may not be clear exactly what those processes are, but you do have them. And the thing is, if the processes you’re using are not getting you the writing progress you want, the problem is not process in general, but the effectiveness of the specific processes you are using.
I have high standards when it comes to what I expect from processes, especially low-level ones that are engaged with regularly. They must:
What do I do if a process is not meeting these standards? I ditch it. But I don’t ditch process as a general strategy that can help me get my writing done.
When you correct the misperception that process cramps your creativity, and instead set the expectation that it must unleash your creativity, you will open to new process possibilities. Ones that will help you get your writing done with greater ease and confidence. Ones that will put that muse of yours on speed-dial. Huzzah!
I so get this one. Seriously. On paper, I am the last person that would be hepped up about process. I have zero proclivities for, tendencies toward, or natural strengths in the arenas of process and project management. Zero.
Does that surprise you?
In every personality "test” I take, I score the lowest on the qualities that would be most associated with structure, order, control, etc.—i.e., the traits and characteristics typically associated with process chops. For example, in one of those tools, the quadrant that I score the lowest in is the one related to organized, sequential, planning, detailed, etc. And I recently took the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment and out of thirty-four strengths guess what was my thirty-fourth one, i.e., rock bottom worst.
How I ended up doing what I do is a story for another day, but I can tell you here and now that the belief that you are not a process person is likely keeping you from some crackerjack processes that would make your entire writing adventure easier.
Any aspect of the writing journey where you are struggling; where your progress feels like it’s a slog or completely bogged down; and wherever you feel overwhelm, or confusion, or fear, process-thinking can help. Case in point: as noted, consistency is my lowest strength. Yet I’ve consistently published a weekly post on this blog for ninety-six weeks in a row as of today’s post.
How did I do that? Process.
Process (and a process mindset) will shore up your weaknesses and take your strengths to new heights. That has been true on my own writing adventure, and it’s also what happens again and again when I help writers find their process groove.
In the end, your perception on this point could be completely accurate. You may not be a process person. (All those different tests and models are certainly telling me I’m not one.) The trick is to not let your process identity cut you off from reaping the benefits of process.
In fact, your “I’m not a process person” perception could work in your favor. You’re going to be more skeptical of processes. That skepticism will help you avoid wasting time with processes that don’t serve you or your writing.
Just don’t fall into the trap of closing off to process in general. That’s where the “I’m not a process person” perception might have been hurting your writing progress. But now you know that you can enjoy both not being a process person and benefiting from good process. Sweet!
This is a tricky one. New processes do result in you doing things differently. That’s not inherently a problem if the new processes help you get your writing done more effectively and efficiently.
What’s usually going on beneath the surface of this misperception is a power dynamic problem. Notice the use of the word “force.” That a process will “force” a particular behavior. Often when folks learn a new system, process, or way of doing things, it can take over. When that happens, the process is running them instead of the other way around, and they feel caged in.
That’s when creative souls rebel. I signed up to be a writer, not to be some drone poster child for the xyz time management or work management or whatever management process!
The trick to making improvements to your writing processes is to stay in charge of them. And guess what? You’re better equipped to do that than perhaps you were before you read this post, because now you have a new standard for processes: they must unleash your creativity, help you get your writing done, and bring more ease and joy to your writing adventure.
Will new processes change how you work? Let’s hope so. If you want different results you have to take different actions. That doesn’t mean you give your power over to new processes. Or let them force you to do anything.
Your processes work for you. Not the other way around. And if they’re not pulling their weight?
If you held any of these common process misconceptions before reading this post, I hope you are feeling a new sense of possibility in relation to process. That you now see that process—good process—will not cramp your creativity. That you don’t have to be a process person to get the progress boosts that come from upgrading your processes. And that when you evaluate and integrate processes from a place of power, never again will a process be able to force you to do anything.
You are in charge of your writing adventure. Go be a process dynamo. You’ve got this!