Monday, March 24, 2008

Monday's Mantra: Being a Good Steward

This week, when you're stressed and doubtful, repeat this mantra:

I am a good steward of my gifts and to share them with the community in loving kindness.

To believe that mantra you have to take on faith (or at least agree with) the following suppositions:

1. That there is some talent you offer that's unique and special.
2. That they are gifts freely given by the Entity of your choice.
3. That to keep them to yourself is a breach of your contract with that Entity.
4. That your job is to make your gifts available and that by doing so you are a force for good in the world.
5. That you can have both fulfilling work that showcases your talents and enough money to live on. They aren't mutually exclusive.

These can all sound namby-pamby and hopelessly naive.

I disagree on both counts. This is a really important part of why I do the work I do and it affects how I approach it, especially in the fact of rejection. This week, I'll be writing a lot about rejection so I think it's important to frame that discussion with a new way of looking at our work.

So let's break it down:

* Yes, talent is only a small part of any self-employed person's success. I know: I work really hard at my business. I spend a lot of hours querying and writing and rewriting. None of that is about talent. It's about perserverance and drive and being willing to sit my butt in the chair and write.

* My talents, however, are something esle. They are gifts I didn't have to earn or learn. Being articulate (though perhaps not in this particular post), being curious, being interested in helping people transform their lives and knowing how to translate those values into words on the page, are things I didn't have to work for. I'm grateful every day to have them.

* Not everything you do must be fulfilling. There's always going to be servicable work. But when I market myself, I'm often writing queries to dream markets on subjects I love. I have to believe in this work to do it--and to keep doing it in the face of rejection.

* If the idea that keeping your talents to yourself out of fear or self-judgment sounds too hippie-dippy for you... well, then you may not enjoy the rest of this particular blog. But you can also think of it as a motivational tool. Especially is you're of the state of mind that you want to be helpful, the idea that keeping your special talents and value to yourself is selfish may push you outside your comfort zone enough to write that query you've been stalling on.

So when you're feeling, as I sometimes do, that you're reaching too far outside your comfort zone, remember that it's not about you. It's about treating your gifts like the precious things they are, and being a good steward to them by creating a structure that allows them to flourish. That means rejection sometimes--because marketing is about rejection more than anything else.

Think about what feeds your talents this week. For me, it's everything from contact with other freelancers to following up on invoicing in order to sustain this work to reading books that expand my skills.

How are you a steward to your talent?

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