I have no idea what the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People are. "Working a lot" must be on the list somewhere. Stuff like "identifying goals" and "learning from mistakes" probably are, too. "Nose picking," "knuckle cracking" and "going commando," presumably, aren't. But what do I know? Maybe Steve Jobs is a legend today because he was once the nose-pickin'est, knuckle-crackin'est, BVDs-free egghead in Silicon Valley.
I'm clueless about all this because (A) I don't read CEO stocking stuffer self-help books and (B) I am not a Highly Effective Person. I read novels and short stories and history books and am a Mildly Effective Person (on a Good Day).
Not surprisingly, I suppose, I'm also only a Mildly Successful Writer. Yeah, my 13th book just came out. Yeah, I've been nominated for cool awards and stuff. Yeah, I have some devoted fans. (God bless you, every one!) Yet I'm still relatively unknown, relatively unheralded and definitively un-rich.
Not that I got into this business to be known, heralded and rich. I got into it because I like to make up stories and write them down and have other people read them. Still, as a guy who likes to make up stories and write them down and have other people read them, I do sometimes wonder why more people aren't reading them.
I think I know the answer. It goes back to those seven habits I don't have. I'm guessing one of them is "staying focused." (I have to guess because I haven't gone to Wikipedia to see what's really on the list. In addition to being only Mildly Effective, I'm also Rather Lazy.)
I've written historical whodunits and horror/romance satires and middle-grade mysteries and sorta-kinda cozies. And my thought process about what to do next usually looks something like this:
8 a.m. (driving to work): You know what would be fun to write? A Western!
10:44 a.m. (daydreaming during a slow moment at my desk): You know what would be really fun to write? A screwball comedy about coke-snorting 1970s stunt men!
12:53 p.m. (daydreaming during lunch): You know what would be even better? A nostalgia-soaked YA coming-of-age novel!
3:12 p.m. (daydreaming during another slow moment at my desk): You know what I should really do? A sci-fi/thriller/"men's adventure" mashup!
5:55 p.m. (driving home): Why aren't I trying to write the Great American Novel?
9:37 p.m. (daydreaming while helping my son get ready for bed): You know what would be fun to write? That Western!
Then 10 p.m. finally rolls around, and for the next hour I know exactly what I'm doing: working on whatever's due next. But as of 11:01 --
You know what would be really fun…?
(Sidenote: I'm not joking about any of those ideas. Those are all projects I'd like to get to eventually. Well, maybe not the Great American Novel. But I totally want to write about those coke-snorting 1970s stunt men.)
My flightiness has held me back, I know. It weakens my "brand," diminishes my "discoverability," blah blah blahs my "[insert buzzword]." And one day maybe I'll get it under control. But it won't last. There are all those other stories bouncing around in my head, and I want to tell them all.
So no -- I'll never be Highly Effective or even Moderately Popular. But I will be Entirely Me…whatever that is at the moment....