Mark Terry

Friday, April 22, 2011

Strengths And Weaknesses

April 22, 2011
I've been thinking a lot lately about the various components of my writing career. The novel writing, the magazine writing, the business writing, the technical editing, the general editing, the website content, etc.

I was also thinking of a comment John Scalzi made in an interview recently, in that he told his daughter that you shouldn't just do the things you're good at, or that's the only thing you'll do and you'll never find out if you can do other things better. Or words to that effect.

I think that's a good enough reason to experiment with things in your life and I think often that we should do things simply because we enjoy doing them, not because we're terribly good at them or they make money for us.

That said, in terms of writing a business, there also is a lot to be said about concentrating on your areas of success.

What am I talking about?

As mentioned, I'm looking at various components of my writing career. A couple years ago I tried publishing an e-newsletter for physicians who run their own laboratories. I had to fold it after a couple months, primarily because subscription growth was far slower than expected and it was sucking up a lot of my time. I still think, if I had deeper pockets and more time to give to it, that POL Bulletin would have been some sort of success. (It might have been better not to try it during the worst economic crisis in 70 years, too).

Now I'm considering a slightly different publishing venture of sorts and I'm approaching it far slower and far more deliberately. I intend to let it grow rather than to try an explosion of launched success, having learned a lesson from 2009 when I had to abandon POL Bulletin. I'm thinking far more about marketing and social media. Interestingly, when I was working up that deal, I had several lengthy conversation with Jon VanZile and the new idea was in there, too, and I've had an opportunity to go back over those conversations with different eyes.

All of which is kind of vague, isn't it? That's because nothing's concrete yet. But I've been spending time thinking it through, deciding exactly what I want this entity to be and what I want it to do. I wish I knew more about website design. I wish I had more capital to draw on.

I also wonder a bit at my motivations, if I would be that interested in doing this if I were otherwise very busy and some of my other projects were taking off instead of lying fallow. Know thyself, I guess.

The point here, I think, is sometimes you have to take risks as a writer, but hopefully calculated risks. I often look back at POL Bulletin and realize that the only regret I have about it is that I didn't have the resources to give it more time. And, oddly enough, one of the fallouts from that gig was I linked up with a guy who's gone on to open his own secondary business and has thrown a lot of work my way as a result. You just never know.


Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

I am glad you specified "areas of your success" rather than what you are good at because being good at writing does not necessarily insure success in the publishing world, unless, of course, you define "good" as "successful" which I guess makes sense. It least it is an objective definition.

Be that as it may, I am intrigued by your mystery venture and wish you success, even if you aren't good at it.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I was actually being careful about that because in publishing - probably as in many endeavors - you can be good at it, but not necessarily successful, and for a wide variety of reasons.

It's not a deep dark secret, it's just not anywhere worth discussing in-depth. It's basically an online publisher of research reports in a couple of my areas of expertise - telemedicine, clinical diagnostics, and probably healthcare policy.

10:31 AM  

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