WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
Regardless of career field, at some point and time, most people are confronted with the need to reinvent themselves. The reasons that prompt the reinvention are as varied as we are.
It may be a personal choice. The career path you’d been on, just doesn’t fit you anymore. Personal tragedies, events that have a profound impact on you, maturity and/or personal growth can ignite the desire to reinvent. We change. What we want to do with our lives change. If the change is significant, and important enough to us, we reinvent, knowing we’ll be starting over and working our way up the proverbial ladder–again.
Writers often reinvent themselves–some, many times during the course of a career. Lines/imprints come and go, demand rises and falls, risky books fail, some elect to ghost write for others and avoid all the ancillary work a writer’s called on to do. There are a thousand reasons–and all of them start with something changing. The writer, the market, sales performance, passion for what one is doing…
It may be as a result of changing times. New technology and applications has had a profound impact on people needing to reinvent to stay employed, for what they’re doing professionally to stay relevant. I’m not talking so much about trends but about advances that redefine industries and the work done in them.
I’m recalling the time when personal computers first began to appear in small businesses and a then employee told her boss that she had kept books fine without a computer for years and would continue to do so. He encouraged her to take the training the company was offering, but she refused. Not too long afterward, she ended up between the rock and hard place. Her work–the means by which she did it–had become obsolete, and since she refused to embrace the new way of doing things, she had become obsolete. She ended up unemployed because she refused to reinvent herself.
Most degrees are obsolete within five years of getting them. Most people realize that they can’t rely on what they know now to carry them through a long-term future. They must continue to grow and expand their skills. Some, like the woman above, elected not to do so. Her choice, and the outcome of it is also her responsibility. The moral of that story is, of course, to keep learning and growing–and, probably most importantly, to keep an open mind.
COMMON REINVENTION MISTAKES
Chasing Trends. One of the most common mistakes made in reinvention is that the person chases a perceived trend. The challenge of course is that by the time the trend is identified, it’s often saturated or out of vogue. Unfortunately, this happened with many writers a few years ago when suspense became so popular. Suddenly people who had no interest in suspense (and were gifted in other forms of writing) switched to writing suspense because of its popularity. A similar event occurred in “chick-lit” after Bridget Jones: a decision that has since had many of those same authors reinventing themselves and their careers yet again.
Ignoring strengths. All too often, a writer will read a book, or several books, that are outside the normal sphere, enjoy them and decide to write one. S/he does, enjoys it, and then writes another. But along about book three, the writer isn’t enjoying the new type of book anymore and interest has waned in writing them.
Maybe the new type of book doesn’t play to the writer’s strengths. Maybe it doesn’t challenge her, or the practical subjects for the novels bore her to tears. No one in this position does their best work, and because the writer ignored her strengths in making this “leap” to a new kind of book, now she has to suck it up and produce anyway (a great way to kill creativity and produce substandard work), or reinvent again. Which is one way of saying, Writer, know thyself before you leap.
That leads to the biggest, worst reinvention mistake we make:
Uniformed decisions. Far too often the writer will choose a different genre or type of work because things aren’t great in the work s/he’s doing. Because someone else is encouraging her to change what s/he’s doing. Because s/he’s done what s/he’s doing for a long time and s/he creatively yearns for an enthusiasm infusion that comes with tackling something new and different. But rather than approach the possibility of reinvention analytically, taking into account the writer (human being and artist) and the market potential, the writer just jumps.
Too often, the writer reinvents with too little thought given to the human being in the writer. It’s all about career potential, sales. Those things are important, yes, but so is the human being in the writer. If there is no contentment, excitement–no passion–for what you will be doing, then the specific reinvention choice isn’t the right one. Keep looking.
Any reinvention worth doing is worth the analysis required to do it well. Only by doing the work can you have any assurance that you are making the right choice for the right reason. Remember, you aren’t reinventing your career to become someone else. (That’s true even if your covers cite another name!) You’re reinventing yourself to reveal a new aspect of you.
You are at the center of your work. And you should be at the core of your reinvention. Regardless of why you are reinventing, whatever you morph to should be an outgrowth of who you’ve become, are becoming, or want to become.
That is the single most thing that writers tend to miss in transforming. And the single most thing that others miss in revamping their career strategies.
Change often stems from necessity. Sometimes it stems from desire. In analyzing your specific case, understanding why you’re reinventing, planning a solid strategy for doing it that incorporates you (your strengths, goals, dreams and desires), increases your odds of a successful reinvention.
A tip from the trench: Follow your bliss.
I did a post on this not too very long ago, so I won’t bore you with repeating it, but if your passion is engaged, little can hold you back or down or dissuade you.
Don’t consider any reinvention that doesn’t ignite a fire in you that burns so hot you think you’ll melt from the inside out. That will sustain you through the transformation, through the onslaught of those asking if you’ve lost your mind for getting off a successful track to get on an unknown one, through the challenges of starting over and working your way up the ranks again–or again after having done it before (maybe several times).
Embrace the passion and follow your bliss.
When you reinvent yourself embracing the passion and following your bliss, you’re nearly there on fulfillment and contentment. Imagine… Being nearly there coming out of the gate.
None of us had that much going for us in our first professional invention, did we?