Always expect the unexpected, or, how we get there from here

The standard catchphrase in Mike Grell’s sword-and-sorcery series, Warlord, was that in the land of Skartaris, “always expect the unexpected.” According to one study, successful entrepreneurs show some of the same flexibility.
The study (hat tip to Brass) found that corporate executives set a business goal, then look for ways to get there. Entrepreneurs tend more to improvise, setting or adapting goals based on where they find themselves at any given point. Rather than research to plan out their marketing campaign, they set out to make some initial sales, then adapt.
I think that’s applicable to a freelance career. I’ve always had goals, and I do find setting them invaluable—but working with whatever opportunities turn up is also very good advice. Because you never know quite what will turn up.
Doing Peace With Honor for the Monster Earth anthology wasn’t planned, and I had to postpone working on other stories, but it paid off. I have currently several opportunities to contribute—or at least pitch ideas—to various websites, though I haven’t figured out what to do about them yet. None of this was in my plans a year ago.
“Corporate managers believe that to the extent they can predict the future, they can control it. Entrepreneurs believe that to the extent they can control the future, they don’t need to predict it. That may sound like monumental hubris, but Sarasvathy sees it differently, as an expression of entrepreneurs’ confidence in their ability to recognize, respond to, and reshape opportunities as they develop. Entrepreneurs thrive on contingency. The best ones improvise their way to an outcome that in retrospect feels ordained.”
I definitely can’t predict the future, careerwise. It’s the result of working in a field where the product can’t be manufactured easily and there’s no guarantee anyone who likes one story from me will like the next one.
By the same token, I can’t control the future either. I can’t guarantee I’ll be writing freelance in five years (though I’m cautiously optimistic—particularly since we won’t have Republicans trashing the economy again). But I think I can improvise for whatever it turns out be. Keep throwing out queries, pitches, applying for gigs. Trying new things. Be on the lookout for new opportunities. Keep building up savings for when the occasional downturn comes.
To borrow from Roald Dahl: “The wise man trusts only in lies, believes only the absurd, and always expects the unexpected.”
And from Samuel Johnson: “Any man who would make his bread writing must have the assurance of a duke, the wit of a courtier and the guts of a burglar.”

1 Comment

Filed under Personal, Short Stories, Writing

One response to “Always expect the unexpected, or, how we get there from here

  1. Pingback: Always expect the unexpected … but then what? (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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