We’re writers, and writers tend to live much of our lives inside of our own heads. Sitting at a desk and typing words for hours or days on end can mean you do not have to explain anything to anyone else.
Stephen King famously said in his book, On Writing, that no writer should allow anyone else into their story too soon. He believed the writing of the first draft should be done with the door closed, in other words, not shown to anyone else.
Much of the author’s life is spent in solitary pursuits, which is what we tend to prefer. Because I’m a writer, that mode is my most preferred way to communicate. Although I run events, do public speaking, and host multiple podcasts, I am most comfortable when I’m left alone with my words using my fingers to get them from inside of my head to the page.
Recently, I had to create an entire system of notes to train a virtual assistant on some of the tasks I needed her to complete. Even though I had been podcasting and doing post-production on those podcasts for years, she hadn’t. I can do it from memory, but she was going to need a series of specific instructions.
So I set about to create a step-by-step recipe that would show my new hire how to take the raw files and eventually get them scheduled to post on our website and in iTunes. Not only was I forced to be thoughtful about every step of the process, but in the process of writing out the instructions, I discovered easier ways of doing things.
Writing out these instructions took me 10 or 15 times longer than if I had just done the tasks myself. However, doing everything myself was not sustainable over the long run and so I had to spend this time upfront to save it on the back end.
If I had not hired a new virtual assistant, I would not have had any reason to write out a series of instructions for the post-production work. This was not a task I would have voluntarily started, nor would I have found it pleasurable or worthwhile, but in the end, it was both because I no longer had to remember every step of the process and now I could share it with anyone else who had the basic technical skill set to execute those tasks.
This type of activity was an anomaly in my author business and not something I routinely had to do, but it reinforced the idea of the “explainer effect.” The explainer effect is the ability to gain clarity on a certain task or problem when you must explain it to someone else.
During a typical day as an author, the necessity of explaining anything to anyone is usually quite low. Whether you have an agent and traditionally publish, or if you’re publishing on your own, most of the tasks you face on a day-to-day basis are individual and probably repetitive.
It wasn’t until I began participating in mastermind groups that I truly understood the power of the explainer effect. This is something I do with my individual clients as well as mastermind groups that I run.
Often, an author will come to the hot seat in the author mastermind group with a problem in mind. But not only that, but they also have a solution, and they’re looking for validation of that solution from the group. In other words, they think they already know the answer to the problem, and therefore, they believe that what they are going to hear from the group will validate their solution. Almost every time this has happened, I have witnessed the author’s expectation being shattered. The solution they thought others would bring didn’t materialize. But much better solutions did.
This doesn’t happen naturally. I will guide the person on the hot seat, asking them to back up to the beginning and explain the problem or situation to me as if I have no understanding of it as if I am a complete outsider instead of a fellow author. As they describe the problem or their attempted solution, I will interject questions and ask for clarification. I will take notes on things that don’t seem to make sense or run counterintuitive to the solution strategies they’ve been discussing.
Enter the explainer effect. As the person is describing the process they have gone through, light bulbs begin to go off. They see ways in which their solution failed or where their tactic came up short, or even places where it ran counterintuitive to what they were trying to do. Other people in the mastermind group are also asking questions, forcing the person on the hot seat to explain what it is they’re doing and why.
And within a short amount of time, sometimes in as little as 15 minutes, the person on the hot seat has a new perspective on the problem because they were forced to explain to other people what they were doing.
Again, this is something you could do with a close friend or colleague, but having more people as part of the process provides a much richer and more diverse option for the solution.
As an educator, I understand the power of teaching as a learning tool. Quite often, we become experts at something when we’re forced to teach it to someone else. So even if a person is not on the hot seat, if they must explain a process to someone within the group who is not familiar with it, the explainer also becomes better at the task because they have to make the steps clear to the other people.
In one mastermind group I participated in, there was a weekly presentation by a different person each time. That person had to bring a tactic to teach to the rest of the group. Not only did the group benefit from being exposed to different strategies, but the person doing the presentation always learned more about it, including blind spots they couldn’t see because they had been so close to the process.
So, whether you are the explainer or the explainee, the explainer effect can have a profound change on what you know and how you know it. And how you will network with others to manifest solutions to problems.
Want to take your writing chops and business savvy to the next level? Check out The Author Success Mastermind group at https://theauthorsuccessmastermind.com/join/