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Does Your Writing Career Suck? Five Ways to Unplug Life Support and Gain Success
How’s That for an Attention-grabbing Title?
If the article comes close to the title for impact then I’ll go viral with this one, and as everyone knows, viral means instant success and fame, right?
So, how’s your writing career coming along? Have you reached your goals yet, or are you floundering like some beached beluga?
Some of you are just looking for some supplemental income. Others are looking to write the next great world-acclaimed novel. You’re pounding away at the keyboard day after day and not making the kind of progress you think you should. Doubts are starting to creep in. You are beginning to think a part-time job at Jiffy Lube sounds pretty good right about now. In the words of Dr. Phil: “How’s that working for ya?”
I understand. I don’t have much sympathy but I do understand. And because I do “get it,” I’m going to toss a few thoughts your way. The thing about lists is they are completely subjective. My list of “ways to improve your writing career” may or may not match a list you would make, but that’s really the fun of it. The water-cooler debates can start up immediately. You can mumble to yourself that I’m an idiot, which will make you feel better about yourself, and we all go away happy and over-flowing with excess ego.
So let’s begin. We start with the assumption that your career as a writer is on life-support. How can you fix it before “they” start digging your six-foot hole?
Learn the Damned Language
Do I really need to expound on this? Well I will anyway, because I consider this to be the number one failing of writers who give up and start scouring the want ads. They just don’t understand the language.
I’m not talking about the definition of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. I’m not talking about the technical definition of “prepositional phrases.” I’m talking about how to use those things so that your words sing and choirs of angels smile down upon you. I’m talking about writing so pure that it brings a smile to the face or your reader, or makes another reader cry, or invokes memories that, in turn, invoke related emotions. I’m talking about writing so that your readers will actually be interested in what you have to say.
Listen, it would take me five minutes to teach you how to compose a proper sentence, but proper doesn’t mean interesting. I could teach you in five minutes how to use punctuation, but that won’t make you a good writer. Language is more than rules. Writing is more than the application of those rules.
Do you want to be a technically-proficient writer, or do you want to be a writer who leaves your readers gasping?
Work Harder and Smarter
I don’t like whining, so if you’re an excuse-maker, keep on moving.
Life is tough. I get it. And my response to you is so what?
But I never get any comments! But I’ve received 2,217 rejections on my novel! But I have kids and I can’t find the time to write! But I can’t find a good-paying writing gig!
Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah!
Now can we move on?
I’m a big believer in the 10,000 Hour Rule. I believe writing is a craft, and I believe one has to work at a craft to become proficient at it. I’m not at ten-thousand hours yet; thus, I don’t expect success until I hit that mark. Sure it’s possible to make some supplemental income from writing after a few months, but if you want to really be successful, and really make some decent money at writing, then you have to pay your dues and put in the time.
And not only do you have to put in your time but you have to put in your time wisely! If you only have a limited amount of time to spend on writing then you better use that time to your best advantage. Otherwise you’re just spinning your wheels like a ’78 Chevy with a busted transmission.
Learn About Marketing
If your goal is to make money as a writer (and I happen to think this is a stupid goal) then you are running a business, and I don’t know of any business that exists for an extended period of time without marketing.
Marketing is the promotion of your product, and a writer’s product is his/her writing. It really is as simple as that. You can be the next Steinbeck but if no one reads your words, you’ll just be the next poor Steinbeck.
How can you attract readers? How can you attract an agent or a publisher? How can you impress a magazine editor? How can you advertise on a limited budget? How can you use the internet for your benefit? How can you reach the greatest amount of people for the fewest dollars? How can you convince readers that you are the second coming of Hemingway?
Figure those things out and you just might reach your goal, but I still think it’s a stupid goal. Writing should be about writing and not making money at writing. Improve your craft and the money will follow. Kind of like the movie “Field of Dreams.” “Build it and they will come!
There are literally millions of writers out there. How are you going to stand out and rise above them all? What makes you different? What makes your writing different? What makes your topic different? What new angle have you taken in your writing? What new approach are you taking in marketing? What new twist do you bring to the literary world?
Anyone? Anyone? Ferris? Ferris Bueller?
I have a writer friend on the site HubPages. Her name is Deb.
Deb loves birds. Deb loves writing. Deb loves photography.
But so do a lot of people, right? I have no idea how many writers are out there who write about birds, but I’ll bet there are a lot of them. Same thing with bird photographers….quite a few. Deb saw the same problems I saw. How was she going to find a creative way to combine all of her loves and actually make some money at it?
She started writing about a local lake in Oklahoma…Boomer Lake. She went to the lake weekly, took pictures of the local species, wrote interesting facts about them, and called the article “Life at Boomer Lake.” She wrote that series for months and months and months, and when she was ready, she approached her local newspaper. Lo and behold, she sold her series to the newspaper….and then she did the same thing at another lake in another part of the state, and sold that series.
In other words, Deb got creative!
It Just Doesn’t Matter
At one time I was a teacher. I achieved some national recognition at it, and I mention that only because I want to illustrate a point. I loved teaching. I loved working with kids. I often told my friends and peers that I would have taught for no money at all because for me, teaching was a passion. It fed my soul, and I think that attitude was one of the reasons I was so good at teaching. I loved it, and my love showed through in my work within the classroom.
If you are a writer, do you love writing? That may seem like a ridiculous question but I don’t think it is. I don’t think all writers love what they are doing, and I think it shows in their work. To be good at this writing gig….to really be outstanding….you have to have a love affair with the craft.
And if you have a love affair with writing, then making money just doesn’t matter.
Have you ever seen the Bill Murray movie “Meatballs?” A rag tag group of kids competes in a camp sporting event, and that’s their cheer….IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!....whether they win or lose, because for them, the fun was in the competition, and just competing was the reward.
There really are very few in this world who can do what we do. Yes, there are millions of writers, but compared to the latest population total of 7.2 billion, millions is a drop in the bucket. Do you understand how lucky you are to be able to write? To follow your dreams? To do something you love doing?
Money can never be the fuel that propels your writing career. The love of writing must do that and if it doesn’t, it will show in your product.
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Let Those Debates Begin
Well I had fun and I hope you did as well. Agree? Disagree? More to add to the list? I’m all ears and eager to hear from you.
No matter what you think of this article, I want you to at least consider the very last sentence…..the love of writing must do that and if it doesn’t, it will show in your product.
Love what you do!
Live long and prosper!
And I hope, tomorrow, your writing doesn’t suck!
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”