When I first decided that I wanted to be a writer, I was just a kid. My inspiration was the fictional character Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote. I thought that she had a really great life. She knew lots of people, traveled all over the world, made lots of money and was famous.
So, armed with this idea of becoming a writer, my parents bought me a blue typewriter and I began to teach myself to type. It wasn’t until high school that I actually mastered typing, but that didn’t matter. I was gonna be as famous as J.B. Fletcher.
Unfortunately, because I had a very low opinion of myself, I stopped pursuing the idea for many years. Instead, I focused on the “real world” and learned how to be an Administrative Assistant. I spent 20+ years in this particular field. I was never really happy, and most of the time felt that it was a dead-end profession I would never really master.
Now that I am able to pursue my writing full-time (having been laid off in 2008… again), I look back at that childhood dream and find inspiration once again. Every night at midnight I record two episodes of Murder She Wrote (I’m busy reading at that time of night.). The next day, after my writing time, I watch the episodes. But this time, I do not do so with naïvety. Now, because I’ve had a few years to research the industry and the “writing life”, I pursue my career with the blinders off and the Fairies securely tucked away in the section of my brain marked “Fantasies”.
I no longer entertain the idea of making it big off of my first novel, or that Random House will be so enamored with me that they offer me a five-book deal worth millions. Instead, I have chosen to see the realities of a writing life.
- Writing is a lot of really hard work. I have to get up every day and write. I can’t just write once a month and expect to produce anything worth reading.
- Writing is a craft that must be studied. Just like a doctor goes to school for many years and still participates in classes, workshops, symposiums and reads up on the latest breakthroughs once they’ve made it as a doctor, we have to do the same as writers. You will never stop learning and will never have all of the answers.
- Writing is solitary most of the time, but other times it is a “team sport”. Just like Michael Jordan was “THE MAN” in basketball when he played for the Chicago Bulls, the entire team had a hand in getting to and winning all of those championship games. He didn’t do it on his own. But he did have to practice, work out and improve his game.
- It can take years to build up a following of loyal fans. Just because you have 1,500 “friends” on Facebook doesn’t mean that you automatically will sell 1,500 books. You have to build yourself as a brand. No one else will do it for you.
- There will be days where you will question your sanity. You will wonder, what possessed you to pursue such a time-consuming, often frustrating endeavor. You will want to throw your PC or laptop (or both) out the window. You will scream at the top of your lungs, kick the cat, and stalk off. Then a day later, you’ll come back, re-read what you were trying to write and the juices will flow and you’ll be fine.
- Jessica Fletcher was correct when she told a novice writer that the best advice she could give was to read, read, read. The more you read about your chosen genre, the more you’ll get a better idea of how to do it right and how not to do it wrong. You’ll also get a feel for what’s already out there and how you can do it differently. Which brings me to number 7.
- THERE ARE NO ORIGINAL IDEAS ONLY ORIGINAL STORIES. To often novice writers get caught up in the idea that they have instead of seeing that the story is what’s important (see my previous post on my website.)
- Invest in your career. Purchase books on writing, grammar, editing. Get a really good Thesaurus, Dictionary and grammar styling book. If possible, pursue a formal education in Creative Writing or Fine Arts. Go to workshops, and conventions. Join writing groups. Ask for critiques from people who actually know how to write (not your friends who don’t know the difference between the usage of there and their).
- Create a schedule and stick to it. Too often I’ve heard people say that they want to write a book; but they just don’t have the time. Trust me, if you really want to write, you’ll make the time. You’ll eek out an hour here or there and “geterdone” as we say in the south. Creating a schedule will help you to do that.
- DON’T GIVE UP!!! No matter how long it takes (and it will take a while), no matter how many rejections (and you will get a lot), no matter how many friends and family members do not believe in you, DON’T GIVE UP!
Learn the craft, see the realities of the career and move forward. Pursuing a career in writing is not easy, but it is so much fun and rewarding that it’s truly worth it.