I like to cut to the chase and spell things out the way I see them, especially when it comes to business. And from what I’ve learned and studied so far, the single most important fact about being a professional writer is this:
We alone are responsible for the success of our writing career, and we are responsible for it 100% of the time.
That’s the truth.
If it makes you dizzy and weak in the knees, welcome to the club. Had my little birdies all fluttering around my head when I found out about it too. Got over it though. And then got really excited, because it’s also a pretty awesome thing to grasp once you get a good hold of it. Know why? Because it makes you boss!
The power to turn us into professional writers doesn’t lay in the hands of agents, editors or publishers (even if we choose to go traditional, or are already traditionally published), and it doesn’t lay in the hands of our peers or our family, however smooshy their love is. This doesn’t mean “OMG, I’m alone and everyone’s against me!”. All this really means is that we can directly influence our success every step of the way.
Family cannot push us out of our comfort zone and turn us into warriors against our will, however supportive they are.
Agents cannot endorse and sell something we are not fully convinced of ourselves, something we have not given our best, our downright ALL to create and polish.
Editors cannot correct and improve our work if we are unwilling to correct and improve it ourselves, and to keep learning and growing.
Publishers cannot push us to the top of any list if we don’t stand behind what we do with all conviction and all effort we are capable of, and yes, that includes networking and marketing. Never mind the necessity of our product to be sellable in the first place. No agent or publisher out there wakes up one day and decides “Gee, today I think I’m gonna get out of my way to help this selfish lazy bastard and his pile o’ paper make it big!”
And our fellow writers, our peeps and peers cannot turn us into successful writers either, just like we cannot transform any one of them into a success. What they can offer is understanding, support and shared experiences that we can derive confidence and comfort out of, but we still have to work our asses off to build our careers from scratch. Writing groups and forums fall under this exact same category. They’re awesome for feedback and support, and it’s one of the better things you can do with your time online, but they need to have something to support in the first place.
Just think about it. People wouldn’t have any such unreasonable, damaging expectations in any other field of work. Or would you expect your family and friends to hug you reeeeal hard and turn you into a doctor through sheer love and support? Would you expect the guy interviewing you for a new job to get out of his way and invest time and money into making you a big fish in his company? Would you expect people to flock in front of your door and throw money at you just because you spray-painted Attorney on your doormat one day and sprinkled glitter all over it? No way.
Truth is, if we want to be successful in any field, including writing fiction, we have to come prepared and do our job every day.
Sounds like a lot of work? Well, what did you expect? If this doesn’t make sense to you, here’s a cookie. Go sit in the corner and play with your crayons while everyone else pulls up their sleeves and gets working. See you in the audience, down the road.
Did that last part make you wanna rip my head off? Good! You’re eager and determined and won’t let hard work (or a crazy ginger) talk you out of your plan for word domination. Highfive! Besides, I still need my head. There’s no refund.
The fact that being a professional is a matter of choice and is well within our direct influence is a very empowering realization. It also means we get to keep our integrity, which is crucial to our writerly life. We don’t have to grovel before anyone else, and don’t have to kiss ass and shovel all sorts of bullshit into our pie-holes so others will approve of us. It means we can make this ride be as fast or slow as we please, take as many detours as we want, or be as focused and dedicated as we choose to be. And that’s damn right awesome news!
But first it’s important to understand how careers that require exposure really work. The most important law in this is that we get exactly what we invest. If we give more, we get more. If we work more, we get better results. If we write more, we learn and grow more. And if we network more, we get to see more funny cat pics. LOL. Aaand extend our reach, also known as — The Platform! *crack of thunder*. The way we network with others is a tremendously important component of our writing career, but more about that later.
So gather your thoughts. Begin as early as possible — begin right now. There’s no time like the present, true story! And there’s just about a handful of ingredients we need to pay attention to, and the rest will fall into place:
Of course, having a kickass story is THE key ingredient, but stories come and go. If one story doesn’t make it, you write another, a better one. Hell, even if a story does make it, you still write another. And then another, and another. We’re professional writers, not one-book wonders. This is not about fifteen minutes of fame and screaming, shirt-ripping groupies. *it’s not? …pout*
So the ultimate truth of life, the universe and everything is this:
Attitude + Body of Work + Network = Success & groupies
And the best way to make sure we’re headed in the right direction with our body of work (aka stories) and our networking (aka social marketing) is to sharpen our attitude.
I’ll be posting my two cents on the major ingredients that make up a professional attitude regardless of the publishing status. This won’t be just my afternoon hallucinations, but observations and conclusions from dozens of books I’ve read (and #amreading), qualified blogs and crazy useful advice by people much further down the rabbit chute than me. Also, from my job experience as a system analyst and team leader, because with respect to being professional, one profession is much like any other. Same rules of common sense and personal investment apply. So if you like, join me in exposing the components of a professional mindset and pimping up that writer package!
Tell me what you think. How important is attitude in pursuing a career as a writer? What about becoming fully in charge of our attitude, and start getting results even before we’re published?