Last month we explored a list of what I consider the essential ingredients for writing success. This month, INscribe discusses the seven virtues every dedicated scribe – novice, intermediate or professional – should strive to attain in his or her writing life. Writing is often a lonely (and sometimes frustrating) endeavour, so do your best to keep the positive flowing and the negative at bay with these seven picker-uppers.
The first virtue for writers is faith. In the publishing realm, maintaining faith in yourself is a challenge. For the new writer, the road to publication is tantamount to an obstacle course filled with rejections and doubt. Your biggest critic is often yourself, and when you couple that with other peoples' reactions to your writing (not all of them accurate), you have a recipe for low self-esteem.
Putting words to paper, and then presenting them in public is a personal act that exposes your innermost thoughts and perceptions about life. Realize your voice is unique and if you don't speak your truth in an authentic way, then you're doing a disservice not only to your readers, but to yourself as well.
When rejections paper the walls and submissions are met with deafening silence, the virtue of hope becomes valuable for a writer. Rejections in the past never equals no acceptances in the future. Take a long pause before you consider stashing away your keyboard forever. Writers must write. Chances are, you'll write even if you never see publication (but you will if you keep at it!)
When the long dog-days of rejection threaten to darken the hollows of your literary heart, treat yourself to a few rays of sunshine. Bolster your confidence by reading missives about well-known authors and how they suffered travails before they reached the pinnacle of publication. Join supportive writing groups. Writing can be a lonely business, so keep your hopes up by connecting with others who will buoy your spirits and sustain your determination.
Charity may seem out of place in the writing life, but helping others reaps good writers' karma all around! Charity, in my view, is known by another name: networking. The more charitable you are by sharing tips and advice with other writers, the more knowledge you'll gain from others. It's a win-win situation.
Some scribes devote themselves to poetry and fiction, while others prefer nonfiction and technical writing. Still, other writers pursue screenplays, scripts, and ad copy. There are countless ways to slice the proverbial writing pie, and just as many opportunities to go around the writers' table. Don't be stingy; share writing opportunities with fellow scribes.
Without fortitude, you won't have much staying power as a writer. Writing is certainly not for the faint of heart. It's easy to take scathing rejection to heart and hang up your quill (electronic or otherwise), but the disappointments you weather will fade away once you see your words in print for the first time or, even better, when you deposit your first publication check!
Conrad Hilton once remarked, "Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit." Whether it's managing a multi-billion dollar company or seeking publication, you must press on and tease forth every inch of fortitude you can muster within your writer's soul. There is no just reward without hard work, and writing is some of the hardest work out there. If writing a book was easy, everyone would do it.
What does justice (fairness) have to do with the everyday writing life? Everything! Justice means, as a writer, you're both fair and equitable with others. This extends not just to other writers, but to editors, agents, and publishers as well. As much as you may dislike playing by the rules or kowtowing to other people's guidelines, the writing life requires a level of integrity, honesty, and fairness.
An example of justice in action can be found in how you handle multiple submissions. While it's often advisable to multiple submit to several markets if at all possible, never fail to report to a publication or publisher your intention to do so. It's a matter of being upfront and honest – and fair to them in the process. If a publication's guidelines specifically mention they don't accept multiple submissions, then don't attempt to pull the proverbial wool over their eyes. Word travels fast in the publishing industry, and you don't want the reputation of being less that fair in your approach with editors and publishers.
Although many new writers hate to admit it, publishing your work isn't just about the creative aspect; publishing is about business and money as well. You may think you have the best idea in the history of the world, but if your book won't appeal (sell) to the masses in some way, publishers won't invest in your product (book). The thought may turn off novice writers, but to publishers you develop (write) an original product (article, poem, or book) and they pay you in exchange for your product.
The publishing industry doesn't run on wings and prayers, it runs on the bottom line of profit and loss. You should be excited over the first offer you receive from a publisher to transform your manuscript into print, but don't let your emotions run away with you: always be prudent and protect your interests as a writer – both creatively and financially.
It might be tempting to buy the highest-tier computer or tech gadget you can get for your home office, but before you jaunt out to the stores and leave burn marks on your credit card, adopt a new spin to an old adage: Keep It Simple Scribe! Use Temperance in your writing life and decide what things you need now and what things you can wait for. The more you streamline your writing process, the more successful you'll be.
Back in 1999, I was riding back from a writing conference in Kansas City, Missouri when an idea for an article bloomed in my mind. Since I was a passenger in the car, I whipped out a yellow legal pad and scribbled down my ideas. An hour later, I had a workable outline for an article that eventually became published as Eight Great Ways To Jump-Start Your Writing. That article has been the reprinted the most of all the 200+ pieces I've written. And it was birthed on a simple pad of paper rather than on a fancy laptop.
Is technology great? Yes! My office features computers, a printer, scanner, wireless router and a host of other accoutrements. However, when it comes to getting the job done, it takes nothing more than pen to paper or fingers to keyboard (even if it's on an old-fashioned typewriter). Getting the words out on the paper (or screen) is the key.