It seems to me that writing success comes with a whole ton of talent. Now, lots of people are talented writers but how many have that extra strength, that determination, that stickability… that professional approach? There are several things that set a professional writer apart from those of us who kid ourselves we’re writers. From observation, I’ve noticed there are at least ten things that have to be observed, constantly.
The first is to work at writing, daily. Even if it is only a sentence. It could be the one sentence that you don’t need to edit later on. It could be the best sentence you ever wrote, or the worst, but the important thing is you’ve written. The second thing is to set goals and review them, weekly. Things change, life changes, your goals need to be flexible, and achievable, but most of all you need to have them. If you don’t, how do you know where you are going? What do you want, today, this week, this month, this year? Thirdly, you should set aside some time to listen to successful people’s advice. They have so much to offer, and they give it generously. Read ‘how-to’ books, attend workshops, go to conferences. Listen, and learn.
The next thing is a real toughie. Don’t procrastinate. (Okay, those of you who know me well can scrape your ‘weak-from-too-much-laughter’ bodies from the floor this instance!) Tackle the things you like the least, first. Get them out of the way so you have plenty of time for what you really want to do. This is closely followed by momentum. Once you’ve started – KEEP GOING! Don’t stop. It is so much easier to keep moving forward when you don’t have to shove yourself back off square one, again.
Sixth habit of professionalism… training.. There are so many different ways we can train ourselves in this ‘wonderful’ industry. There are courses to go on, exercises to participate in, or join a critique group (there are details for the Co-operative Critiquing Scheme in this and past newsletters). Hand in hand with training are competitions. Use them to train yourself to write to a deadline and be specific about what you’re writing – a first meeting, an opening chapter, a query letter, a synopsis, a full manuscript even!
The eighth thing to remember is never make excuses.. They do nothing for your self-esteem, your writing, or your professionalism. Not only do you know you’re skipping out on your obligations to yourself, but so too do your writing buddies. When you make excuses (and I’m not talking Acts of God here) you are letting yourself down, badly. Number nine, remain focused.. Not the easiest thing in the world, especially when life and Acts of God intrude. We need to work out what keeps us focused. Keeping your goals somewhere where you can see them daily can help. Create your book cover and put it around a book on your bookshelf. Imagine it on the shop shelves, in someone’s shopping bag, on a dedicated fan’s bedside table. Practice signing your writing name (just not in your cheque book!)
Last but not least, be responsible for what you do with your writing. Keep working at it, don’t lose sight of your dream. Dream it, live it, be it… that’s all it takes.
All that… and a whole ton of talent.