Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How to Be a Good Writer, Part 4

Let’s talk about attitude. As in, “I’m a professional creator and I couldn’t care less about the business aspects of my career.” Or, “You publisher-type people ought to know how lucky you are to be talking to me.” And there’s, “Editing is for amateurs. Don’t you dare critique me.” As acquisitions editor for an indie publisher, I can tell you for a fact that whenever I run across even a hint of this kind of sentiment my finger hovers precariously over the delete key.

It’s not professional. It’s not even realistic. And I daresay, if you suffer from this kind of thinking and yet persist in calling yourself a writer, perhaps you should consider getting in touch with reality. And a vocational change. To something in government. Tyrants and thieves are peas in a pod.

Right. On with it then. We know what’s not productive. The question is, how do we purge this blackness from our minds and professional careers? I don’t think successful people set out daily with the intent to cause as much pain and suffering as possible everywhere they go. Quite the opposite, in fact. But after writing your one-hundredth query letter, after you reach your one year anniversary for your blog and still have only two followers, after you have attempted to sit down and write that sticky part of your current project once more—only to be interrupted yet again—it’s difficult to remain optimistic about much of anything, let alone remain professional.

Once thing you can do is exercise your second amendment right to keep and bear arms and take up a new hobby—obliterating old milk jugs at close range. If you’ve got a twelve gauge I recommend rifled slugs and rotten produce. Downrange effects with that combination are like an all-Taco Bell diet: explosive. The point of it is to blow off a little steam whenever necessary.

Once you’ve done that and you’re feeling better both about yourself and your (indispensible) work, what then? I strongly recommend a group setting that is both supportive and honest. Join up with fellow writers who are actively writing, who are unafraid to read their work for critique and are eager to return that courtesy to you. Professionals are not defined by their salaries in any given field. Professionals are, at least in part, defined by their bearing and comportment, their civilized kindnesses. What you’re looking for then is fellowship.

My old 1890 Webster’s unabridged dictionary defines fellowship as “partnership in act or suffering, profit, success, or loss.” Well, that’s one of the definitions. My point is to assert that in order to be a successful writer you’ve got to have a good attitude—and the best way to have that is to surround yourself with quality, like-minded people.

Next week we’ll talk about investments, plus a little dry mechanical nuts and bolts action. Until then, writers, write boldly.

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