Mind you, there's nothing wrong with the I-write-because-I-love-it-and-getting-published-doesn't-matter mindset. If that describes you, then be true to yourself and write to indulge the deepest passions of your heart. It's all good.
But if you, like me, aspire to be published--not just hope to, but intend to--read on.
By now, you've got the basics down: Keep writing. Edit your work. Send intelligent queries. Repeat. It's possible to do all this while living the rest of your life--whatever it is you do to make money, foster relationships, run a household, save the world. Time management skills are as essential as your determination to Never Give Up.
(I've gotten pretty darn good at the Never Give Up part.)
Something might be missing, though, and I encourage you to think hard about this:
Do you view your writing as a career?
Be careful. I didn't say "future" or "possible" career. I said CAREER. As in, now.
I know. When we think "career" we think "full time" and "salary" and "three weeks' paid vacation" (if we're lucky). And scribbling away at a novel every day doesn't fit the description. Not even remotely.
But here's the challenge: As aspiring authors, we should view our writing as a career BEFORE IT BEGINS TO GENERATE INCOME. Before the world looks at us and says, "Oh! You have a career as a writer!"
And here is why. Aside from the obvious creative outpouring, "being" an author is a business decision. Yes, it is! We must learn the industry, hone our professional skills, communicate effectively, brand ourselves, meet deadlines, produce consistently sale-able products.
(Yes. A novel is a product.)
If we go about our writerly business with the "someday" attitude, it will keep us from the kind of forward motion we need to truly prevail, truly forge ahead toward our goal of publication and ultimate success as an author, whether on a large or modest scale. It will affect our productivity, our drive, our long-range vision.
And it will make it easier for our I-have-no-idea-what-it-means-to-write-novels friends and family members to chuckle up their sleeves at our "little hobby."
I have no idea what your daily life looks like. You may work sixty-hour weeks in the corporate world and have to relegate your writing to a fifteen-minute slot before bed each night. You may be at home raising five children under the age of nine and getting up at four each morning just to write in peace and quiet for a little while. You might travel extensively, you might be running your own business from home, you might be unemployed. I do not presume to know you; I do not pretend to walk in your proverbial moccasins.
It doesn't matter. No matter what the rest of your life looks like, writing is your career. NO MATTER WHAT.
And I firmly believe that making this mind-switch will change everything for the better. Because I've seen it in my own life. Want to know how?
- I meet deadlines. Yes, they are self-imposed. But they're firm. And everyone knows authors must write to deadlines.
- My productivity has increased. Writing to deadlines helps, of course. But so does prioritizing my writing time, which I treat like a job. No appointments, no meetings, no errands, NOTHING else during my writing time. I'm "on the clock."
- Emotional responses to rejections have greatly diminished. Because it's my career. Not my lifeblood.
- I can talk intelligently about publishing--the process, the industry. There's no Gray Veil of Mystery anymore. (Yes. There used to be. You know this.)
- I take myself seriously as a writer. I don't "apologize" when I need to write. I don't blush or squirm or sigh wistfully if someone asks me about my writing. This is my career. It's what I wake up ready to do. Ups and downs and all of it.
- My confidence has increased. Not in an aren't-I-fabulous way (good grief, no). But in a This Is What I Am Good At way. And an I'm Getting Better Every Day way.
- My writing has improved. Not only because I've worked hard and paid attention to the critique of people I highly esteem, but because I am focused on my writing as a career. Not something I love to do whenever I find time.
Have you watched a one-hour TV episode lately? Played a video game? Spent forty minutes picking out just the right ringtone for your iPhone?
Yeah. I thought so.
WRITE. Make it your career today. Now. Even if your current employment demands a lot. Even if you're nursing a five-month-old. Even if you're in the middle of planning a wedding or a graduation or a trip to Guatemala. Careers don't simply happen. We make them.
Writing is my career. Is it yours?