Friday, May 20, 2016

Some Hard Truths About Being a Professional Writer

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson


Some hard truths about being a professional writer.
True confession time.

Writing is both the thing I love best and the thing I hate most.

When the words flow, it’s heaven on earth. When they stutter to a halt, the opposite is true. And the truth is, both of these circumstances are a regular part of the writer’s life.

We write when we feel like, and when we don’t; when we’re inspired, and when we’re not. Most of all we write because we have to. Putting words on paper is life to some of us and an addiction without a recovery group.

The time to write isn’t something we find. It’s something we sacrifice for, carving it out of lives that are as busy as anyone else. I get so weary of wanna-be writers complaining about no time to write.

I have author friends who don’t have the time either. One author I know honored a deadline even though his granddaughter was having brain surgery—he wrote in the hospital waiting room. Another, a stay-at-home mom, had just the opportunity of a contract and she wrote in the ten and fifteen minutes breaks available while caring for a special needs daughter, a preschooler and a toddler. 

Writing requires a sacrifice.
I could share story after story after story about how writers I know have sacrificed to follow their vocation—all true. The truth is that we all have the same 24 hours in a day and we all have the choice of how to spend them.

“If you can imagine yourself doing anything else besides writing—do it!”

I’ve been known to give this advice to those just starting out—because they still have time to turn back. I’m a hopeless case. I’ll write myself into a grave and hopefully beyond.

Becoming a writer is a decision—followed by a life of choices that enable us to live out that commitment.

Here are some of the hard choices you’ll need to make to find writing success:
  • Trading TV time for writing time. (You’ll need those hours to put words on paper.)
  • Committing to a lifetime of learning and staying current with the publishing industry. (The industry is changing a lightning speed, either keep up or die.)
Saying no to good things is saying yes to writing time.
  • Saying no to the good things, so you’ll have time to say yes to the best things. (Writing is an isolated life a lot of the time.)
  • A willingness to write through the junk to get to gems. (Good writing is rewriting—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.)
  • The necessity of checking your ego at the door. (There’s always someone more talented, successful, lucky, etc. Get over it and move on.)
  • A willingness to trust other professionals (like your agent and your editor).
  • An unwillingness to compromise what truly matters. (And no this does NOT contradict #6)
  • Trading talking about writing for actually putting words on the page. (Networking is important, but not as important as writing)
  • The commitment to keep going when the odds seem impossible. (In this industry impossible odds is the new normal.)

Well, this is my list. It’s your turn to add your thoughts. You all always have such valuable insights, please share them below in the comments section.

Don't forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

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24 comments:

  1. Edie, Thank you. One of the hardest choices for me is do I continue to try to convince the family that I have a job and it is writing. Sometimes they just think it is a hobby. Especially since I am not getting paid yet. Praying for you and all who will attend BRMCWC.

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    1. Cherrilynn, that is a struggle that many face. Keep persevering and you'll triumph! Blessings, E

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  2. Thank you for your post. Balm to my weary soul.

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    1. Linda, I'm so glad this post helped. Blessings, E

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  3. Another necessity for writing as a professional is the need to balance the writing and the sales aspects of the writing business. I love the writing part and generally don't have trouble disciplining myself to put fingers to keyboard whether or not I feel like it. My difficulty is taking off my writer's cap and putting on my salesman's cap. Naturally averse to self-promotion, I resist the need to market myself and my writing. I don't mind submitting my writing, but I hate having to follow up or prod for responses, especially in this age of a nearly effortless and immediate ability to respond.

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    1. Dennis, great insight! Thanks so much for sharing, Blessings, E

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  4. This is such an insightful list, Edie. "A willingness to write through the junk to get to the gems." Yep, I'm clunking through the junk right now, hoping for some gems. You're also going to face competing writing opportunities as a writer and you're going to have to know when to say yes and when to say no. Just because you're offered a contract, or the chance to get in on a group writing opportunity, doesn't make it an automatic yes. This is when you trust the counsel of your agent or editor.

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    1. Beth, you are so right about those competing writing opportunities. Thanks for adding your thoughts! Blessings, E

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  5. A willingness to give up sleep...

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  6. Wow, some tough love today, Edie, but exactly what I needed to hear! Thank you!

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    1. Jerusha, on those days when you read tough love on this site, just know it's aimed directly at me! Blessings, E

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  7. Thanks Edie . . . this helps me to get more focused!!!! And reminds me that I'm not the only one who has to find time to write in the midst of busyness!

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    1. Beth, I think that's the eternal struggle of all writers! Blessings, E

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  8. If I let it, there will always be a reason I don't have time to write. I would hear myself say, "Things will calm down, then I'll write more." Now I say, "Life is always busy, push through."

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    1. Jennifer, wise advice! thank you for sharing! Blessings, E

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  9. Love this post, Edie! I was reminded of how I almost flunked out of college when I had no job or family - I had lots of choices and few responsibilities. Then I got a full time job, got married, & started a family, which left little time to even think about finishing college. But I did. With very little sleep I managed to finish a bachelors and a masters with honors - but it proved to me that even I could find a way to have, be, and do whatever was important to me. My first book was written between the hours of 4am & 6am, so what you've said today is absolutely true. And it was good to hear just the way you wrote it. Bless you - keep on truckin'.

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  10. Meaningful post and unassailable truths! My favorite? Committing to a lifetime of learning. Thanks, Edie. Pinned & shared.

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  11. I'm sharing this with several friends who write. So very true and also you need to have a thick skin.I cried when someone reviewed my first book and said "the author just talks about herself". It was a MEMOIR. Now I just laugh about it. LB Johnson - author of The Book of Barkley

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  12. Wow, everything in this I can totally relate with. People with the passion to write always face mass adversity and one of the biggest problem is money. You not only have to sacrifice your time, but also your money. Of course, I want to make a good salary professionally writing, but society is so against it in many ways. I fiddled with a few things online, but not much could help me. I tried out freelancer but that was making me very minimum amounts of cash. So...I went to my very established friend who is already an established writer for some tips. He helped me earn over $2000 ea month for the past couple of months part-time. It might not be much money, but it is definite a nice change of pace. My friend has a website and if you face similar problems as I do as a writer, then maybe he can provide you some guidance as well.

    www.deservingwriter.com (his website)

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  13. Really good stuff, Edie. Really, really good!

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  14. Motive is a big one for me. If I'm writing for all to see, I have to check my motive. And I LOVE what you said about how we have to write...putting words on paper is life, like an addiction. Hi, my name is Terri, and I'm a writing addict.

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