A woman [who was yet to put fingers to the keyboard] told me that her ambition was to write bestsellers while sitting on the beach—that is when she could find the time in her busy life. She didn’t say whether she intended to commit her prose directly onto a laptop or dictate her story to her assistant, who no doubt was a George Clooney lookalike. I enjoy a good fantasy now and then, too, but when it comes to the business of writing—and it IS a business, despite the feeling that we are compelled to do so by some unseen force—those of us under its spell know that there is a good deal more to the process than deciding that we’ll be fantastic and famous.
At least everyone else involved in the process considers it a business—the publisher who watches the bottom line the way a cat watches a mouse, the paper manufacturer, the printer, the binder, the editor, the bookseller, etc. But none of those just mentioned would be in the business if it were not for the writer. In other words, it is not a casual decision to become a writer, and for most of us it isn’t appearing on interview shows, giving readings to hordes, or rushing between book signings in limos. Nor is it, as television stories are fond of depicting, having your editor and/or agent spending the summer with you in the Hamptons to keep you on track. It is writing—sitting at your desk and writing and rewriting and rewriting some more.
The truth for most writers who are lucky enough to actually make a living at it is that they consistently put in more than forty-hour weeks and write through the flu, stomach viruses and broken arms. We have the most demanding, disciplined boss—ourselves. A friend who had the misfortune to break her arm requested the doctor cast it at an ergonomic angle so she could still type on her keyboard. And I once insisted on going home the morning after major surgery to write the final three chapters on a deadline. The point is, you must decide if you want to write as a hobby “when I get the time,” and perhaps be occasionally surprised by the serendipity of a sale, or consider it a profession and be prepared to work like you’ve never worked before.
If it is the former consider yourself a lucky duck. I wouldn’t for the world shame you for throwing away your talent. It is a tough, often times discouraging profession and one to avoid unless you are so dedicated that you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else. Enjoy those occasional moments of creative energy and use the rest of your time to enjoy life. But if you are one of us who are drawn to it as a moth to flame there are some realities to make note of. I already mentioned one of them—much longer hours. Not to say that those hours and work habits can’t be flexible. If a friend invites you to have coffee or lunch and a movie, plan on making up the time. But there is nothing wrong with learning to say no to afternoon movies, Saturday pink teas and neighborhood coffee klatches. A simple, “I’ve still have four hours work to do” may not win you any friends, but you can always send them an autographed copy when [note: not if] you sell. Chances are they won’t read it, but your conscience should be clear as crystal.
Let’s look at the difference between an amateur and a professional:
A professional is a self-starter and makes inspiration, creates ideas
An amateur waits for inspiration.
A professional keeps ahead of the current market needs and looks to future needs.
An amateur figures that there is always room for one more like what’s his name’s successful book. Caution: That newly published book could have been sold up to two years ago. It’s old hat to the editors.
A professional even if she doesn’t do a complete outline knows exactly what the climax will be before beginning.
An amateur rushes to the keyboard and starts writing [and often goes astray soon after].
A profession accepts that the manuscript he first writes is just that—a first draft, and is prepared to revise.
An amateur writes and sends it out, figuring the editor can make sense of it, or as an alternative refuses to change anything as it was “inspired.”
If you have read this far then send me your email with the heading “Book Drawing” and come August 22 I’ll draw one and send that one a signed copy of Arsenic and Old Silk, a cozy mystery that came out earlier this year.
#Writing, #AmateurWriter, #ProfessionalWriter, #FreeBook, #BookDraw, #WorkingWriter