Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Make Your Writing A Ritual

I want to start with a little bit of Bruce Springsteen here. "The Boss" once commented, "Getting an audience is hard. Sustaining an audience is hard. It demands a consistency of thought, of purpose and of action over a long period of time." Although Springsteen was probably talking about music, I do believe his comment is
entirely appropriate for success in the writing industry, both for new writers and certainly for writers that make that leap to doing this great hobby as a career.

For new authors, the consistency is more in the way of discipline. You have to learn to take time daily to do your writing. If you have set yourself the goal of being a professional writers, you can no longer treat it just as a hobby that you do when you feel like it. This is not a part-time activity any more. It has to happen daily, and yes, we are talking about 365 days out of the year. Be like the postal service, "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" 

This does not mean you have to write every day, but you have to do something for your craft and your skill every day. Read in your genre, write that story, work on small writing skills or drills, research the industry, brainstorm...anything. The key is to do it until you feel that your day is incomplete if you don't do a little bit of work on your craft. Here are some hints:

  • Set aside a daily block of time when your creative juices flow the best. Tell your family this is writing time. Turn off your cell phones, stay off of social media and focus. 
  • Carry around a notebook that you can work on story ideas at any time in the day. The doctor's office, the parking lot waiting to pick up the kids, boring department meetings, church (I know this is strange but I have had the best inspirations during church that I frequently scribble on the bulletin or the back of those offering envelopes).
  • Make a dedicated writing space in your house. This is YOUR space used strictly for writing.
  • Post a visible list of goals, both short term and long term. Make it public and make sure your support group around you pushes you. Your critique partners should push you. Your best friend should call to have your kids over for a play date so you can write. Anything.
This should get  you going.

Now for the established authors. You hopefully have figured out the whole writing time thing. Now you have to focus on the second part of Bruce's comment. "Sustaining an audience is hard. It demands a consistency of thought, of purpose and of action over a long period of time."

We talk about branding an author. In other words, what is it that you are known for in your writing? What is that common voice the readers are hoping to find when they pick up the latest novel you put out. Far too often, in an attempt to "do something different" authors make too big of a shift and lose all of their readership. Why? Because the readers were hoping for one thing and you threw them a curve ball. I hate to say it, but readers are not that forgiving. You will lose readers. Yes, I know you think you will pick up new ones, and yes, you will probably get a few, but that loss of those other readers moves you back to square one.

The other difficulty of consistency here is more of an attitude change. Again, I have seen far too many authors that have a great skill for writing, but once they sold those first couple of books, they become "too good to learn something new." That DIVA attitude kicks in and suddenly their writing simply tanks.

You know who these people are. They were the writers in your RWA chapters that were in the trenches with you. They served on the Board, they were conference coordinators, they helped judge, and most importantly, they attended meetings. But now, where are they? They don't help out any more. They simply send their books and their advertising material to your conference coordinators for the "gift bags" at the conferences. They might, if the time is right in their schedule, send books for a give-away.

To be successful AFTER you have made it to the professional writing side of things requires a consistency of attitude that got you to where you are. It requires talking to other authors at the national conference and not just sitting in the bar with your other groupies, and feeling put upon when a new author asks a simple question. It also requires a sense of knowing that you don't know everything. You still take classes. You still practice your craft. You still learn.

Look, writing is tough. The benefits are great but it is not easy. The question is, are you up to that challenge?

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who uses the church bulletin for such purposes.