Thursday, October 2, 2014

You Can Be A Starving Artist - Just Don't Dress The Part

I fully understand that writing is an independent activity. This is one of those where we sit for long hours at the computer, working hard to get that right phrase, or craft that great dialogue. I fully understand we might spend hours in some bookstore or a coffee shop researching what we are going to do with our characters in the next scene. All of these are clearly "casual" activities that do not require a lot of make-up or dressing up. We need to be casual. We want to be casual. 

In all honesty, there is nothing wrong with getting up, wearing that tattered sweatshirt and lounge
pants if that is the best thing to get you writing. There is nothing wrong with wearing your "lucky hat" that you "always wear" when you want inspiration. But... there is a time and place.

Even though this is a business where the majority of the work we do is in private, when it is time to head out into public, that starving artist routine you have needs to be left behind. This is a profession and not a hobby. You are now a professional so get it in gear people and dress the part.

I am always amazed when I attend writers conferences and see the outfits people are wearing. You have all types here from those people who seem to think they need to "dress the part of their genre" to those who seem to think they have just gotten up and were in the middle of taking the garbage out to the front curb but then decided to make a detour to a writer's conference. 

Maybe I am channeling my grandfather here. He always complained about the women he would see at the store who had curlers in their hair and just slapped a scarf over the top. He would always wonder if getting that full week's worth of grocery was that important and needed to be done at that exact moment. Couldn't the person take that extra 10 minutes to do something with her hair?

Don't get me wrong people. Writing conferences are long and we need to be casual. I get it! But there is casual and there is business casual. It is this second one we want to see.

I should also include here those authors I mentioned earlier that seem to think dressing in the style of their genre is "representing their brand." Umm, sorry people, it isn't going to work. Teens do this all of the time to see if they can "get the attention of people in the grocery store." You are adults and the only attention you are getting is one that will not get you that book contract. 

Your reputation is not simply based on the books you write. Authors match the name with the face and the outfits you wear. I know there are writers I see at RWA that I certainly do match their writing with the outfits they wear. "Oh, I remember that person with the [insert outfit]! Yep, they were weird." And you know what, I don't tend to make an effort to approach the person and find out what they write. When I see them at book signings, I might glance over to see what they write, but I never go and get the book. The "outfit" told me this person was not a professional.

It is beyond crucial for you as an author to think of what image and what message you are sending to your readers. Is this something that shows your ability to be a professional writer and someone we should pay you money to continue your craft? Or, Is this an image that says maybe the only money we should give to you is for finding you something decent to wear out in public. 

It is your choice! But, since this is a business of gathering readers and not running away the readers, I might recommend taking the professional approach.

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