Monday, April 22, 2013

You Have To Leave The Comfort Of Your Computer

You spend hours sitting behind your computer. It's nothing but you, your characters, your world and your thoughts. You might be someone with motivational music playing in the background. Some of you even write at local coffee shops. Regardless of the approach you take, it is just you. We all know this lifestyle. Writing is a solitary activity.

But publishing is not a solitary activity.

At the recent University of Wisconsin's Writers' Institute, several of us sat on a panel discussion trying to get a single point out to the writers in that room. To be successful, a writer has to have a change of thought and perspective on what they were doing. I noted in particular that writers have to shift from thinking of this activity as simply a hobby and see it more of a profession. Several other agents added on to the comment noting that to be successful, writers had to get out from behind that computer.

What is the purpose of leaving the sanctity of the computer? The answers are simple. I have left it to just three broad categories to look at.

This one is really important. When it comes to publishing, many authors will note the same thing. Although the writing itself is important, the success of a writer is often attributed a lot to who you know and being in the right place at the right time. Those conversations you have with other writing professionals (writers, editors and agents) will give you insight on the business, much of which cannot be gained from simply reading those professional writing journals or from online sources. In those casual settings, you find out nuggets of information that can be useful to you later in your writing. Examples include:
    • Contact names
    • Things people are looking for via word of mouth
    • New trends in the business.
    • New opportunities for getting that project in front of people you need
Two of the most important elements of the writing process are the feedback and revision phases. Because you spend so much time working on your story in the comfort of your own home, you often end up only being able to see your story one way. You start writing with blinders on. You get a sense of creative tunnel vision. While this is good for staying on task and being focused, it is often a detriment to a writer. You end up not seeing some better options. It doesn't matter who you get the feedback from, it is crucial to see your writing from another perspective.

This creative networking will also give you some insights on approaches you might not have faced yet in your writing. This is a business of learning from each other. We hear an author speak of how they worked through a situation, and then, when we find our own writing facing the same issue, our brain remembers that solution. We might not remember the name of the person or their situation, but we have been exposed to it.
Regardless of the approach you want to take with your writing, if you want to be into self-publishing or traditional publishing, you have to now change your mindset about your writing. You are now a producer. Your writing is your product and you must now get out there and "sell" your product to the consumers. Those people may be editors, agents and certainly other readers and writers.

This is an unfortunate reason why so many authors end up struggling in this business. The thought of sitting on a panel and talking about their writing, or even sitting at a book signing and talking with random strangers can send shivers up their spines. 

As a writer, you have to be out there on a regular basis. Talking to writers, promoting your book, sharing your thoughts and keeping your name out there. This is not a passive activity where you can simply send out marketing tools such as postcards and pens just to drum up business. It takes you.

So, if you are one of those quiet and shy writers, your homework this week is to get out there and shake a few hands with people. Who knows what you might discover.


  1. Scott, you must have read my mind! For the shy and introverted writers, like myself, professional networking is harder than writing and editing. A few years ago I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the Long Island Romance Writers Annual Agent/Editor luncheon. Was I ready to pitch my book to an editor? No. But that 4 hour day away from my computer was a learning experience like no writing magazine or writing blog could give. Here I am 3 years later and I got my nerve up and registered for the same event this year. Nike says 'Just Do It' and so I'm pushing myself out the door - and this year I have a book and a pitch ready to go too!