Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What's the Difference?

Between a writer who will make it and a writer who won't?

I've thought about that a lot lately because I heard from an old cyber friend who hasn't made it. I haven't spoken to her in years, but she was one of my first writer friends in the business. I heard from another friend several months ago who was my first writing mentor many years ago. These women haven't made it. Haven't gone any further in their writing than when I first knew them. Why?

I am defining someone who has made it as someone who has achieved financial goals. (very narrow, I know, but this is nonfiction) For instance, I wanted to make a decent living writing part time. I've done that and consider myself a success even though it takes full time writing to make a part time wage But this is mostly because I work on fiction part time, as well, and I haven't sold a book yet which would add considerably to my yearly income.

I have two other dear, long term cyber friends. Both wanted to be full time freelance writers. One kind of fell by the wayside and chose a different direction. Very talented woman, but something about a freelancer's life didn't agree with her, so she zigged when she could have zagged. My other writer friend quit her job and within a year was making more money a month than she ever had working.

What's the difference between those who make it and those who don't? I've been writing professionally for about seven years now and have seen a lot of writers come and go. I have also seen those who keep at it and end up making it. Why did I "make it?" I have very little formal education and have faced tons of adversity, including a husband who was less than enthusiastic at the beginning. Now, every writer is different, but there are a few common attributes in writers who have made it.

  • Desire. A burning desire. These people don't just want to see their own book or article, they want to write. To see their words develop on the page and then see the finished product with their name on it.
  • Stubborness. As in teeth gritted, knock me down and I'll get up EVERY DAMN TIME kind of stubborness. Blind, irrational, hard headedness.
  • Willingness to learn and diversify. Learning is hard. But in order to make it in this business you have to continue to learn and strive. You also have to be willing to diversify. My one friend who is making so much money has diversified. She is editing, writing for trade magazines and writing books.
  • Know your limitations. I would never be able to work as a copy writer because it would bore me to tears. I can write on many topics, but don't ask me to do technical writing. I could never write science fiction either. Don't go down a road you know you really don't want to go down. It will show in your work.
  • A thick skin. I am working on this. I whine and moan on occasion. But I don't let the rejections or disappointments stop me. See above on stubborness and desire.

What other attributes do you see in writers who have made it?


Trish Ryan said...

Great post! I think one factor is where you focus. I attended a workshop once where the leader pulled out a GIANT box of rejection slips to pass around, telling us how much rejection writers face in this business.

Ten years later, I still remember her pile of rejections, but wonder, "Why didn't she pass around any clips???" I know she had them, but she was so focused on accumulating proof of her failure that she convinced herself (and lots of would-be writers) that this business is impossible. I'm pretty sure that's not on any "7 secrets to sure success" list!

Anonymous said...

Interesting...much food for thought! - Ann