The Writing Attitude


Let’s be honest here.  Having a book purchased for publishing is not an every day occurrence for those of us who aspire to that dream.  Great books and fantastic authors are rejected regularly.  You probably have heard that Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was rejected more than 25 times before To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street became published. Other famous authors have similar stories. Sometimes, it’s all a matter of luck.

So how do you create the luck that leads to publication?  According to the Roman philosopher, Seneca, you need to define luck as “preparation meeting opportunity.”  This weekend, I met some people both around town and at a party for my writing critique group that showed how important attitude is in that preparation process.  I don’t want to pick on anyone, so I’m changing almost all names to show you attitude, and let you decide if  you would work with this author.

WHERE’S THE TIME GONE?

George is a good friend who reads a lot.  He doesn’t aspire to writing a book, but admires authors and is more expert than I about what makes a good book selection.  When he asked me about my writing schedule I told him about getting up and getting to work.

“I’d never be able to do that,” he said. George shook his head.  “I need at least a half hour to have my first cup of coffee.”  Then he would have to take a glimpse at the newspaper, check his Facebook friends and perhaps walk his dog.

By that time, to me, the day is half over.  My life will be cluttered with that little thing called “work,” the thing that currently pays the bills and keeps my time and energy draining throughout the day.

If you want to write, you have to make time to write.  The same holds true for any creative endeavor that’s important to you.  You can’t make your avocation important without a real time commitment.

How much time do you set aside for writing each (and every) day?

I HAVE TO FEED MY FAMILY

Angelique shook her head at me.  She’s starting a business and needing to put it on-line.

“I thought this would be a part-time thing,” said Ange, “but I’m working around the clock, and there is so much more I have to do.”

Honestly, I get this one.  Work is massive. Bills are bigger.  As are the days slipping by while your children grow and change.  You can’t make your writing a higher priority than performing well at your job.

However, even with a full-time job, a weak economy, and all the other dark and scary monsters in your life, you need to make time for you.  And if writing is important, it’s a part of who you are.  Become a detective and scope out where you can snitch back what belongs to you–your spirit.

MY WORDS ARE GOLDEN

Oh my goodness!  I hear “the editor asked me to change this or that, and I won’t (can’t, shouldn’t) do it. It will ruin the story.”

When Charlie used almost those exact words to me, I couldn’t believe it.  They were right out of basic writer don’t-say-this-101!  These words are the death knell to any writer’s success.  What did he think?  The editor wants to ruin his writing?  The editor hasn’t a bottom line that says “good writing sells–good writing needs editing and alteration to sell–when editing is done with good writing, sales keep my job?”

I wanted to shout at Charlie (who I really do like), to GROW UP! I think there is an illusion that fantastic phrases come down to the gifted, and are somehow carved into the brain and dropped onto the page with the permanence of the ten commandments.  Have you seen those tablets sitting around some museum anywhere lately?

IT’S COMPLICATED

I think Sabrina is a wonderful writer, and growing all the time.  So I spent a few minutes with her at the party yesterday.  I asked her how her work was going and she let me have it.  About twenty minutes later, I had heard about how one good plot had turned into multiple book ideas, with websites and spreadsheets keeping everything available.  It all became too much of a good thing for me.  I had invited someone to give an elevator speech of their work in progress, and ended up with a creative monologue that I’m afraid won’t sell.  Two lessons here:

  • When asked about your writing work, have a story prepared.  Know what you’re working on and tell people about it succinctly and with the confidence that you know your stuff.  I’m not great at this myself, but I’m working on it.
  • Organization is great, but even organized, too much stuff is still too much.  If I had felt it was my place, I think I would have suggested to Sabrina that she try to focus on just one story, and not become distracted with the details of character and world building.  Trust your reader.  He or she will fill in blanks you leave with their own imagination.  That’s the fun of the game after all.

AFTER I’VE WRITTEN IT, MY BOOK IS SIMPLY A PRODUCT

This last friend, Elle, told me that when she’s done with a book, she has to turn off the creative writer side and turn on the business side of her brain.  She puts the product out there, has the requisite Facebook page, gives talks and takes the opportunity to meet other people (even though she is as shy as a field mouse).  Elle was upbeat, full of stories that included good tips along with some fun name dropping (even though I have to admit, I didn’t know most of the names dropped).

I sat for a while, absolutely entranced with the conversation, until a thunderstorm threatened and we both got up to help put picnic tables and chairs away.

Guess what–Elle is best selling author Elle Lothlorien.  Writing attitude is big–absolutely HUGE!

How’s your writing attitude today?

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