I wrote another post called “Love what you do, or don’t do it” and we touched on the subject of deciding whether you want to write, or need to write. Today, I want to dive into that a little more. I’m not sure how long this post will end up, but I feel it is an important subject. It is also something I tackle a lot as a mentor.
In order to be a good mentor, I need to know who I’m working with. Many people will come to me with a desire to write, but my job is to find out what kind of writer they are. Whether they are weekend hobbyists or serious writers, it does not matter to me. What does matter is whether they know.
How would they not know? Good question!
Like any passion or dream, we start out with an idea. For example: I want to be a dancer! So the adult packs the child up, walks them into class and what do they see? Most of the time it is a class full of other kids their age leaping or spinning together. The cash goes down to sign the child up and the following day the child is pumped and ready to start!
What happens in reality is where your child decides whether this is a passion they are willing to give everything to, or whether the dream was stripped like the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz.
Your child will not walk into class and fall into the flock with smiles and grace. They will be awkward and challenged. Their feet and muscles will ache like they have never felt before. Have you seen a ballerina’s toes?
It is similar when you begin to write. You are using parts of your brain in ways you never have. You’re opening your eyes to different points of view: A small girl, a man behind a mask, a serial killer on the loose, a detective on the trail. All these stories must be told knowing what the rules are, and when to break them. Like the child who sticks with dance, there will be sacrifices.
A lot of writers are introverts, but if you weren’t before you began, chances are you will be after. If you have dreams of giving up your day job, it means you must have the skill to operate as a professional. No one goes around and decides to give up their day job to be a plumber without knowing how to fix a toilet, a water heater, or leak. At least, I hope they wouldn’t. What makes you think you could give up your day job-something you probably have years experience doing-to write and get paid?
Is it possible? Sometimes. But so is winning the lottery.
So let us begin (finally). What kind of writer are you?
I start by asking a few questions.
How much time do you currently have to write?
Are you consistent?
Do you understand what the commitment entails? (Giving up lunch dates, hanging out, writing when you “don’t feel like it”)
What are you willing to sacrifice? (My favorite TV show is on, it’s Monday Football! I’m so tired.)
How high is this priority?
Do you know how to market yourself?
Do you have a website?
Do you have a blog?
What is your short term goal?
What is your long term goal?
Will you self-publish or are you going to try to find a publisher?
What genre do you write?
Ok, so maybe it’s more than a few questions. I’m sure, by now, you can see the point I’m trying to make. Like any craft, or skill, you have dues you have to pay to earn respect among your peers. Having a mentor is something I recommend to every author. If a psychiatrist can be held accountable by having their own therapist, you are not too big in the britches to have the same level of accountability. I run a company, I’m a mentor to others but I still answer to my own mentor. If you feel you are above it, you will have to resolve that in yourself.
For the more experienced writers:
What are some things you wish you knew when you first started out writing? Having a mentor, you may have been able to, at the very least, have some guidance. Were there questions you had? (I imagine you had tons.) A mentor would’ve been there to answer them. Rather than wasting time researching, you could have been actually writing.
Knowing who you are as a writer gives you an edge. It allows you to plan, organize, set realistic goals, and have realistic expectations. New writers who come into the game expecting to be a best seller with their first novel, are often so let down, they quit. Sometimes, they quit before they finish their novel. Other times, they quit when the manuscript gets to the editing phase. Believe me, nothing is harder than seeing the months of work you put so much into, go under the ruthless knife of a good editor.
I hope, by now, you have a stronger grasp on what being a writer means and a better understanding of what kind of writer you are. I’m happy to answer any questions you have to the best of my ability.
Do you have a horror story of when you first started writing?
Did you start off believing one thing, only to learn the truth?
Share your thoughts in the comments! I’d love to see them and I’m sure there are plenty of new authors wanting to hear from you, too!