Last week I reposted a 2018 Words Mean Stuff post. This week I present an updated version with (hopefully) better writing and some things I’ve learned in the intervening years.
So, let’s get going:
As writers, we often face questions from non-writers. “Are you still writing books?” “Do you self-publish?” “What do you really do for a living?”. We also face people who don’t understand that what we do is actual work, and really takes time and effort. They may think we’re running on a “whenever” schedule, which isn’t true. (At least for most successful writers I’ve met it isn’t!)
We need to teach them a bit about who we are and what we do. We need to show them that what we do is real.
So… How do we show them?
Actually, there are a lot of things we can do. Especially if we start by being serious about what we do.
Perhaps the strongest proof we can show them is a copy of a printed, published book with our name on it. Something tangible that they can see and touch. But, that printed, published book is a long way down the road from where we start out and we may want to persuade people we’re serious before we get one finished. So, what else is there?
Well, we could show them a printed manuscript. Even if we’re still working on the first draft, a physical manuscript is a thing they can hold in their hands and see we’re doing real stuff, right? It is, but the fact we have a manuscript isn’t proof we’re real (professional) writers. I’m all for showing them a manuscript (not letting them read it if it isn’t ready, but I tend to have one or more lying around…), but there are more and better ways to show them we’re serious. For example:
- Keep a schedule. If we make it clear that we’re working on writing during a specific window of time on a regular basis, and actually do writing stuff in that timeframe, it helps people believe we’re doing what we say we are. We’re showing them with our actions.
- Create (and use) business and marketing plans. This is stuff we should do anyway, and it gives us something tangible that we can show people that demonstrates not only are we doing this, but we’re serious about doing this.
- Do our marketing. Social media isn’t the only way to market. A website isn’t the only way to get the word out. But, using these and other channels to talk about and give evidence of what we’re doing gives us something we can point to which shows who we are and what we do.
- Study and learn about what we do. Continuing education is a thing in many serious careers, and it should be in ours too. Actually, for us there are several areas of continuing education to pursue: writing and publishing knowledge, marketing knowledge, and content area knowledge, amongst others. As writers, we’re lucky. Our continuing education is fun stuff and serious stuff (or at least it can be…)
Doing any or all of these things will help those around us to “see it” and understand that what we do is serious, and can be an actual business if we let it. And there’s the biggest secret, dear reader, we have to let it. In other words, the first person we need to convince that we’re serious about what we do is us!
So… How do we convince ourselves?
Convincing ourselves is like convincing other people. We have to do the work. We have to do actual writing things and learn about actual writing things (not just typing or writing in a notebook…). So, all the things we’ve already talked about apply. But convincing ourselves takes more.
Convincing ourselves can be a struggle. I’ve never met a serious writer who didn’t get hung up at some point. The good news is that there are things we can do that help.
First, we need to understand, record, and revisit our why. We need to keep the reason we’re writing out in front of us. When we hit a stuck point, we can look back to our why and find motivation to push forward. When we’re questioning which way to go, our why helps us to choose the best path.
Second, we can and should track the small victories. Writing is a huge process. Succeeding in writing is even bigger. While we’re doing our planning and learning, take time to break your project into achievable steps and goals. Track those goals and enjoy the little successes. Every one moves us forward toward the big goal and helps us say “yes, this is real.” They also give us something to talk about that can help convince others.
We’re all individuals, and, ultimately, we have to find our own way. But the steps we’ve talked about go a long way in helping show ourselves and others that what we do is very real and worth doing.
Find your way in this writing life, dear reader. Share your successes. And, I’ll see you next post.