For years I hid the fact I’m a writer. It was too difficult to explain what it is I actually do. Most people seem to think I sit down at my desk, type a few pages and go about my day. But like many others, my life isn’t like that. My life is rather exhausting. I have a full time job, a family and some dogs who, for lack of a better description, bother the hell out of me while I’m concentrating. I don’t have the luxury of secreting myself away for days on end until a piece is done. I try to carve out chunks of time to get done what needs to be done. Sometimes that ends in success – others are epic failure.
So what is this “being a writer” thing?
It is first and foremost being a goal-setter. It doesn’t matter if you are writing for newspapers / magazines or writing a novel. You have goals in mind that must be met. Whether it’s writing four articles a month or if it’s writing two pages a day, it’s still a goal. I have found I have a better shot at achieving my goals if I am held accountable by letting my critique group know what I plan to do. Others have success by writing them down in a prominent place. A sticky note on the bathroom mirror is great for this.
So how do you set writing goals? You need to remember the SMART mnemonic often attributed to Peter Drucker.
- Specific – how many words, pages, what kind of writing (Fiction/Non-fiction)
- Measurable – find a way to show you are making progress whether it be word count, number of pages or chapters.
- Assignable – who is responsible for what? As the writer, you are assigning the goals to yourself.
- Realistic – this is where most goals fail. If I’m writing a 120k word novel, there is no way I can do this in 30 days while taking care of a family. Keep your goals within reach.
- Time-related – deadlines are important. Give yourself one. Someday your publisher will and you need to know how to work under deadlines and the associated pressures if you have never done so before.
A writer is also a thief of sorts.
Yes. I just said that. I seriously doubt any of us will be convicted in a court of law (unless we are plagerizing); however, we steal all the time. We filch bits of conversation from unsuspecting people around us. We gleen ideas from news articles, other books, names, places, and events. We take inspiration from the tales told to us from others and someone else’s moment in time becomes our own.
Writers are expected to be excellent story-tellers.
Strangely enough, this is not always the case. One may be able to write brilliant and earth-shattering prose, but cannot tell a story to a group of friends in order to save a life. However, as long as they can deliver on the page, that’s all that really matters, eh?
Writers are notoriously private.
I tell people all the time I’m “anti-social.” Their eyes widen and mouths open in shock. Maybe it’s because I’m fairly friendly and outgoing, which sounds like an oxymoron to being private. But many writers don’t open up to people unless they are really close to them. When you start talking about being reserved or dare I say clandestine, many people may think about authors such as the hermitic Orwell, Woolf and Plath who suffered from madness, or Nietzsche who preferred solitude and was also a bit mental.
Today, writers/authors have to have a “public face” if they are to be successful. Their writing will speak for itself, but marketing & book promotion will include book signings and interviews. Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets are becoming more expected from authors. The public wants to connect with you. This does not mean that you have to detail every thread in the fabric of your life. But you do have to make accommodations you might not want to.
A writer is so many different things to so many different people. I describe what I do as: I’m an analyst, researcher, creator and wordsmith wrapped in a cloak of thievery and mystery out to transform the universe for but a moment in time. But… maybe that’s the madness speaking.