I get a lot of newsletters and pitches in my in-box that claim writers can achieve their dreams if only they believe they can. I almost always chuckle. Is that like saying that Florence Foster Jenkins (the real life wanna-be opera singer played by Meryl Streep) could sing like a nightingale all because she thought she could? We all want to be Stephen King or JK Rowling. But is believing enough?
Writing Tip for Today: Here are some (I believe better) ideas on making writing dreams come true.
A local writer’s organization called WordCrafters has a nifty slogan: Don’t be a writer. Be writing. This phrase sums up the number-one reason many writers never achieve their dreams. They love to talk about writing, take classes, get coaching and attend conferences. Actual writing time? Well, it’s hard to fit in when you are so busy with all that other stuff. Writers complain about marketing their work in much the same way. How can I write when I have to do all that (shudder) marketing? While it’s true that no one can buy a book they don’t know about, you must have a book for them to purchase in order to make a sale. The best advice I have for writing dreamers is to put a simple action at the top of any to-do list: BIC. Butt in Chair. Faulkner supposedly said there are people who only want to have written, not be actively writing. No matter how much you enjoy kibitzing at gatherings or telling the world to watch out, here comes a writer, it’s not exactly true if you don’t write on a regular basis.
Submit Your Work
The second best way to see if your writing dreams are on track is to submit. I know, why should you submit to traditional publications/publishers when you already know it’s a 1) rigged process 2) you are terrified of the whole agent and editor thing 3) you don’t know anyone in the business? Start with short pieces sent to periodicals. I maintain that collecting rejection slips is a great way to keep your writer dreams intact. By submitting your work, you are going to develop that lovely thick skin writers need. You’ll quickly learn whether or not your writing is topically and stylistically good enough to appeal to large markets. And you will undoubtedly learn a few things along the way. It doesn’t matter if you submit to a high-paying literary publication or pub house or you enter a few above-board contests. By getting your work out there, you’ll see who your competition is, learn how markets work and if you’re a good enough student, maybe even gain an acceptance here and there.
It’s Not About You
This is the crucial step to achieving your writer dreams. You must offer your reader what’s known as value. In other words, if readers are convinced that you are thinking of them rather than only your own self-interests, readers are much more likely not only to read your work, but more importantly, pass the word about your work. We all know writers who seem to want to stoke their own egos: memoirs that are full of anger and ranting, stories that mean something only to the writer, work that feels like a put-down to the reader. If you truly wish to achieve your dreams as a writer, turn the spotlight on your reader. Make what you write all about her. Let him see himself in what you write and be able to say, “Wow that writer really understands me!” Writing, at its heart, isn’t about how well you write or how well you market your work. You can schedule a jillion e-blasts about your book, tweet yourself silly or do other marketing stuff and never really connect with readers. No, writing is about telling particular stories that uncover universal truths or feelings. Florence Foster Jenkins really thought she could sing—but she apparently never looked into the eyes of her suffering audiences. With that in mind, go write from the heart, with passion—always seeing yourself in your fellow man.