Friday, August 13, 2010
You Don't Have to Know it All
Don't think you have to know it all.
First, learn how to write. The Internet has convinced a lot of people that they can be instant writers before they've written long enough to know better. Anyone can keep a journal, a blog. Not everyone needs to publish. I would love to find my grandmother's diary, but who's to say it should have been a book?
Write and write. Fall in love with the process. Awaken each day wanting to write . . . without thinking about publishing. Be best friends with your keyboard (or pen), letting your creative side fly free. Write dozens of stories, long and short, entertaining the various genres. One day, or one year, you'll find a particular story that will rise above the others, giving you a reason to think about publishing.
Or write nonfiction, submitting to local periodicals. Practice locally, then expand your territory. As you enhance your ability with practice, endeavor to capture larger markets. But become grand and comfortable in one arena before graduating to another.
Online, in writing magazines and all over the blogosphere, we are told to market, Twitter, blog, prepare newsletters, create press releases, speak. New writers see those lessons and think they have to jump in the middle of them, and do it now. Older writers think they have to drop what they are doing and become PR experts.
I've pushed writers to market themselves as well, and yes, it's a necessary evil at some point in the career. However, writers have to reach a crossroad before taking all that guidance seriously.
First and foremost, write until you have a distinct voice. If you market yourself too hard, too prematurely in your career, you confuse your public and lose the impact of making a name for yourself. It's like showing your art before you know how to blend colors or define your subject matter. It's like teaching Calculus before you've mastered Algebra.
What does your writing say about you?
Can people pick out your writing without your name on it?
Can people describe your writing style?
When you've refined yourself and your commodity, you better understand what you are selling. Nobody sells a prototype. Imagine selling Coca Cola or Kentucky Fried Chicken without the secret recipe.