Thursday, April 07, 2011

Do You Get Thrown or Just Never Get On?

When I speak at a conference (sorry if all these posts mention conferences, they're on my mind), I often ask the room who writes fulltime, parttime, and for a hobby. A few hands go up, kinda. I then raise my hands in animated fashion and ask them to do the same. I'm trying to learn who is trying to write for money and who writes for simple pleasure. The identification helps me focus how to speak.

But the people writing for money are almost afraid to raise their hands - doing this hitched motion where their hands don't rise above their ears.

I don't see doctors, teachers or contractors sorta/kinda claiming their profession. They own it

"What do you do for aliving, ma'am?"
"I'm a doctor."
"How about you, sir?"
"I'm a contractor."
"And what do you do?"
"I write a little bit."

Why the heck do we do that? I'll tell you why. Because then we might be held accountable for this so-called profession we brag about in writing forums. In reality, when confronted with standing in front of humanity, we aren't sure we are living up to the public's expectations of a writer. All those success stories like Amanda Hocking and JA Konrath intimidate the crap out of us.

Honey...the only expectations are yours. If you are afraid to possess the moniker of writer, you need to deal with what's keeping you from being big, bad and proud of it. Deep down inside, you know.

Every profession has its leaders. You will never be the best. Likewise, you'll never be the worst. Between the top and bottom of that ladder is a horde of hard working scribes. Writing, submitting, rewriting, resubmitting, throwing away, crying, beating pillows, then starting over. We endure disappointment like rodeo cowboys endure the dirt. But we get back up and ride again.

Assuming we ever get on and ride...

Conferences are full of hopeful people, but it pains me to think that they might go home, lose the adrenaline, and continue to read more about writing than doing it.

One person asked me what how-to book I used for characters. I had to admit I didn't. I referenced a couple of how-to books I enjoyed, and the fact I have about a dozen on my shelf (all read, thank you), but said I didn't refer to books when I wrote. They give me ideas, but don't serve as bibles. Instead, I read good books, then try to write like a good book author. It's quicker, more enjoyable, and more efficient. But that's me. Bottom line is, I found what works to aid my mission. You have to do the same for you.

But some of us continue to read how-to books in lieu of writing. We study more than we scribble. We never feel educated enough to attempt serious stories. One more lesson. One more conference. Maybe I'll take a class or join a group. Yes, we need to polish our work to a fine luster before submitting, but a large chunk of the writing population reads more about writing than doing the writing. Because they fear the repercussions if they don't meet someone's expectations.

"There is only one person who could ever make you happy, and that person is you." - David Burns

Same goes for sad, depressed, disappointed. You control the reins. Whatever beast you ride might buck, twist and kick trying to throw you to the ground, but you decide to get up or stay down. You break bones and bang your head, bruise your butt and wrench your back, but if your goal is to last and take a gold buckle, you get back on in spite of everything. Then one day you find yourself leading that bull around by the nose . . . the crowd applauding, as if you knew what you were doing all along. Funny how that eventually turns out . . . assuming you continue to ride.

I'm in St Louis at the Missouri Writers Guild Conference this weekend. Probably as you read this post. If you're there, come see me and mention this post. I might have something for you.


Anne Elizabeth Mueller said...

Thank you for the boost.

Amanda Headlee said...

Thank you! You hit the nail on the head.

widdershins said...

Sooner or later, to put that upper case 'W' in front of the word writer, when we're asked what we do, we have to take that bloody great running jump off the deep end and swim for our lives. Here's the secret though, it's never as scary as you feared.

BECKY said...

Thanks, Hope! Once again you tell it like it is! See you in St. Louie!

Forrest said...

Well said. I guess there's only one answer- Just do it! Grab the bull by the horns and go for it. Thanks for the encouragement

Lisa Tiffin said...

Well said, as usual Hope. Have a great conference - will be watching your tweets and wishing I was there!

Diva Jefferson said...

Yes, even those who are hobbyists wish they were writing more, but financially it's not as possible.

In order to truly appreciate your gift, you need to look inside yourself and ask "Do I love what I do?". If the answer is 'yes', then you are passionate about something and should be very proud of what you do. Even if the world never understands.

Great post, Hope.

Cheryl Hart said...

Woot Woot! Look at me with both hands are up in the air shouting, "I'm a writer." :)

LOL That felt good.

I hope the conference is fabulous.

Claire Vorster said...

Fabulous and true! Every word. You have to commit yourself, like a mountaineer commits to the mountain, like the surfer commits to the wave. It's the only way you'll find out what you can do and where it will take you.

Love to you Hope - you rock!

Claire x