What else a writer needs to succeed (Part 2)

Missed Part 1?  Here’s a quick recap:

  • Yes, a successful writer must come up with creative ideas and adeptly wield words—a master of the craft of writing—but other essential attributes sometimes get ignored.
  • For example, writers of all skill levels ought to grow thick skin.
  • No matter how well-written your manuscript or book is, some people won’t like it.  Some might even hate it and voice their opinions publicly.  Deal with it.
  • Constructive criticism is a gift.  Make use of what you can and ignore the rest.
  • Resist the urge to lapse into despair if you get a negative reaction or a lambasting review.
  • And defy the urge to defend your work.  Don’t tell your readers they are wrong.
beached jellyfish

Jellyfish can be graceful creatures, but outside of their comfort zones, the lack of spine proves to be a major disadvantage—not so unlike writers. | Photo via Wikimedia Commons

At first glance, the picture I painted of the well-adjusted writer might resemble some spineless creature, smiling timidly as his work is ripped apart.

But even if writers tend to absorb ideas from the world around them like a sponge, that doesn’t mean they should lack backbones like said sea creatures.  In fact, if there were classified ads for novelists, I’m pretty sure the following phrase would be prominently featured:

Invertebrates need not apply

I stand by my advice that serious writers should keep their mouths shut and ears open when it comes to feedback (positive or negative).  So much about art is subjective.  Anyway, arguing your point isn’t likely going to make the masses suddenly adore your book.

In all likelihood, vehemently defending your work will only make you look like a jerk.

Ultimately, your story will have to speak for itself.  However, keeping a healthy distance between creator and creation doesn’t equate to spinelessness; on the contrary, it suggests there is a strong backbone supporting the aforementioned thick skin.

Because, at the end of the day, a writer does have to defend her decisions, if only to herself.  When rejection rears its ugly head, when years of hard work doesn’t seem to be paying off, when it feels like the rest of the world is rallied against you—that’s when a backbone is needed most.

Even if a solid support system is in place, there will be times when a writer must be his own cheerleader.  He will have to muster the energy and enthusiasm to press on even if his last blog post attracted only a handful of readers or yet another agent passed on representing the manuscript he sacrificed so much to produce.

Without a backbone, the tag-team combo of inevitable obstacles and increasing doubt will reduce a writer to a puddle of goo.

A backbone also combats the reclusive tendencies that plague many writers.  Let’s be honest: the act of writing is potentially isolating at best and incredibly private at worst.  Some of us choose this artistic expression—as opposed to, say, acting—because we can do it whenever we feel like it…on our own terms…behind closed doors…in the safety of our own homes…

But unless you’re content with being a mere dabbler (not that there’s anything wrong with that), you’re going to have to put yourself out there.  Sure, you could go the Emily Dickinson route and isolate yourself, but I’d argue that an author’s fiction benefits from many and varied life experiences.

Anyway, if you want the world to embrace your work—while you’re still alive—you have to take active steps to be a part of that world.

Even if you’re not a card-carrying risk taker, writers must embrace some measure of extroversion if they are going to get the word out about their book.  I don’t care if you’ve been picked up by a major publishing house or are single-handedly peddling your self-published novel: Your biggest promoter will always be you.

Maybe that means joining a few online forums filled with readers of your genre or networking at national conferences.  Even if you’d rather spend all of your free time fashioning fantastic fiction—or if you’ve always hated blogs—today’s writers know that self-marketing comes with the territory.

With some extra layers of skin and a strong spine, you’ll be well-equipped to step boldly into the wild frontier that is modern publishing.

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4 Comments

Filed under Writing

4 responses to “What else a writer needs to succeed (Part 2)

  1. Thomas P. Ramirez

    As always, David, well done.
    But–

    Been there, done that.

    But—

    Just can’t get past that AA gang.

    Best,

    TOM

  2. Pingback: What else a writer needs to succeed (Part 3) | One Million Words

  3. Pingback: 5 ways to support the writer in your life | One Million Words

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