Equipping Writers for Success
The Writing Life
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by Devyani Borade
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I don't earn much money from writing. A hundred quid now, a couple of them in six months' time just about keeps me in chocolate cake and ice cream at every birthday.
I've never won an award. I've come close -- short-listed, honorable mention -- but never actually won a blessed thing, though it's not for lack of trying.
I'm not exactly beating off publishers with a stick either. In fact, apart from the faint shadows of a nine-word plot, I don't even have a proper solid idea for a book, let alone the next big bestseller that everyone and their aunt would give up their gonads for.
And although I have been published in several national magazines, my byline doesn't grace the pages of the giants: no TIME or Forbes has managed to sneak into my list of publishing credits.
Yet, I am perfectly content doing what I do.
Contentment comes with optimism. When we focus on the negatives, we become negative. We start seeing everything in a negative light. And we simply open the door for more negativity to come into our lives. When we focus on the positive, we make things happen to realise that positivity. We consciously and subconsciously work towards achieving that happy aim, and then we achieve it sooner or later.
I'm happy when I write, but I don't think of writing when I'm happy.
Writing occasionally doesn't make me any less serious a writer. It doesn't make me an overly complacent one either. Or any less professional, less competent, less ambitious, or even less successful! Sure, I'd like to see a few million hardbacks with my name on them. Sure, I'd like to see my bank balance swell up in exponents of ten every month. But I am not frustrated that this isn't the case in my life at this time. I can choose to get depressed and envious about all the other richer and busier writers out there. Or I can choose to accept that I am richer and busier in other aspects of my life. I can celebrate how far I have come, how I have improved upon myself and how I have become successful at what I have chosen to do.
And I achieve this happiness in the following ways. You can, too.
1. Believe in yourself.
I'm a confident writer. Not for me the insecurities of wondering whether I am any good at writing or whether my time would be better spent at doing something else, like cleaning the streets maybe. No, those niggles pretty much vanished around the time I sold my fifth article and realized that I was on to a good thing with "this writing lark." And that it wasn't beginner's luck either. I know I am good, I know exactly what I am good at. Humorous vignettes with word-play? Nobody better. Historical western romances? Don't even think about it. I know where I suc-ceed, and where I plain suck.
2. Break some rules.
I'm a rebellious writer. Remember that little gem you were taught about submitting your manuscript only when it was word-perfect? As the old Chinese proverb goes: poppycock. If every writer were beholden to this rule, no one would ever get around to submitting and publishing anything at all. A writer needs to begin submitting and marketing early and often. It doesn't matter if the manuscript is only in its second draft. Unless you pitch somewhere, you won't know just how good or bad you are. But you need to also be sensible about it. The important things to keep in mind are: a) Don't pitch to your top ten publishers that you eventually intend to sell the work to, and b) Pitch to people who are more likely to give you feedback, so that you can use it to revise and strengthen the work. Similarly, write what you like, not necessarily what others want to read. Your passion will ensure that you write, and write, and continue writing. Inevitably, the more you write, the better you will get at it and the easier it will then become to write what readers want to read, even if it is just for the sake of getting that prestigious assignment or pay for that extra hour of childcare.
3. Know what you want. And then get it.
I am a principled writer. I have some thumb rules that I never break, no matter how good the pay-back is. One of them is always being honest in working with editors and publishers, even if this means selecting a lower-paying market or returning an overpayment. Another is not settling for less than what my work is worth. I've walked away from more deals than I've published articles, because the terms were of absolutely no use to me. While the loss of income may pinch initially, you learn what is important to you and then seek out all the information and help you can to get it. Like to write an autobiography? Read some, then take a class. Looking for SEO writing opportunities? Crawl the Internet and subscribe to a dozen market newsletters and job boards. The very act of doing something towards your goal reinforces the goal and is a step in the right direction.
You don't have to be perfect. Just perfect for yourself. You can achieve this personal perfection by having your own yardstick of what success means to you. But the important thing is that the yardstick have notches that take into account successes that are big as well as small. Think that writer who sold several thousand copies on Kindle is successful? Great. But if your own pdf has been downloaded 67 times, that is no small feat either. Imagine, at least 67 people in the world have thought your words worth paying their hard-earned cash for. And at least 67 people in the world have benefited in some way from your creation. To me, that sounds good.
So, full-time or part-time, business-minded or pleasure-finder, whatever type of writer you are, be happy with what you're doing. When we are reconciled with our past we free our minds to embrace our future.
And for now, Donald Trump can heave a sigh of relief.
This article is not available for reprint without the author's written permission.
Devyani Borade is a professional writer. She writes on the humour and pathos of everyday life. Her fiction, nonfiction and art have appeared in magazines across the world. She likes to eat chocolates, read comic books and try her husband's patience! Contact her on v3rbolatry(at)gmail(dot)com for assignments, comments or just to say hello. She doesn't bite, promise. Find out more at her blog "Verbolatry" at http://devyaniborade.blogspot.com/.