So, you want to be a writer?
Do you have...
- 1. infinite patience?
- 2. thick skin?
- 3. keen observation skills?
- 4. never-ending persistence?
- 5. discipline?
- 6. a passion for reading?
- 7. a high threshold for being alone?
- 8. hobbies?
- 9. writing talent?
- 10. another means of supporting yourself?
You say you have all those traits? Good! Because none of the above are optional. Let's take a look at each one.
1. Infinite patience
Can you patiently wait 8 months for an editor to get back to you? When your manuscript is accepted, can you wait 3 years for it to be published? How about a year after that before libraries actually buy it?
Enormous patience is a REQUIREMENT in this business, even after you succeed! Publishing is one of the few businesses on our planet that has resisted our instant-oatmeal, 1-hour-photo, need-it-by-yesterday culture. After all, it's one of the few industries left that relies on plain old U.S. mail!
If you're the kind of person who goes to bed with the cell phone on, being in this business will give you an ulcer. You're better off doing something less stressful, like wrestling alligators.
2. Thick skin
Are you ready to receive a rejection every week for the next 50 years? Oh, you think they'll stop once you've made it? Don't make me laugh so hard! The truth is, rejections never stop. If you don't like criticism, do yourself a favor and leave now.
Not only will editors reject you, but reviewers will too. Bookstores also. Even readers. Everybody will find fault with something. If you're the kind of person who takes everything personally, you're headed toward the nearest mental institution.
3. Keen observation skills
Do you notice what people are wearing? What color their eyes are? What the sky looks like on a rainy day? You'll need to be more detail-oriented than a five-star general. Because your writing will have to be rich with real-life details that can only come from observing things around you.
Writers live in the same world as everyone else. They just pay attention.
4. Never-ending persistence
After 30 people say no to you, do you have the strength to ask another 30? How about another 60? Because if you shrink from that first no, you don't stand a chance. Publishing is not just about writing, it's about odds.
Every author, from J.K. Rowling to Dr. Seuss, had their book rejected by multiple editors before getting that magical yes.
Will you write every day? Will you finish what you start? Will you revise? Rewrite? Research?
Most importantly, will you write even when you don't want to?
6. A passion for reading
Are you capable of reading a book a week? Because you won't have a choice. As soon as you finish one, there'll be another. To keep up, you're going to have to read, read, read - nonstop. If you don't, you'll sabotage yourself. You'll write manuscripts that have "already been done" and you'll think you're brilliantly original when you're just ho-hum.
7. A high threshold for being alone
If you're the kind of person who can't run to the supermarket to pick up a dozen eggs without company, you won't last one day as a writer. You'd better get used to spending hours at a time all by yourself - with only your computer for company.
If all you do is write, you'll lose your sanity. And your writing will suffer. You need hobbies to keep your perspective. You need other interests to bring you satisfaction and comfort. Other passions also give you rich experiences for writing.
9. Writing talent
You'd think this is a given, but it's amazing how many people who want to be writers have no writing talent at all.
Certainly you can grow as a writer. You can learn new techniques and improve your skills. But you must have a core of talent. Believe me, it's too easy for editors, reviewers, and readers to tell the gifted writers from the untalented fakers.
10. Another means of supporting yourself
Everyone wants to write a bestseller. Everyone wants to be a rock star too.
The chances are nil that anything you write will make you rich. The chances aren't even good you'll be able to live at the poverty line. Most writers have other jobs or are supported by spouses. Don't quit your day job unless you're married to Bill Gates.
So, are you still interested? Then read my Top Ten List and then go hit the computer screen!