Thursday, 11 March 2010

What makes a 21st century writer?

Going to the Writing Industries conference last Saturday was a new experience for me because my normal networking is business focused not writing focused.

My usual experience networking is to be the exception that proves the rule.

Writers do exist outside their garrets and the pages of their books.

For me to meet up with another writer is rare and we huddle together like distant cousins of a long lost tribe.
And talk about. . .

Commas versus semi-colons
The use of adverbs
And how can you persuade clients to listen to your advice about not putting Welcome to my Website as their header.

Sad sacks aren’t we?

So going to WIC was like being in a family gathering. A family that might argue, speak different dialects and travel down strange paths (vampires anyone).

But at the same time speaking the same basic language.  We love writing, connecting with readers and the power of words.

What does it take to be a writer these days?

1. You have to be nimble on your feet. Creating success in any writing field is about flexibility.

Write novels? Try your hand at poetry.
Write non-fiction? Give a novel a go.
Write plays? Why not try non-fiction.

This applies no less to business writing. It amazes me, the people I talk to who with total confidence tackle creating workshops but pale at the thought of writing a book

To me it’s the same difference. Once you’ve worked out how to connect with readers, the medium matters not a jot. Blog, articles, Tweets, workshops, books are all tools for a confident writer to use.

2. You have to want to connect

That may sound obvious but the amount of text I see that sets out to put off readers is growing not reducing.

Long sentences
Even longer and denser paragraphs.
‘All about the writer’ text.

As a writer you have to get over yourself.  We’re not important. Our readers are.

3. You have to work at it.

Inspiration doesn’t exist in a special bay at the supermarket.
It's not surrounded by flashing lights so you can recognise it.
The inspiration fairy doesn’t leave it under your pillow in exchange for being good.

The conference was called Writing Industries Conference and the keynote speaker Graham Joyce underlined everything I believe about writing.

You may have talent as a writer. If you’re lucky you may be blessed with exceptional talent like Shakespeare and Dickens.  But even very talented writers fail.  And it's usually for one reason..

they haven’t worked at it.

That’s the bottom line….

You have to work at it.

Every day.

Without fail.

Whether you feel like it or not.

Can't get started as a writer?

People often ask me how to get started in writing.

‘When do you write?’ I ask.

'Oh well I don’t get much time' At that point I switch off.

Because the only way you can improve on any talent you’ve been given is to write.

And study other writers.

And read

Then write some more.

I know you’re busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy.

Writing challenge

If you want to write but think you haven’t the time, I challenge you to find 15 minutes every day for the next 30 days and write. Stop watching yet another house purchase programme and write instead.

By the end of the 30 days you’ll find out  either you can’t bear the thought of another 15 minutes of hell, in which case I advise you to give up on your dream/illusion of being a writer…

Or more likely, you’ll have found that 15 minutes isn’t enough and are snatching extra time from feeding the cat, the goldfish or even the family.

Like one writer I met last week who said ’I resent anything that takes me away from my writing.’

Doesn’t make us No 1 in Miss Peabody’s charm school maybe but if you’re like that lady and me you’ll have found something that makes your toes tingle and your brain fizz.

Welcome to the working world of writers.

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