Friday, September 19, 2008

What It Takes to Be a Writer

PASSION: I feel like sometimes people throw this word around on a whim; a romantic or melodramatic whim. Sometimes I cringe when I hear it. But passion doesn’t just refer to over-the-top desire or emotion; also to interest, affection, enthusiasm. And this is where passion molds with writing. It’s what drives this dream of ours; to express ourselves, to put our thoughts out there for others to absorb, to understand how our words can so clearly, poignantly touch another.

DISCIPLINE: Probably one of the hardest yet most integral parts of a writer’s life, for it doesn’t take just thinking. Or plotting. Imagining. It’s the wherewithal to sit down and do. You have to stop the niggling voices (sometimes internal, when they tell you you’re no good… sometimes external, when your physical space is shared), find that zone, sometimes fight through the wall of a blank mind and a blank page. It takes a firm inner voice, one that tells you you’re going to do it, no matter the effort or cost.

PATIENCE: Success as a writer doesn’t come all at once. I could liken it to golf: Tiger wants a record-breaking score. He wants the trophy. But he has take the course one hole at a time, and each goes best if he’s calm and focused. Likewise with writers. It takes steps, many of them, approached with a patient mind and patient heart. And there may be obstacles, hazards, loose impediments along the way, but patience will make our progress smoother.

POSITIVE OUTLOOK: We all get discouraged. I hope I’m not the only writer who wavers between confidence and uncertainty. But even when we question ourselves and our goals, when we see how another writer has found success and wonder where we’ve gone wrong, we must look at the bigger picture. It takes an understanding that every writer is different. We all have different talents within this literary world, and there’s a niche for them all. In addition, no two writers’ plans are the same. We have to believe our time is out there, and that each step we take – individual to our schedules, preferences, resumes, styles - takes us closer to our plan. It’s focusing on that, not where others can be found, or how others (like agents) have thus far perceived us, that gets us through.

CONFIDENCE: Confidence is one of the biggest elements pushing us forward. It’s believing in ourselves and our talents, even when doubt tries to break through. It takes faith in what we’re trying to write and how we’re writing it, because one who doesn’t believe in himself and his words doesn’t stand a chance of making himself and his words believable to his reader.

PERSEVERANCE: We cannot give up. If all these things – passion, discipline, patience, positive outlook, and confidence – have lined up within us, we have no choice but to proceed with perseverance. Throwing the towel in does not grasp us our dream. Fruition never comes if we don’t keep pushing and seeking. We cannot give up.



Can you think of anything to add to my list?



I'll be leaving town this afternoon, with plans to attend a Lit Fest tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it! I'll report back when I return.

Have a great weekend!

19 comments:

Pink Ink said...

Hi Janna! I would have to add "talent", too.

And yes, discipline has to be up there.

Great list.

Terri Tiffany said...

Amen! I aree with everything you psoted ehre today! Especially about being patient and persevering. And not comparing to others!! Ouch-- I falter there some days.
Enjoy your trip and can't wait to hear all about it!

Travis Erwin said...

YOu forgot the one thing we have no control over. Luck. It takes a bit of luck on top of everything else to get there.

Joanne said...

I agree with all, they all work together in moving us forward. And when all those gears are engaged, it's beautiful how the writing flows.

WendyCinNYC said...

That seems like a good list. If I were to add anything, it would be either "thick skin" or "masochistic tendencies" to get through all the rejections and criticisms. But "patience" and "confidence" sounds so much more uplifting, so stick with those.

Janna Qualman said...

Pink Ink - Of course! I just didn't say anything because we're all so ridiculously talented, it's a given. ;)

Terri - I really do, too. In fact, I had fallen into that way of thinking last night, which was what prompted this post.

Travis - You may be right, though I don't often agree with most peoples' definition of luck, when they refer to it as a chance kind of thing. :)

Joanne - How right you are!

Wendy - You're right, I didn't even think about thick skin (or... that other thing you mentioned...). Definitely a requirement, even if it's one that's shaped over the course of time.

Terri Tiffany said...

Wow Janna-- you put me to shame! You accomplished so much last week!!! yay!!

Melanie Avila said...

Great post Janna. I think all the good points are covered, so I'll add a silly one: a functioning keyboard. :)

Have fun at the LitFest!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Hope your trip is profitable in every way, especially getting in some R&R. Your list is great. Reminds me of an article on the craft of writing I did not too long ago. I'll have to post it soon.

Joshua said...

hurry back and I think you nailed it with the list :)

K.S. Clay said...

Great list. I agree with everything you listed. A positive outlook is something that is often overlooked and yet it's probably as important as everything else listed. I'd add one more thing: Willingness to learn and adapt. Sometimes writers get stuck in ruts and have trouble getting out because they are unwilling to work on their problem areas. They may be patient and they may have confidence, but if they keep doing the same thing wrong over and over they're going to get the same result which is failure.

colbymarshall said...

I suppose this goes along with "perseverance," but I was going to say endurance. Writing isn't a sprint...it's a marathon ;) good post!

Janna Qualman said...

Terri - Something, though, tells me I won't get that much done again this week. :)

Melanie - You're right. The proper tools are quite necessary. ;)

Angie - Thanks for the well wishes! The trip was fantastic... I'll post about it today...

Thanks, Josh. :)

k.s. clay - so nice to see you here! Thanks for stopping by, and I agree with your addition to the list. Kudos!

Endurance. Another good one, Colby!

aaroncrocco said...

Janna, this list is AWESOME! I really needed this after a long bout of 'getting started' issues with my current WIP.

Janna Qualman said...

Aw, Aaron, I'm glad it hit the spot. If only I'd been earlier with it, huh?

Dube said...

Good post. The positive outlook is the one I have to work on more. :)

Janna Qualman said...

Hi, Dube, thanks. It's good to see you again!

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sundeep machado said...

You would require patience.