Are you a productive writer, or somebody who just dabbles?
Do you want to supplement your income with writing or make writing your career, but find it hard to make time to write?
Do you have what it takes to make it writing? The hardest thing is realizing that you don’t, but there’s no shame in it. There’s nothing wrong with occasionally writing an article or story, or just writing for yourself.
But if you want to make it writing, at some point you need to determine if you have the discipline to be productive.
There’s no exact way to measure if you have what it takes. For me, each time I’ve been laid off from a job, I produce more writing than when I have a day job; for me, that’s when I knew I had what it takes. Other people have different way of determining that yes, they have the drive necessary to make it. Maybe they skip out on every other social invitation because they need to make time to write. Perhaps they wake up early each day when they could be sleeping in and write.
There are no exact ways to determine if you have what it takes to make it writing, but if you see yourself in the five following ways to determine that you don’t have what it takes to make it writing, it’s time to make some changes.
You Seek Out Other Things Instead of Writing
We live in a world of distractions — instant gratification lurks around every corner.
Instead of waking up early to write, do you sleep in to the last minute? When lunchbreak rolls around at work, instead of using the hour to write, do you choose to go out with co-workers and talk about work? When you get home, does the television call louder than your notebook or word processor? When you sit down to write, do you think about all the things online that you must see before finally writing?
I’ve been guilty of all these things. When I’ve let all these things get the best of me, I’ve slacked in my writing production. Just as writers face readers who are distracted by other media, readers face writers with the same problem.
If you’d rather watch TV, play videogames, hang out with loved ones (definitely!), or just sit around and do nothing, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you seek out these things instead of writing, that doesn’t make you a bad person.
But it doesn’t make you a writer, either.
You Don’t Strive to be the Best
Every November, over 100,000 people take part in NaNoWriMo. In one month, over 100,000 people rush to write 50,000 words.
Shortly after NaNoWriMo ends, many of the 20,000+ people who actually finish begin sending their work to agents…work that isn’t ready for publication.
It’s not that some of the work is without merit — it’s that sending a rough draft to agents is a waste of everybody’s time.
If you care about your writing, you’ll invest the time to be your best. Anything less, and you’re doing yourself and your writing a disservice.
It’s not a race to be the first; it’s a long walk to be your best!
When you’ve finished a novel, the thought of reading it a dozen or more times and making it better is even more daunting than setting out to write the novel. But a writer should always strive to be the best they can be.
This doesn’t mean that one should obsess for decades over a handful of words, but one should strive for the best novel they can produce over 6 months to 6 years.
If you don’t strive for your best, you don’t have what it takes to make it writing.
You Don’t Follow Industry News
You don’t have to live and breathe publishing to make it writing (although it helps), but you do have to know what’s up around you.
Even if publishing news doesn’t excite you, when you begin making contacts who are excited by publishing news (contacts who can help you with your writing dreams) and you can’t talk with them on that level, it comes across that you’re still learning and not ready to be published.
This doesn’t mean you have to be able to discuss the ins and outs of every book’s profit and loss statements, every editor who moves to a different publisher or publication (that’s what mediabistro is for), or know more than your potential agent or editor, but you have to have an interest in the things that affect the industry and how the industry reacts to those things.
Imagine if you were hiring somebody to do a skilled job and they knew nothing about your company or industry. Odds are, by them not being at least familiar with things, they aren’t going to be able to do the job as well as somebody who focuses on the industry more.
Publishing is no different.
You Don’t Follow the Rules
While I think everybody should write, I don’t think everybody should be published.
There are many people who submit their writing long before it’s ready to be read, taking up the time of agents and editors, and making the slush pile bigger than it should be for the writers who have taken the time to hone their craft and reach a point where they’re ready to sell their work.
Every agent has stories about writers who have sent along gimmicks with their submissions; writers who haven’t finished a novel, but ask if what they’re doing is good enough to spend the time finishing; writers who send their tale of star-crossed teenage love between elvin vampires and half-human werewolves to agents dealing only in non-fiction or memoirs.
“But aren’t some rules meant to be broken?” you say.
Some rules can be broken, but when it comes to a new writer sending their work to the people who can help them, rules are there to be followed for a reason.
By following submission guidelines, you’ve already put yourself ahead of most new writers.
Don’t follow the rules, and you aren’t courteous enough to make it writing.
Courtesy can count more than talent.
You Talk More than You Write
I spend a fair amount of time working on The Juggling Writer blog, chatting with other writers online, and sometimes talking about writing face-to-face with others, but when it comes time to write, I close TweetDeck so I’m not distracted by my Twitter feed and I close my Web browser. I turn off my phone and tell my wife I’m disappearing into the office for a couple hours.
When it’s time to write, a writer writes!
It amazes me how many writers I see online talking with other writers online while they are working on things. Perhaps some people really are that good at multitasking, but it seems best to write and only write when one is writing. If you have to ask people if each sentence you write sounds good — if you have to tell the online world “Twelve more words written!” you might not have what it takes to make it writing.
It’s been my experience that when one talks about what they’re writing to everybody who will listen while in the process of working on something, the satisfaction that comes from completing something is met, and the writer is more likely to move on to something new.
My wife and my two closest writing buddies know very little about the novel I’m working on. If I talked about it with friends, family, and people online, the story would be told and I’d have no real reason to finish it.
It may be some of the bluntest advice there is, but shut up and write!
If you find yourself talking about writing more than actually writing, you definitely don’t have what it takes to be a writer.
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If you find yourself guilty of any of these five things, it doesn’t mean that all is lost.
The solution is simple: write before being distracted, strive to be the best you can be, pay attention to the industry, follow the big rules, and write more than you talk about writing.
If you’re courteous and work hard, it’s amazing what can happen…