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The Difference: Writing Stuff vs Writing – Part 1

If you follow the publishing industry, particularly with aspirations of being a professional writer, you’ve likely heard things like “you have to own your career” and “writers can no longer take a passive role in promoting and selling their work”. Gone are the days of the full-time writer having a hermit-like existence, only surfacing to buy scotch and pipe tobacco while waiting for royalty checks. Heck, let some tell it, gone are the days of the full-time writer.

As with anything, there are exceptions. But, most likely, you (and me) aren’t.

Which means we’re going to have to balance the “writing stuff” in our careers with the actual “writing”.

What stuff?

This question may seem simple. You can probably tick off a good sized list of “writing stuff” you’ve done, are doing, or plan to do. In quick succession, it probably looks a little like this:

-Develop and maintain a web presence (site, blog, social networking, message boards)

-Make your work available on the cheap through Amazon or Smashwords

-Meet other writers with career aspirations similar to your own and nurture those friendships

All of the above are good efforts, or at least that’s what we’re told. However, without a clear vision, good planning, and the ability to evaluate the effectiveness of your efforts, all that stuff can easily become a time suck that takes away from the most important part of your career: writing.

Clear vision

I’ve met a lot of writers who are hesitant to say exactly what they want from their careers, as if stating the desire for  full-time income/notoriety based mostly on writing will jinx the possibility of it ever happening. Really, it’s quite the opposite. By not clearly quantifying and qualifying goals, your efforts will start to resemble those of a driver who is lost, but won’t ask for directions.

They’ll drive straight for awhile, but when they don’t like how the road’s looking they take a left. Then they’ll randomly decide that was wrong, and make another turn. And so on.

Compare this to the driver who knows where they’re going. It doesn’t matter if the road is narrow, under construction, or congested. They stick to it with their mind focused expressly on their destination.

Good planning

Once you know what  you want, you have to make a solid plan to get it. No one accomplishes goals accidentally.

How you go about this will vary person to person. Obviously, one of the goals you should be planning around will involve a certain amount of writing on a regular basis. But, we’ll discuss that in Part 2 of this topic.

In regard to “writing stuff” part of the planning will center around gaining an understanding of the industry as a whole, then specifically the area you want to work in. I can’t tell you exactly how to do that. Like I said, it varies. But, I can point you to some great conventional (and not so conventional) resources.

Trade Magazines: Publisher’s Weekly, Writer’s Digest, The Writer

Writer/Promoter Blogs (emphasis on promoter): JA Konrath, Kiersten White

Books by Genuis Marketers: Crush It!, The 4-Hour Workweek

The value of the items above may or may not be apparent, but the key is to find what works for you, and that’s mostly going to come through trial and error. Thus the next point…

Evaluate effectiveness

You gotta be able to see what’s NOT going to work for you. Video blogging may not work for you if you’re camera shy. Building a Twitter following may not work for you if you only tweet once or twice a week. Selling your work on the cheap through digital platforms may not be your thing if you’re not a diligent online promoter.

There’s nothing wrong with trying any and everything, but in order to control your time (which you need to write), you’ll have to figure out which avenues are worth taking, and which ones justify a detour.

Next time

We’re going to leave the writing stuff alone and focus on what you can tweak in your writing to help you find that road to success a little faster. If you have any specific questions you’d like me to address, please leave them in the comments section.

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