Writer with a capital “W”: Treating Yourself Like a Professional

Absolute Blank

By Stephanie Lenz (Baker)

I am a writer. Better yet, I’m a Writer, with a capital W. My work is a source of income, pleasure, satisfaction and pride. When riding in the car, I think about a character’s background. While listening to people speak, I take mental notes on their dialogue. I run over the blocking of scenes as I drift off to sleep. Maybe I don’t exactly eat, sleep and breathe writing but it’s about as close as it can be.

A recent cover feature in Entertainment Weekly was an interview with Stephen King and the idea that he’s going to “stop writing.” The Writer in me doesn’t believe that. King is a classic capital-W Writer. A Writer never retires. Sure, those who dabble with the occasional poem or story might be able to walk away. Those who write, or “Write,” could no more think of giving up their passion than giving up eating, sleeping or breathing. King may not publish much more but no one will ever tell me he will be able to stop Writing.

It’s not as hard to evolve into a Writer as some may think. Sometimes it happens without our realizing it. It’s not a matter of volume or quality. It’s a matter of respect. Respect for your work and yourself. Even if you’ve never published (and want to) if you treat yourself like a professional, your writing can only improve.

Background Image: Monceau/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

Your space

As a Writer, you already have a writing space or spaces. It may be a home office, your kitchen table, the local café or your bed. Think of the places where you write. Compare the spots where you get your best work done to those where you accomplish nothing. What works in the positive space? The view out the windows? White noise in the background? The solitude? Access to your supplies? By recognizing your space, you can begin to create a haven for your muse.

The first thing to do is to empty your writing space. If it’s a desk, clear it off. If it’s your bedroom, get rid of the stuff on the nightstand and floor. If it’s a notebook in your bag that you carry from place to place, dump the bag’s contents on the floor.

Physically clean the space. Get rid of garbage and dust. Give yourself a “blank page,” so to speak. Anything that has nothing to do with writing should be put off to the side. You can deal with that stuff in your own way. Just don’t leave it in your writing space.

It’s up to you to organize your supplies but remember to treat them with respect. Don’t cram your notebooks in a drawer full of hair bands and Snickers bars. If you need your stuff to be portable, it doesn’t have to be fancy. A simple laundry basket will do to start.

Once you have a working system in place, enhance your writing space. Notice if you write more effectively with your senses stimulated or subdued. If you like aromatherapy, add a scented candle or a light bulb ring. If music helps you write, put a CD player in your space. Anything remaining in the space that distracts you should be placed elsewhere if possible.

Your money

Some say “it takes money to make money.” It definitely takes money to write, whether it’s the cost of a pencil and paper, a computer or books about markets and agents. But it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

You have access to a computer or you wouldn’t be reading this article. Make the Internet work for you. Find a market that pays a couple bucks per story, sell one and use the money to invest in your work, like buying a copy of Poets and Writers or a file box for your hard copies. Your writing can pay for itself.

Your time

Writing appointments are an excellent way to respect yourself as a pro. Your appointments may last from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. five days a week or just through the commercial breaks on “Smallville.” To consider yourself a capital-W Writer, you must simply make the time to write.

If you want to treat yourself like a pro, make writing a priority. When scheduling time for your job, family, church or whatever, include “my writing” on your list. You deserve a few minutes once in a while to do what brings you satisfaction. Be selfish with your time.

Set deadlines. Enter contests with submission periods. Research themed issues of favorite journals and try to get something done in time. Get that next chapter finished by the end of the month. If you fail, you haven’t really failed. You may not make the deadline but in making the attempt, you succeed.

Your work

Writers write. There’s no way around it. Being a writer means producing work. Your goal may be to publish or just to get it out of your head and lock the story in a drawer. You don’t have to write every day but unless you’re producing some work, you can’t really call yourself a writer.

Sometimes Writers have to work in other ways because the muse isn’t always present. There’s always research to be done. Research on stories, markets, agents, websites, contests, etc. Your research may also spark your creativity.

There’s also the “Big E”–editing. Old stories can be improved with what you’ve learned since writing the original. They can also serve to show you how far you’ve come. Or, in these moments of doubt, they can remind you that you are indeed a Writer.

Value your work. We all have a certain amount of “crap” we churn out. No one writes gold every time. Recognize that even crap has its place and purpose. Even if it’s all you’re churning out, it’s work and is worthy of respect.

Never allow the Writer-you to get complacent. Keep learning about aspects of the craft. Challenge yourself. Branch into a new genre. When people ask what you do, answer “I’m a writer” and if you have another job, add “I also write” after your occupation. Maybe eventually you’ll capitalize that W.

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