I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what to tell younger writers and artists about the writing life.
My older daughter, for instance, is 19 years old, which is older than I was when I first started submitting things to magazines. She’s more aware of the flaws in her work than I was, perhaps too aware. She doesn’t feel that she’s ready to submit things to pro markets. I don’t want her to delay the process too much, no matter how anxious she may be about submitting her work somewhere. Maybe it’s a cliche, but you really do develop a tougher skin from getting rejections and critiques.
The writing world is a vastly different place than it was when I first began writing. Everything was paper– no electronic submissions or electronic markets. Networking was something you did at conventions. Mostly, you sat at your typewriter and wrote and then, once in a while, you’d send something off to a market once you made a fairly flawless draft of it. No spellcheck, no grammar flags, just you and a bottle of Liquid paper. Your major marketing move was to find an agent.
Now, everyone is in love with the idea of marketing, of building your brand, and of making word-of-mouth sales. There are a nearly infinite number of markets, blogs to follow, people to link to, and how-to sources.
I’m not sure how I feel about that.
Mostly, I feel that it takes something away from the writing process itself. You can’t put everything into marketing AND writing. There is only so much of a person to go around.
I think my main advice to any young writer would be to write and write often. Daily, preferably. I know that I didn’t used to believe in that– I used to think that writing was something you only did when inspired. What can I say, I was young and untutored. Now, I know that writing is a craft, not divine inspiration, and crafts must be honed with frequent practice.
As far as shameless self promotion? I’m working on learning that craft myself! I want readers for many more reasons than just driving traffic up and making money. I’ve had a lot of fun over the years with my blogs. I love discussions, I love challenging topics, and I love building friendships with people online. I’d much rather have a great comment from someone than 2 cents for a click on a link!!!
Maybe the younger generation of writers will adjust to the whirlwind of marketing more easily than us middle-aged old fogies. I suspect that, like me, a lot of them are introverts! That makes it doubly hard to build all those networks and connections and revenue streams. We just want to go hide on the sofa with a book. 🙂 But it IS important to make writer friends. And it IS important to let people know that you’re out there. And it DOES require marketing.
(Maybe you should marry or partner with an extrovert? Just maybe. 😉 )
But the writing has to come first. Don’t forget that, if you’re an old writer or a new one. Write more, write better, and the rest will come.
Oh, and read this a few times.