On Being a Writer

Spilled Ink Issue 81 Jul, 2010

So you’re thinking of being a writer? Do you have what it takes? Being a writer is not easy. Making a living at it is hard, here in Nepal or anywhere else. Don’t believe it when your friends say “Hey! That’s great! Writing’s easy. You’ll get rich!” They’re wrong. It’s not easy, and getting rich is a dream only a few achieve. If you are good at it and have perseverance you might make a modest living. Maybe. Having the fortitude and patience to write for a living takes a certain personality type as well as time (lots of time), effort (lots of effort) and practice (lots of practice). Think realistically, and creatively, and consider the following.

If you write for a living, you must already have some of the talent and dedication that it takes. But, are you emotionally fit for the stress that writing creates? Stress comes from meeting those crucial deadlines, rewriting and rewriting, finishing what you’ve started, avoiding writer’s block, dealing with an impossibly demanding editor, coming up over and over again with creative and unique ideas that sell, finding the time (in your otherwise busy schedule), then getting paid for your efforts.

To succeed at this profession, you need certain attributes, including the ability to write  well and a ‘can do/carry on’ attitude and patience, lots of

In a recent article online in the Worldwide Freelance Writer, author/writer Shane Dayton lists seven tips to consider as a writer. He begins by noting that “The problem for some writers is knowing what to be and when. You need to have various mindsets necessary for you to succeed as a writer.” Here’s my thoughts about four of his tips (they’re all at www.worldwidefreelance.com, v.9, no.12, archives).

  • Grow a thick skin (as the saying goes). Your employers, friends and family members may question and even ridicule you when you announce that you want to be a writer. Ignore it. Don’t take it seriously. Set realistic goals, then move on to meet them.
  • Loneliness. Writing is a solitary

endeavor; only you can do it. It is helpful, however, if you can share your ambitions and dreams with like-minded friends. You can join a writer’s club where you live, or an online writer’s group in cyberspace. (When I googled ‘writer + group OR club OR association’ I got 22,000,000 hits! There are lots of writer’s groups out there. Many of them are online.)

  • Civility and politeness. Cultivate good manners. Say please and thank you a lot. Make your editor like your writing, and you personally. It’ll do

wonders for your ego, to word-smithing and to sales.

  • Self-confidence. Without this you’re in trouble. With it, you’ll smile often. Keep yourself sharp and aware and on top of it, but don’t be egotistical, and don’t overdue it. Being self-assured, poised and comfortable with yourself and your writing is one thing, but remain open minded. Be prepared to learn new skills and to take advice and suggestions

(especially from editors and other writers). Practice keeping a writing schedule and sticking to it. Write every day, and you’ll be surprised how well you feel about yourself and your writing as time goes by. Can do! Garnu sakcha!

And remember, while it is hard work it’s also lotsa fun. Why else do we do it?
Good writing.

Don Messerschmidt can be contacted at don.editor@gmail.com.Sushma Joshi can be contacted at sushma@alumni.brown.edu.