Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Writer Wednesday - How To Establish Your Writer's Identity

So you’re a writer. You’ve scribbled since childhood, you’ve gained a few bylines, and now you’re serious about writing but no one else cares. It’s vital to establish yourself as a writer in both self and community image and it’s not as difficult as it seems.

First, believe that you’re a writer. Whether you’re writing fulltime or writing when you can, it’s important to believe in yourself. Remember that a writer writes so do so as often as possible. Set up a daily time for writing and set goals. Try to write a specific number of words or pages per day or each week. Don’t stop with just writing – submit your work. The more credits you gain, the more solid your foundation as a writer becomes.

Next, spread the word. Many new writers are bashful about telling others that they write. Don’t be. When asked about your occupation, mention the day job but add the fact that you’re also a writer. The obvious question many people will ask is “Well, what have you written?” so answer it with the truth. If you have a few clips, mention them and if you’re working on your version of the Great American Novel, say so.

Seek out other writers. Look for writers clubs or groups in your area and attend a meeting. If no groups exist, consider starting one. Find a meeting place – such as the local library, college campus, or bookstore – and get permission to hold the first meeting. Spread the word far and wide. If you have enough clips, look for professional writers groups and join. Whenever possible, attend writers’ workshops and conferences close to home. These meetings can provide a wealth of information as well as contacts that may help market your work.

Establish your space. If you lack a spare room to convert into an office, set aside an alcove or corner of another room as a writing place.

Be professional. Whether or not you’re earning any money isn’t the issue – writers at all levels should be professional. Follow guidelines, obey industry standards, have perfect grammar and spelling. Any submissions should be the best you can produce.

Protect your writing time. That means don’t allow relatives, friends, neighbors, or others to interrupt that precious creative period. Explain that you write for that hour or block of time. Stay-at-home parents who write should establish boundaries. When the PTO calls to ask for volunteers, don’t be afraid to say no if the suggested activity covers up writing time. Never let others browbeat you into donating time because they think you have huge amounts of idle time to fill.

Gather the tools of the trade. A good, working computer with up to date software is vital today. Make sure you have an excellent printer that produces clean, clear copy. Invest in writers marketing guides, how-to-books, and other research materials. Don’t forget a good dictionary and Thesaurus can be a writer’s best friend. If grammar skills need brushing up, pick up a used grammar book and keep it close.

One of the best ways to establish an identity as a writer is to find a local or regional writing gig. Don’t be shy about approaching newspapers in your community about writing a column or book review or freelance articles on a regular basis. The more people who see a byline with your name, the more people know you are a writer.

If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, then you must be serious about the craft. If you view yourself as a professional, the image will project to others and you will gain the recognition and respect that fuel self-esteem. A solid attitude and firm belief that you are a writer can help ease the sting of rejections as well as encourage you to continue to strive toward the ultimate goal of becoming a successful writer!
This originally appeared at Absolute Write in 2006 with my byline, Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

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