All writers go through phases.
I have seen articles along my cyber travels about the process of becoming a writer, it's one thing to read about these growth phases, but it's quite another to understand them because you lived them. These phases are not meant as a put down, only an illustration of the process as I've come to experience it, the more experience a writer gets the faster they go through the process and become successful we would all hope. So, the purpose of this post is to laugh together and to know you are not alone.
The phases go something like this:
Writer writes, thinks they are a brilliant writer, but in reality they don't even know what they don't know , they are writing in a fishbowl and clueless to the whole process. ( I will write a future blog to fully explain what writing in a fishbowl is about, but essentially it's a writer who writes about themselves, for themselves, and doesn't take the outside world full of readers into account.) It's during this stage that you'ill hear desperate screams from the writer's den with declarations such as
"Everyone is crazy, they just don't get me!"
No, really they may get you, but you're vague, self-indulgent and dull and are in no way taking the reader into consideration. Most likely they have no idea what you are writing about because they weren't at Aunt Phyllis' house when the jello mold ended up in the begonias, so they don't know the history of the characters, nor the parameters of this whole social power play, and how it all fits together and THAT, my friend, is WHY they don't get your writing. (Yeah, I don't know where that came from either, I just made that up. Anyway, long story short--clarity in your writing is key for the reader having an enjoyable experience which is what writing is all about).
In Phase II, our writer has some experience, they are using grammar well, breaking up their paragraphs and balancing white space on the page quite nicely. The writer at this stage has better reader awareness they write with greater clarity while at the same time honoring the time of the reader by avoiding long winded diatribes, that frankly no one gives a crap about. And so the process starts. The writer is aware that they need to know more about effective writing and they set out on this magical quest to find these precious gems of information.
The writer learns about SEO writing, topics of interest, how to write to categories and add effective tags. In Phase II writers learn about sourcing information, backing up assumptions and opinions with reliable data. They find out that writing is about and that is communicating an idea, and so the writer dives into the process of finding out what it is he/she really wants to say. The writer attends seminars and web chats, reads information from other writers, he/she might take a class at the local community college. And as the writer fills their proverbial tool kit with tips and techniques that have previously been missing, they begin to write interesting prose that other people--people who are not heir dear old granny --are interested to read.
Phase III I can't speak to with that much vigor because I am somewhere between Phase II and III on my writer's journey but, I can speak to what I suspect it is about. Phase III is about. It's about polish, panache, having style. This is developed by taking in the world, listening to language, thinking about another way to say a sentence that has been said so many times before. How can your voice be as fresh and desirable as a virgin at the prom? Yeah, uh, something like that. But how do you say it? That is the next step. Also,marketing and branding. Who are you as a writer? What is your brand? This is something a writer develops. Become an expert and specialize in something. This helps to develop your brand and someone that people seek out as a source. Let your local radio station and television station know you are an expert at that topic and have information ready so that if an opportunity does come along to share your expertise on-air you are prepared to do so. Develop your talent and your network. Read, read and read some more. Read work from successful writers and absorb it. What have they got going that you haven't got yet. Yet. But you will have success as well when you continue to show up at the keyboard everyday and work on your craft. Create your process and work at it long enough and with some luck, things will happen.
As for any of the other Phases, I can't tell you I haven't been there yet. But when I do, I'll be sure to let you know.
I have been having a lot of fun with my writing over the past few days. It's up for debate whether that is a good thing or not but that debate is another blog post all together.
One thing that the past few days did bring up that is of value, I think, as a writer is --drum roll please--branding yourself.
No not burning yourself with a brand that would hurt, or doing something with Russell Brand that may be fun but is not advisable. Creating yourself as a brand. This can be difficult when you like to write in many forms and genres. It can be strength to be able to write this way because you can work in many genres and with many people and that can lead to more freelance work. However, it is also a great detriment when a writer is not able to make any traction in any one genre because their work is too spread out.
Add into that some attention deficit type qualities and what you have going is a hot mess. Because titles are scattered everywhere and the attention is scattered several unrelated subjects this doesn't work well especially in the world of search engines. You see search engines want you to define yourself. The more postings you have with the same word set in it the stronger your presence on the web for that topic is. For example the more I have with writing, writer, blog, author and other similar terms the higher up the web link food chain I go when someone is looking up information about being a writer.
Search engines, fans and publishers are the same. They want experts, people who know about a specific something, they don't usually call on Jacks (or Jills in this case) of all trades. They want to know that you are a sports writer, a romance writer, a poet, a political wonk, an entertainment writer, a fashionista, too much diversity is confusing.
This can be frustrating to people like me who are children at heart, that have never grown up. I am constantly curious and wanting to experiment with different things, I am bored quickly, and move on to something else that I can learn about. So to work at one thing day after day is not fun for me. Some would call it stability I call it tedious.
However, if I don't pick something and stick with it. At least until I am known as a brand, I will be one of the many "Gee I wish I could make some money at this writing gig." type of writers. Frankly, I think the world has enough of those already.
Today is the first day of my professional writing career. Because it is the day that I placed my writing in top priority right after my family being taken care of because that will always be my tippy top priority.
As I began to work on adding links to my Self Empowerment blog and interlinking them I began to think about my body of work. They spoke about this with President Obama in the beginning when he was getting Nobel Peace Prizes and then not getting an honorary award from the Arizona State University because they felt he had not shown a body of work to deem worthy or not at that time. So I started thinking about a body of work and what I would leave behind.
A writer's body of work is her immortality. Watching history channel and watching the dusty scrolls being unrolled by excited scientists we realize the power of the written word. What will I leave in the time capsule for future generations both for strangers and my family? Most of my work is online so who even knows if any of it will be preserved it's not written in stone or anything.
Even that term written in stone challenges my mind. What would I write in stone if I could? What would I want future generations hundreds possibly thousands or hundreds of thousands of years from now to know? I must contemplate that for awhile.
My words would be my immortality. If that were truly the case. They'd better be good!
So my article about whether the Jello Temptations commercial set to scare the crap out of any child thinking about eating mommy and daddy's "adult" dessert is set to break the 300 page view mark! That is my personal best so it feels pretty good. If you want to read it click here.
The great thing about this article in the great scheme of this writer's journey is that I again hit that sweet spot of being in my lane. Doing what I do best. I am finding what that is and it has to do with starting a discussion that facilitates change for the greater good. It's my thing.
The interesting thing about doing your thing I found is this feeling of being perfectly aligned in the Universe. This feeling of energy that everything is just as it should be and as a person I am hitting that perfect place of potential. It doesn't happen often yet when it does, it is a thing of beauty. It is worth trying again the next day.
I imagine this is a feeling that many people feel in their own individual careers and crafts. That moment specific to that experience when all is as it should be and in alignment with the world. It is a universal "potential" the thing we call success.
Success is just being in that zone for as long as possible. As we practice something in life as each individual strives to reach their particular target bulls-eye. The more we can hit it consistently with that which we do. We achieve success. People want the magic formula, they want to take a potion or be bestowed the magic fairy dust from someone who has been there before them. What it is difficult to relay what cannot be told is that the only way to get there is to do it. You don't need anyone's permission, nor can anyone honestly give it to you.
The film Limitless, which I still have yet to see but want to very much, touches on this idea. That even if someone were to place the lightning in your hand the only way to be capable of holding for any length of time is only if you have earned your place. If you have done the time, build the muscles and experience. It takes time to learn the techniques and know what to do with them. That can not be transferred, it can't be stolen, it can't be bought.
Often people covet. They covet true love, they covet material wealth, they covet fame and good fortune. They think they can slide in and take someone's place and have the same result. It doesn't work though. Because there is a magic, a spark, a je ne sais quoi that cannot be duplicated when something is right, it's destiny and meant to be. Only that connection works that way.
Knowing that there is only one perfect fit can cause despair or it can be something to be hopeful for. No one can take what's yours because only you can create it. This is where the saying about you being unique and only you can be you comes in. As humans we appreciate and honor those who are the very best at what they do. The very best at being "them". It's something to think about. So many times we are trying to be really great at being someone else and that is why success is not attained.
I have been doing a lot of shameless self promotion for a competitive scholarship I am trying to win. Normally I would be intimidated by something like this. Not the case this time it is fun. I am really touched by the support of my people. My friends and family the community that supports me. I'm lucky. However there is a lesson in it.
Don't wait for permission, be great anyway!
The lesson is don't wait for someone to validate you. Don't wait for permission to be great. First, of all those who are on top want to stay there and rightfully so. What, are you planning on buying there kids dinner or new clothes when you take the top spot? No of course not, however the people on top are going to want that sweet position and that is natural if you want it to have to work for it and earn it. That way people even if they don't like it respect you for it. Cause damit you earned it. So what can anyone say?
So many writers, so many people are waiting like little bulbs in the soil for someone to make it rain for them so they can be "a chosen one" but it doesn't work like that. You need one of two things to start your success. You need capital money to back you up so you can essentially purchase some love from folks or you need folks. Folks who care what you are up to. That is what gives power to a person Love or Money honey.
For Love or Money
Power given by Love or money translates to business, politics, fame, writing. You name it, the power is given. By the people it's on loan, never permanent. Don't ever take that lightly. No one can give you the people's power. Sure it can be transfered in a way by endorsements yet it's on loan. To have access to it, you earn it, you got it or you don't.
Garbage out, garbage in
Some people attempt to use fear to try to embezzle power from people but that never lasts long. Love that is earned is where its at. So how do you get this Love? You give it. You give it out whether it be by helping folks in your family, your neighborhood, your community or an even larger scale. You say" Sophia what the heck does this have to do with writing? I am a writer. Not a politician or anything else!" Yeah I know. But first you have to know what people care about.
If you put nothing out, nothing will return. If you put garbage out, garbage will return. If you put kindness, generosity and love out into the world. Kindness, generosity and love has a way of finding its way back with dividends.
People have to know how much you care, before they care how much you know.
That lesson above is one of the most important ones I have learned. You need people to care about you. There are plenty of people that talk at us, very few that communicate with us and that makes a big difference. Care about people, be a benefit to them, not a dictator of your will and things tend to work in your favor a lot more. In addition people of right action win respect. Take action about issues you care about. To put it simply getting out there and doing something helps you to have an impact on the world. It is good to know what someone has done before feeling compelled to listen to them. Talk is cheap, actions are not. Some say it makes the world a better place but that is up for debate what it does is make the world more palatable to you. And when we speak honestly that's all we really want right?
Next level stuff
So in this vein my latest project is to go to this blogging convention in June. Man I really want to win this! I don't usually want things but I want this. I really want to go. This is an opportunity for me to hone my craft doing something that is very authentic to who I am and what it feels my mission on this planet is. Seriously. So I have been asking people to vote for me. Luckily I don't have to ask people for money that's still a stumbling block for me but I can ask them to click for me and click they have and I have to tell you its been pretty awesome!
I'd like to thank...
So thanks to those of you who believe in me. I see the path and I am ready to step onto it. I am ready to manifest the best me that I can. Let's do this! I hope you believe in you enough to express the best version of yourself that you can too. If you need permssion here it is "I hereby give you <insert name here> absolute and total control of your destiny. You now have permission to be happy, successful, to manifest your best work and to be rightfully rewarded. By giving the best of yourself to humanity may you get the best reward for that gift." Ok you have permission go forth and rock the world :o)
** Side note**
Please help me win a scholarship to #NN11! Click to vote: http://bit.ly/emS60V
Ok hokey title yet still very important, it is something that I have been thinking about and discovering on this journey from hobby writer to professional writer.
What do you think of when I say writer?
At first I am thinking New York Times Best Seller List, author. People who write are authors. I need to make big money and be one of those! Yet even as I looked into it, which list? There are so many now, non-fiction, fiction, thriller, romance, children's literature? On and on it all comes back to the question anyone who takes on the blank page faces... "What do I write about?"
Time tells all.
Time tells a lot about what a writer can do. With small kids, a family, volunteer work and other various things that need to be done I don't have the brain cells or energy left at the end of the day to create cohesive string of thoughts to create a novel of any sort. Maybe one day.
I like the short bursts of information from blogging and article writing. The beauty of the blog is the ability to just let it go. Let the words flow and see what is there. Articles should have research behind them though I have read some articles where that clearly was not the case. However, to me integrity is so important and as such it is important to put best practices and best work out there. All you have as a writer is your reputation it should be protected with good work.
Journalism is another way to go. To be a journalist you need to be able to be mobile, do research and meet deadlines. This tends to be rather consuming and is good for single young people, or others who are otherwise unattached and have a much shorter list of distractions. There isn't much creativity going on in journalism just observe and report. If you do it well the story is there already you just put it on paper in a way that people might want to read. As opposed to the creative writer whose challenge is to keep it believable. However, other than that a creative writer can construct a completely new reality. I think that is why I am so attracted to the idea of creative writing one day.
The poet plays with words and pushes limits. Poetry done well is magical. However, it is not for the timid or impatient. I can create some poetry in the right mood, consistency is another thing. Patience is something I have little of and so I blog. That is my favorite method. Short and sweet, reality-based with some latitude of creativity. Not too much of a fact check extravaganza of course I do my best to be genuine and speak from the heart it's what I am most comfortable with.
A timeless truth and no less true in writing. Know thyself. What I am doing now on my writer's journey is trying out many kinds of writing styles to answer the question " Where are my strengths?"
Many topics, many styles trying them on like a child tries on her mother's clothes. Seeing what works and what doesn't as I take the journey to self discovery as a writer. I really like Julia Cameron's books from her program The Artist's Way to help with this process. I have found benefit from them. Yet I know enough to know ultimately it is a very personal and private experience (though I am sharing it with you).
No one can do the work for you nor tell you what will work for you. Primarily what I find works for me are the topics that get my heart racing. Which unfortunately for me has little to do with celebrity news. Which brings us to the second part of the equation of writing for a living and that is finding something you want to write AND something others want to read. People want to read Cosmopolitan however I can't stop blushing enough to write even a sample article. As my skills improve I may be able to fit in more with the Oprah magazine crowd that plays more to my strengths. However, I feel I need much more practice before that happens. We'll see how it goes. I believe in miracles. :)
Well that's it for today's installment. Children are now going crazy in the other room. Time to put the mom hat back on.
Sophia Tesch is a graduate of the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University. Sophia is a community advocate. She lives in San Tan Valley, Arizona with her husband and children.