by Dame Devon
Every once in a while someone says something that makes me step back and take a look at my job from a different perspective.
This weekend was one of those somethings. I was offered the opportunity to drive to Seattle and take part in a video interview for Project Paranormal, a series of interviews with urban fantasy and paranormal romance writers, editors, art directors, critique partners, and readers featured on my US publisher, Penguin’s web page.
I’ve never been in front of a camera before. When my editor asked if I would do it, I wasn’t sure if I should say yes or no.
At the most basic and certainly most important level, writers write. When people ask me what I do for a living, I answer with a verb: “I write.” I suppose there are other jobs that are verbs, but mostly I don’t hear, “I nurse” or “I litigate” or “I service customers.”
So yes, writers write. But the business of being a writer, especially (but not exclusively) a published writer, takes a variety of skills other than just writing.
Off the top of my head, here is part of what I, personally mean by, “I write.”
1. I create a concept and story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. I people that story with interesting, genuine and/or realistic sounding, acting, feeling people, who are working to the best of their abilities and being challenged by genuine and/or realistic sounding, acting, feeling difficulties and conflicts. I do this to specific word lengths, over and over again, always striving to do it better each time.
2. I (hopefully) write said story in nifty ways using nothing but words, white space, and an intuitive ear for the music that page and eye can convey to heart and mind.
3. I look at writing as a marketable good and wear a business hat just as well and as often as I wear a creative hat.
4. I write business letters, business emails, queries, synopsis, outlines, and cover letters. I send my stuff out there, even when it seems like no is the only answer I get back.
5. I seek out agents, editors, publishers, teachers, critique partners, writing groups, writing friends, industry publications, interviews, and classes. I listen to those walking paths similar to my own, and those who have done things I’ve never dreamed of doing.
6. I use the available social online media, such as web pages, Facebook, Twitter, blogs.
7. I run contests, write newsletters, answer interview questions via email and in person, do book signings, throw launch parties, speak on panels, critique, beta read, create logos and swag, work graphic programs, word processing programs, and handle the money, time, resources, and taxes of running my writing business.
8. I rewrite, edit, revise, and copy edit on deadline. I listen to editorial input and know when to push my ego aside, and when to stand up for critical story elements.
And most recently, when my editor asked me if I’d be willing to drive up to Seattle and be interviewed on camera, I had to think it over.
This was, after all, something I didn’t think I was very good at. Something that would be new, uncertain, possibly a huge public failure. I’m a shy person at heart and interviewing on camera is way outside my comfort zone.
Of course, I said yes.
I am so glad I did! I had a great time. The filming crew were incredibly nice and professional and just darn good at what they did.
After it was over, and I could only remember half of what I had said, I had an epiphany.
Besides sheer determination, the other important quality a writer needs is the ability–no, the drive–to find joy in learning new things. Not just things like a pretty new phrase, or interesting new market. Things outside their personal comfort zone like blogging, or critiquing, or public speaking. Things like how to sit still for a make-up artist, how to wear shoes that make you feel confident even though they won’t be in the shot, and how to speak from your heart when the dial-tone buzz of stage fright is filling your head.
So now I have another thing to add to my list:
9. I risk, fail, succeed, learn, experience, pick myself up, and try again every day, joyfully.
Because I write.
What unexpected thing do you do for your job/life that you don’t think people know about? What have you done recently that was outside your comfort zone?