Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How To Know When You're A Writer

Conversation during a recent Mini Conference in Denver enlightened me on the various ways my peers deal with friends and family members who scoff at the time they spend writing. To those of us who are pre-published, the term now being used when none of your work has managed to sell, the conversation triggered many questions.

How long do you continue writing before you decide this is just a hobby rather than a profession? What can you do to express your gratitude sufficiently to those closest to you who show their support with their own time, or pay for conferences from the family budget? Who cheerfully drive an hour to drop you off at a meeting point so you can carpool to another writer's conference, and miss your cooking for four days? And how do you know when you really are a writer?

You continue writing forever. It's not a choice. You write because you must. Most authors, even those of us who have never been published, were born telling stories. My parents said they thought my first stories were just lies. Then I got old enough to start putting them on paper, and they realized I never expected to be believed when I strung out intricate stories about what I saw in the park, or my reason for failing to change clothes after school. My stories were simply more interesting than the truth.

This will never be just a hobby. I work too hard at it. Spend too much time perfecting the craft. Music is a hobby. I'm happy just to have fun and entertain with the guitar and accordion. I don't need to be Chet Atkins or Les Paul. I'll never be willing to invest sufficient time in practice to achieve perfection. I'm not sure I'd ever have the talent for it. Knitting and crochet are hobbies. Writing is work. I enjoy it, but it's work I'm passionate about.

To thank my husband for his unflagging support, I plan to spend a couple of hours today cooking. I'll make sure the fridge is stuffed with food choices for him while I'm gone the next four days. The Crested Buttes Writer's Conference will be an exciting learning experience. He shouldn't starve because he wants me to allow me to grow in my career. My words of appreciation aren't enough. Food says it best for John. As soon as I return, we'll celebrate Father's Day together. His gifts are wrapped. His card is signed and waiting for him to open on Sunday morning. He knows how I feel. The good old days are the ones we're sharing now.

How do you know when you're really a writer? Everyone has to answer this question individually. I can gauge my progress as a professional by a quick glimpse at my DVR's Recordings Screen. I have 27 Jeopardy programs awaiting my attention. Seven weeks of 20/20 are ready for me to have time to watch them, along with 19 hours of House, 21 episodes of The Event, 7 Bones, 14 Fringe, and 8 movies. There are other things on there as well, totaling 39 hours.

My "to be read" shelf is stuffed. My dictionary and thesaurus get more action on most days. I used to read a book a day while I was working in corporate America. I read during all the cracks in my day. Every break, and even walking across the building to the printer would see me with a book open, walking and reading at the same time. Now, I'm plotting and thinking.

This weekend I'll have appointments with two agents and an editor. They've read the written pitch for my novel along with my first two manuscript pages, and requested a meeting at the conference. I'm somewhere between levitation and hyperventilation. Yes, I'm excited. Whether or not they're interested enough to sign on as my agent, request the entire manuscript, or even buy the novel, I know one thing with no doubts. I am a writer.


Dean K Miller said...

Yes, we are writers! Too funny... I've got hours of DVR'd stuff that I may never watch. But who cares? It's somebody else's made up stuff. I'm too busy making up my own, good, bad or indifferent. It doesn't matter.

Have a safe, and successful trip. Write on, you are not alone.

John Paul McKinney said...

Kathleen, Great stuff! Yes, I'm a writer, because I have something to say and I put it on paper. I'm smiling as I write this, because I've been told that I've always had something to say, ever since I was a kid. Have a good time at the conference. Learn, write, and enjoy the company of fellow writers. Thanks for the post.
PS Were you able to find the books you were looking for?

Kathleen said...

I was able to find enough information on the internet at my brother's home to give me a fairly good concept on various lengths of synopsis. I did a chapter synopses first, then edited it down to five pages and then three. When I got home I went to the web site for the editor's publishing house and found that they liked 2-3, so I trimmed just a bit from the three pager, made sure it was as perfect as I could make it and submitted that one. I didn't check before we left, since we left directly from the parking lot and I didn't think of it at my brother's home.