The average lifespan these days, at least in the US, is 78.6 years. Depending on when you officially decided that you either are, or want to be, a writer, as in, a published, professional, and yes, paid author, you have X years left to practice your craft and claim your spot in the long literary line of writers and scribes since the dawn of history. While you do the math on that, I've written this very first official Birgitte's Write Practice blog post to ask you what you need help with the most.
Because, let's face it. No matter what number you come up with as far as "writing years left in me," time's a wastin'!
And I certainly don't want to waste yours. So, without any further ado:
Who Are You?
Before you plunge head-first into the comments section to share your dreams, frustrations, and all those areas of the writing craft you'd like to improve, stop for a moment. A breath, and step back. Who are you, really, as a writer? What is it that innately, instinctively, and irresistibly drives you, makes you leap out of bed in the morning, strums the innermost chords of your soul?
I don't mean what kind of books you write or the genre you're/want to be known for. Nor do I refer to your writer's voice or "brand" (shudder). I'm looking for the soul, the seed, of the writer you are. The heart of your onion. Why you write. What writing means to you on the deepest, most passionate, most irrational level.
You don't need to bare your writer's soul here in public if you don't feel comfortable, but do take this moment for yourself, because it will inform your answers to the next two questions that I am asking you to put into the Comments. It will also help clear the heady fog that all those marketing, promoting, and how-to-everything articles, blogs and videos we've all been drinking like there's no publishing tomorrow, have pumped into our heads.
Where Are You Going?
Notice I didn't ask, "where do you want to go?" That allows the ego to bulldoze right in, and scream things like "New York Times Bestselling Author!" or "A Million eBooks Sold!" or "I'm on Oprah tomorrow! (Mom you're going to watch right?)"
No. I mean, where are you going. This phrase is just lovely because embedded within are multiple flavors of both the present and the future. Where are you going now, at this time in your writing life, at this stage of your writer's journey, and, AND, where are you going in the short-term/long-term future? Icing on the cake: even the ego has a nice little warmed-up chair at this table.
This phrase is your seedling. Nurture it. Lots of water (or coffee, tea or your libation of choice), sunlight (or moonlight if you're a night owl), napkin scribbles, wall doodles, aimless wanderings through parks, beaches, and your neighbor's garden, and other forms of literary fertilizer.
So yes, your answer to this question please do share in the Comments so I can get to know you writer to writer. Or if you'd like to keep it private, never hesitate to email me.
What Do You Need?
Hopefully you haven't skipped straight to this part of the post, because you won't be able to answer this question without pondering the two above. Really. And I don't care that you were reading this in the downward dog position—upside down. Shouldn't be multitasking while reading, tsk tsk!
Knowing who you are as a writer, and where you are going, whether now, tomorrow, or in ten years, will profoundly inform the question of "what you need."
This is the question that will help you distill the oft-conflicting desires, ambitions, and milestones we writers chain ourselves to or allow others to shackle us with, into a crystalline horizon of purpose, passion, and practice. It will help you define the areas you need to work on most, the tools you still lack or talents you need to hone, and just about every aspect of your craft that needs a little more attention, a little more polish. Finally, it will help you determine how to go about getting to where "you're going" without forgetting to enjoy and learn along the journey.
As with the second question, get it all out there in the Comments, or email me.
Having trouble with any of these three questions? Not to worry. There's no quiz (yet). We'll explore these three main boulevards of your writing life together here in these blog posts, be it by foot or a Tesla Model S.
Now before I turn you loose, a few caveats from my end:
A Little Tough Love
That's one thing you can definitely expect from me. As I said above, we writers don't have all of eternity to refine our craft, and praise for praise's sake never propelled the human race forward. So please don't hate me if I'm direct. I'm direct because I care, deeply, about our craft and our industry.
On the other hand, I also don't believe in tearing people apart. Civility and respect are top dogs in my book. (Hey, that kinda sounds like a lot of posting policies....)
If I ask you to tell me how I can help you grow and evolve as a writer, it wouldn't make any sense at all for me to then restrict your responses, now, would it. However I do deem it important to communicate what aspects of literature and writing I would prefer not to cover in my posts, or for which I do not feel qualified to serve in any sort of "expert" capacity. So here they are:
• Romance, horror, and gothic novels. My apologies, but these genres are way out of my realm of expertise. My idea of a romance/horror/gothic novel would probably be a saber-toothed bat decked out in black mini-leathers trying to seduce a giant rippling anaconda (but a really sexy one).
• Grammar and spelling. These are the foundations of proper writing, of course, but unless you're doing an experimental treatise on the psychology of nostalgia written backwards in Old English, it's extremely unlikely we will spend this blog space on these basics of writing.
• Magic marketing formulas. There aren't any, from what I've seen, and heard from fellow authors, so any posts or comments on book marketing shall be tempered with the sword of integrity—and the pen of pragmatism.
Who are you as a writer, where are you going, and what do you need?
Note: The original version of this post was first published on The Write Practice on September 25, 2013.