Professionalism

Widdershins On Red VelvetWe work bloody hard, we Writers. We don’t have a union to guarantee us a livable wage. Almost all of us have ‘day jobs’ to put the roof over our heads and food on the table.

We’re one of the best organised professions, yes, professions, ever. Everything we ever need to know about all aspects of our craft is somewhere in the interwebz, or in the resources section of our local libraries. We, in general, help each other up rather than tear each other down.

… so, when someone makes a comment like this, I get steamed.

Every sunday evening The Writers Chatroom has a regularly scheduled Guest Speaker. Two Sundays ago it was a bloke by the name of John Yamrus who writes poetry. Not that he calls himself a poet. He’d rather be a plumber than a poet.  He finds being called a poet ‘degrading and limiting’.#

# Source – Lisa Hazleton’s Reviews and InterviewsInterview with Writer and poet John Yamrus

 This is the verbatim text of his response to a question I asked that evening in the Chatroom:

4:19 PM [Widdershins] … what is it about the genre/format(poetry) that speaks to you as a means of telling your ‘songs and dances’?

4:20 PM [john yamrus] i think the thing that keeps me going at this (i’ve been publishing for 42 years now) is that i’m still capable of surprising myself. when i can’t do that anymore, when it’s no longer any fun, i’ll take up house painting. done

 4:21 PM [redacted] LOL

 4:21 PM [redacted] house painting sounds fun

4:21 PM [john yamrus] and it’s more honest work, too. done

It was an off-the-cuff remark, intended (I hope) to be funny, and in keeping with the persona he portrays in his interviews. It didn’t do a thing for me, but I thought at the time, ‘What the hey, everyone’s entitled to their opinions’.

They I thought about it some more.

When the Writers Chatroom opens it’s doors twice weekly, an eclectic mix of writers gather. All sorts of genres are represented, and the writers themselves are at all levels of experience. (there’s also usually a great selection of yummy eatables on a table at the back of the room)

I wondered if someone, standing quietly to one side of the room, or sitting in the very first row scribbling notes furiously, heard that comment and thought to themselves, if someone who’s been in the business that long, and with so many pieces published (do a search of his name and you’ll see what I mean) thinks that his chosen profession is less honest than house painting, then maybe I’m in the wrong business.

I’m not saying we should coddle or lie to ourselves and each other, about how bloody hard this work is. That would be a grave disservice, and no, there aren’t fancy degrees from prestigious universities and colleges that will guarantee us a living wage, but writing is an HONEST, valued, essential, PROFESSION.

Without writers (of poetry, of fiction, of self-help, technical manuals, non-fiction, prose, plays, screenplays, travel guides – I could go on but you get the point) our society wouldn’t function in the manner to which we’ve become accustomed.

For those of you who have doubts, or feel vaguely guilty that you don’t have a day ‘real’  job, or steal minutes away from other demands on you time because you MUST write, do not let anyone (including those pernicious inner voices) convince you that you are somehow ‘less than’ because you’ve chosen to join the HONOURABLE PROFESSION of WRITER.

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“It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it”  – Anais Nin – 1903-1977

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“Some critics will write ‘Maya Angelou is a natural writer ‘– which is right after being a natural heart surgeon” Maya Angelou

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Yesterday’s Book

Frog# Jennifer posted this … about reading the ARCs## of her soon to be published stories and asking herself,

‘What is odd, is every once in a while I stopped and said “Is that what he said?” or “Did I write that?” or “Wait.  That makes absolutely no sense.”

  … to which I commented that I also had that feeling when I read the ARC of Mortal Instinct’. (hereafter known as M.I.)

We aren’t the same writers we were a year ago, or sometimes, even a few months ago. We evolve, learn new skills, hone the one’s we’ve so painfully learned, change styles and/or genres. Our belief systems shift, life herself whacks us upside the head, we fall in/out of love, people die, time passes.

We are not the same.

The writer that I’d been while I wrote and edited (and edited, and edited) M.I. wasn’t who I was by the time I read the ARC. (and not who I am now)

I chose not to read M.I. (after it was published) until an unspecified passage of time had passed. Otherwise, all I’d see would be the imperfections my twisted and over-exposed editorial eye refused to ignore.

This weekend I was ready to read it as a story about a handful of slightly-more-than-ordinary women who embark on a series of extraordinary adventures to save the mortal realms from extinction.

Every now and then the Evil Editor rears her revisionist head, but that’s what big sticks are for!

I’m enjoying my story. It’s not the book I would’ve written today, but I’m very proud of the book I wrote yesterday.

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“The clock talked loud. I threw it away, it scared me what it talked” Tillie Olsen, 1912-2007 – feminist, writer, activist.

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 # Frog – Friends on Blogs

## ARC – Author Reader/Reviewer Copy – The final version of your book before it’s published. (this is the version that is sent back to the author to torture them, and out to reviewers the world over!)

Writing is a Business

I first wrote about this concept here, wherein I detailed my thought process with ‘Self’. I usually call myself, ‘Self.’ An odd quirk I know, I blame Bette Midler, who could out-burlesque anyone, and I’m sure was Sophie Tucker in a previous life. However, and be-that-as-it-may …

Back to ‘business’ …

Never forget that ‘Writer’ is a profession, a business … (Someone who writes for their own pleasure, or processing, with the clear intent that no-one else, except perhaps a pillow-partner will ever get to read, is whole ‘nuther kettle of kittens ) . .. and it behooves us to treat our profession, our business, with the respect it deserves.

Looking at it from this perspective, we create our product, we market it, and we sell it, whilst at the same time creating more product. We do this ethically and hopefully, efficiently.

There must be some crossover between our professional personas and our personal ones. It’s human nature. A broad line in the sand if you will, that allows us to engage with our readership empathically, BUT, and I typed that in capitals deliberately, but, the moment we lose our ‘writer’ sense in any interaction, in any media, then we are socialising, and not operating our business.

This isn’t a bad thing, and sometimes socialising will lead us back into ‘business’ mode, but that distinction needs to remain clear – if nowhere else than in our own minds – for us to be effective businessfolk in these modern times.

As any business critter will tell you, the only way to succeed is to have a product. No product, no sale. It’s that simple. Our products are these strange hieroglyphs we create, that  put together, form concepts, ideas, plots, information, stories.

That’s only step 1. Step 2 is how these hieroglyphs are packaged, because, that same business critter will also tell you that your product ain’t worth a damn unless your market sees it. And that’s called a marketing plan.

Hands up anyone who’s overwhelmed? Running your own business, usually a one-woman or man show, is just about the hardest thing there is. It doesn’t matter if you succeed or fail, it’s just as hard.

I feel overwhelmed quite often. I stare at my computer and ask myself what the bloody hell do I do next? Sometimes I walk, or bicycle, away, sometimes pick the next item on my (never-ending) list and take care of it. Sometimes I write a blog post about how I’m feeling, and sometimes I get back to that one basic premise; product.

Writers gotta write!

P.S. A sense of humour is mandatory in all circumstances.

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“Putting a little time aside for clean fun and good humor is very necessary to relieve the tensions of our time” Hattie McDaniel

 

And now … the One and Only …. Miss Bette Midler!!!