October 18, 2017
When my son was in elementary school he teamed up with my sister, Carla, to give me one of the most thoughtful and best Mother’s Day gift ever: the gift of time.
He offered his gift with a flourish, noting the framed, hand-drawn picture of a clock represented 12 hours of babysitting service. I hooped and hollered like someone who’d just won one million dollars.
Most writers would agree having time to write is worthy of such an over-the-top response.
Writing is time-intensive, and time-sensitive. We need time to brainstorm, write, revise, and market our writing. This is true for part- and full-time scribes, as well as newbie, experienced, and freelance writers.
Staff writers also need time to hone skills – or stretch their creativity. Albeit, staff writers rarely have the luxury of some of the gifts described below because of the demands of churning out copy quickly and consistently. I get that. Yet, if you’re a staff writer, don’t discount your need for them. Also, if you hire staff writers, know they’d love to receive one or more gifts of time – occasionally.
Every writer needs the following 5 time-related gifts.
1. Time to improve basic writing skills. If you want to write well, study to improve basic writing skills. A tip I shared on an online group: If you struggle with grammar and/or other writing mechanics, consider using a kids’ language arts workbook. Really!
Consider a print workbook for kids in grades 4-6. Most basic language arts skills are taught – and or/mastered – in those grades. And, related workbooks usually boast easy-to-understand vocabulary and instructions. Some workbooks focus on one area, like grammar, punctuation, or capitalization. Others cover multiple areas. Choose ones that best address your specific challenges. Buy them in bookstores, or directly from publishers’ websites. And don’t be embarrassed by the thought of using a kids’ workbook. If anyone asks, just tell him/her you’re working on your writing dreams.
2. Time to study writing. After you improve basic skills, keep growing. Learn genre-related techniques. Use print, video, and audio resources. Take workshops, and classes. You may want to pursue a degree in writing – or just take a course or two at a community college. Those are more affordable than courses at four-year institutions. Choose those taught by instructors who have recent credits in the subject area.
Why is that important? The marketplace has dramatically changed, and opportunities abound. You’ll want to know that an instructor is open to change, and willing to cheerlead students’ non-traditional forms. For example, novel-in- verse (or “verse novel”) is an exciting genre worth exploration. Having an instructor who thinks the genre is not viable could undermine your creativity. Having one who is a published novel-in-verse author could help you better understand this fascinating genre’s nuances.
3. Time to connect with other writers. Connect with other writers for information, inspiration, and fun. Also, network with those who can best understand your passion for a certain genre, or readership. Write romance? Connect with other scribes who write romantic short stories or novels. Write poetry? Connect with other poets, and spoken word artists. Write speculative fiction? Link up with others who love the genre. Write biographies for kids? Connect with other kids’ writers penning similar nonfiction projects.
Tip: Also connect with writers within your age group. We can learn from writers – and should hang out with – writers of all ages. But this is especially important for writers who may believe – or have been erroneously told – that they are too young or too old to fulfill writing dreams.
4. Time to freely vent. Often we restrain ourselves because we think venting harms our family, friends, or other writers. Not so! Venting frees creativity. It may also spark solutions to thorny issues. For example, venting about a rejection will reveal: 1) rejections are rarely personal; 2) even multi-published writers receive rejections; and, 3) other markets exist for your work.
Don’t be afraid to vent, and be a safe harbor for other venting scribes. Tip: vent professionally. Is that possible? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But…don’t ever vent to readers, including on online groups, about their opinion of your prose. Don’t vent to a publishing professional about his/her response to your work. Nine times out of ten those two actions will tank your chances at publication, sometimes for years.
5. Time to succeed. This is huge. Sometimes that includes time to fail, regain confidence, and start over! Over the years, in my roles as a writer’s conference speaker, mentor, online group moderator, former publisher of an online magazine for writers, and more, I’ve connected with hundreds of writers who have shared heart-wrenching stories of their need for time to be successful. Often times, family dynamics pressure writers to give up writing when efforts do not yield money or publication. When writers do not “make it big” as defined by someone else, they are placed on unrealistic deadlines to produce – or abandon the craft.
First, keep writing.
Second, help relatives separate fact from fiction; writing success does not mirror that glamorized in movies and books.
Third, if your family needs extra money, help earn some. A no brainer, but you might be surprised by the number of writers who refuse to get a job because they think their craft will suffer, but do not know their craft is causing angst. Don’t let money concerns bankrupt your family’s emotional or financial resources. Options? Pursue non-writing opportunities that bring in extra income, write for markets that may not be dream gigs but are viable for earning cash, and/or spend little or no money on writing-related products or activities for a season.
Receiving…and Giving Time
Again, every writer needs these time-related gifts. Chances are you can add others you need. For example, as a Christian writer – as with other spiritual writers – I also need time to pray, meditate, study religious material, fellowship, and receive divine direction.
Why don’t we receive some of these gifts?
Many times it’s because people don’t know we need them. As with other areas of interpersonal communications, don’t expect people to read your mind. Talk about you need, and share what receiving these gifts would mean to you, and your craft.
Plus, be generous. Give these gifts to other writers.
Ironically, many writers fail in this area.
We want time to fail, but scoff when other writers fail. We want time to succeed, but criticize other scribes who take longer roads to publication.
Dare to be different. Support other scribes by proffering time-related gifts, even as you receive them from other people.
Lisa A. Crayton is an award-winning freelance writer, multi-published author, conference speaker…and more. She loves helping writers, and challenging them to achieve their goals and dreams! Connect with her on Facebook.