The Footings on Which You Can Build That Life
(Illustration by Marie Guillot)
When carpenters build a home they start the foundation with the footings. These concrete pathways help to spread the weight of the home from the foundation walls to the surrounding soil. So too when you build the life of a writer, you need to put three particular types of footings in place in your life to spread the weight of this new endeavor so that you will be successful.
Perhaps when you think of what it might be like to live the life of a writer, someone like Dennison Berwick who travels the world in his 32 foot yacht home that he calls the Kuan Yin. He sails around the world, writes about his journeys and uses his blog and website to promote his books. Perhaps the glamour of that life appeals to you too with its: notoriety, freedom to travel at will, maintaining a sharp brain through old-age, and the joy inherent in living a creative life.
This article deals gives an overview of what we find when we ask, "What builds a good foundation for writing?" Three main ideas surface:
1) the disciplines that give you strength,
2) the need for flexibility in a number of areas,
3) the daily grind.
First, there are several disciplines you need to adopt: reading, practice and organization. In order to write well you have to read a lot, almost everyone who has ever written on writing agrees to that. But in today's web-based world it also makes sense that what you read covers a wide variety of content areas as your readers are likely to be well read with a variety of interests. All the researchers who have studied mastery of an art, whether it be at playing chess, painting, etc., agree that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become really good at something. Therefore constant practice is a must. 10,000 hours is equal to three hours a day, 365 days a year, for 10 years. Writing is a very competitive field, although with web-based publishing it is now much easier to break into than it used to be. Nevertheless, only those who have been willing to put in those 10,000 hours will likely rise to the top. Lastly, you need to be able to organize your thoughts in order to be a good writer. A lot of this goes on at subconscious level. As you interview, research your topic, take pictures, etc. in preparation for your writing your subconscious mind will help you sort and to classify so that when you put it all together in an article it makes sense.
Second, the message is clear: if you don't have a lot of flexibility in your life or your personality don't try to be a full-time writer. The first thing you need to be flexible about is your source of income - it is necessary that you should not try to support yourself on your writing as you begin. You also need to be flexible about what you write, remember you are writing for a public and also for your editor. A lot of other people will have their fingers in your finished products. The final flexibility that you need is with your self. If you only hold yourself to the highest standards, you'll always be somewhat frustrated, or not high enough, and your work may be sloppy or not progress in skill. There will be some days you write well, and some days when everything disappoints. Be kind to yourself and know these are just part of the process.
Finally, you have to be willing to take writing on as "the daily grind." With self-publishing writing has become a multifaceted business. As with any business there are options, and each will have a financial outcome attached. Recently it has become evident that many authors are making more money on Amazon with Kindle, than they used to make with royalties and publishers. The world of writing and the world of publishing are so closely connected that in today's environment you need to be willing to do both.
So how does all of this add up to the life of writer? If you work it properly, as you keep your mind-set on the lifestyle you want to live, you may just end up like Dennison Berwick. On the other hand, and equally delightful in many ways, you may end up with a hobby that will delight you throughout the rest of your life. Wherever you go, or what path you follow, you'll use that flexibility, background and strong habits that you develop now to carry you through.