This summer, I had the opportunity to go snorkeling for the first time. I loved the idea of observing marine life in it’s natural habitat…coral patches, colorful fish, maybe even a sea turtle. Then, it was time to get in the water and put the snorkel mask on. This was the moment of truth, a moment that taught me something about myself that I didn’t know. Like many writers, I took my fear and shaped it into something useful. I hope anyone considering a writing career will find the following tips helpful.
- The unknown can be scary. As a newbie snorkeler, I had a lot of questions. How am I supposed to breathe? What if a current throws me into the corral? Should I be concerned about manta rays, sharks, barracuda? There were many things I didn’t know, but taking the time to do a little research and talking to people who’ve been there done that, helped calm my worry. Starting out as a writer can be scary, too. Tip: Reach out to other more experienced writers who are willing to offer guidance. These days, it’s easy to connect with other writers online. If you’re more comfortable with face to face conversations, check your local library for writers’ groups.
- Be sure you have the right equipment. For snorkeling, this means a mask and fins. At it’s very basic level, this means paper and pen/pencil for a writer. Tip: Don’t let lack of access to a computer stop you from making progress. It’s too easy to make excuses for not writing. Write everyday. No excuses. Chances are you won’t be able to use everything, but that’s not the point. Practice makes perfect, or in the case of a writer, words on the page that can be revised and tweaked into something brilliant.
- There are times when you will feel uncomfortable with what’s expected. When snorkeling, you have to put on a mask that blocks airflow to your nose and forces you to breathe with your mouth using a tube. Sounds easy enough, but it’s not. It feels like suffocation, which for some people is how attending conferences, doing book signings, self-promotion may feel. Tip: Remember everything will be okay. It’s important to network with writers, readers, bloggers. This goes beyond creating a fan base for your work. It’s about connecting with other like minded people who share your passion for books. It’s weaving together a net of people whom you can cheer on and who will uplift you during the ups and downs of a writing career.
- You might not get it right the first time. After jumping in the water and moving away from the boat, it was time to snorkel up. While struggling to stay afloat, I put on the mask and tried to breathe through the mouthpiece. For whatever reason, I couldn’t manage such a simple task. Self-doubt consumed me: “I’ve made a huge mistake.” “I have no business snorkeling.” “This is too hard.” I seriously thought about doggie paddling back to the boat, but I’m not a quitter. I forced myself to calm down, took it one breath at a time. Then, it was time for the last step. Tip: Writing a novel is hard. You’re not gonna get it right the first, second, third time… Don’t let that make you think you have no business being a writer. It just means you need more practice. Write more. Read more. Write more. You’ll eventually get it right.
- You have to commit 100%. I’m not gonna lie, when it came time to stick my face in the water, I panicked. Like I said, the idea of snorkeling sounded fun. Putting it into practice was harder than I expected. I was floating in the ocean all decked out in my gear. This close to the goal, I refused to give up. I took a deep breath, and stuck my face in the ocean. When I exhaled, the sound reminded me of Darth Vader saying, “Luke, I am your father,” which made me laugh and promptly choke. But I’d stumbled upon a way to cope with my fear. By calling upon my inner Vader, I was able to snorkel. Tip: If you want to write as a career, not a hobby, you have to commit to it. You have to put in the time with your keyboard (or pencil/paper), you should connect with other writers/beta readers who can provide feedback/critiques on your work before you seek publication or an agent, you have to be willing to keep pushing forward no matter what.
What tips do you have for people looking to take writing from a hobby to a profession?