Friday, September 23, 2011
The Keys to My Success
When I’m at a dinner party or other gathering, inevitably someone will ask me what I do for a living. I tell them I’m a writer and immediately they think of Stephen King or some other celebrity writer. No, I’m not one of those, but I have made a living at freelancing for over 26 years, so I must be doing something right.
There are a dozen keys to my success. Any beginning writer, with a little hard work, can achieve what I’ve done by following them.
1. First and foremost, I meet deadlines. It’s become second nature to me after this long. Editors appreciate a writer who works with them and doesn’t cause them to get behind.
2. I write something new every day. Perhaps its one of my blogs, a book review, an article for a publication, or an article or two for one of my four Web sites. It’s sometimes hard to make enough time to write since I now have to exercise about an hour and a half a day after recent coronary surgery, plus teach writing classes in the evenings.
3. I read as much as I can. The more I read, the better writer I become because I’m influenced by the thoughts and techniques of other writers. But I don’t just read as a reader, I read as a writer, analyzing the text as if I had written it and seeing how I might improve on it.
4. As a writer, I’m constantly making notes. In fact, my desk is flooded with them. Often, I’ve made so many, I lose track. I make To-Do Lists almost daily. If I don’t, I may forget what needs to be done on what piece.
5. Over the years, I’ve learned to mentally record conversations, visual details, sensory stimuli, facts—lots of facts. I also record these facts in copious notes that I prepare for each article and book. Notes for the latter often fill an entire file box.
6. To keep myself organized, I’ve learned to clip and file vital information so I can retrieve it later. This has increased my productivity over the years.
7. Even in this day of e-books and the Internet, I still use my public library from time to time. Some information just hasn’t been digitized. However, I find myself using my local library less and less as technology marches on.
8. And though I love words and their origins, I’m careful not to add vague words, that my readers won’t understand, to my vocabulary. (See my previous blog on $20 words).
9. I love books and my house shows it. There are books in just about every room. As my writing career has advanced, I’ve amassed a small library of perhaps 500 books on both writing, and the subjects I specialize in—Mexico, travel, and antiques.
10. In order to sell my work consistently, I study the markets for it. However, today, it has become a challenge to keep up with writing markets. It used to be easy to spot a trend, but things have changed so much and so fast, that today it’s difficult. And while it’s always my goal to be at the right place at the right time, I don’t always hit the mark.
11. Since I began writing books, I’ve had to learn as much as I could about editing, publishing, and marketing. Being more knowledgeable about all facets of my business, I’m a more effective business person.
12. I take my writing seriously and have made an effort to make my family and friends do likewise. It isn’t just a pastime or a passing fancy. I communicate with my readers and now, through social networking, many of them communicate with me.
These keys are what have made me successful, but they won’t necessarily work for every writer.
And while my name may not be a household word, I’m still successful at what I do.