How (Really) to Work Like a Writer

Hi, it’s Margaret here, over from Steam Trains and Ghosts. I’m doing a guest post today on the writerly life.

So there was this amusing blog post the other day about writers’ poor working habits. Okay, so the post’s just a joke about some clichés of the writerly life, but it contains some pretty good advice on how to be a professional writer. Just make sure to do the exact opposite of what it says.

Here’s how you should really work like a writer:

1. You ain’t no tortured genius. No, really, you’re not. If you think you are and the rest of the world just doesn’t understand, you’re just pitching a hissy fit. No.

My point is not to insult every single person who reads this blog. The corollary to #1 is:

2. You are not a tortured genius. What you are is you’re the proprietor of a small business. And all the responsibility that that entails. You’ve got to find the work, maintain relationships with clients, and if your work starts to sell, you’ll have to pay estimated quarterly taxes. Sit down and write something or else you will have nothing to sell.

3. Small businesses are massively unprofitable to start out with. Being a professional writer takes patience. Lots of it. I’m not exactly a big-name writer, but I’ve got data on my own experience, so I’ll share it here. I’ve been writing seriously for about 13 years, and in that time, I’ve earned about $300 for it. The vast majority of that was from the past year. You’ll spend most of your first years writing getting good at it, then you’ll start to earn money.

4. Be professional. Because it’s a business. This is the age of the Internet. If you submit a short story to an e-zine and then badmouth the editor behind his back, he will find out. And will that e-zine ever want to buy from you again?

5. There’s still no guarantee of success. Though being persistent and being good at writing sure help.

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