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So You Want to Be a Writer?

So let me hear you out, you want to be a writer? Cool, we could possibly be tribe! I’m talking howling at the moon, libations, and an intrinsic understanding. Soon, the reveries will begin! But before we become full on blood brothers and sisters and drink from the same glass, I have a few questions for you.

First of all, why do you want to write? Feels basic enough but sometimes the simplest of questions can have a puzzle box of answers. The reason I write is because I really don’t have a choice. Expression, vision, and wordplay via that crucial tool of human communication is as much a part of me as breathing, eating, and saying “I’m sorry” too many times. It’s downright primal. Like most inborn feelings, it hasn’t made my life any easier. Sometimes, quite the opposite! But has it made life more interesting and even rewarding on a deeper level? You’d better believe it.

If your answer is tied to such subterranean critters like fame, attention, ego, or especially money, then boy howdy, you’re in the wrong land, field, county and country! Fame, attention, and ego are all factors that detract from the very thing you are trying to do, which is writing. The work not only has to come first but should come first. If the writing is good, then you can sail. Even famous writers whose real-life personalities or personas were the center of their work still made sure that the writing itself was tops. (At least the good ones did!) But if you want the focus to be on you for pure attentions-sake, don’t be a writer. Be an Instagram model, a social media “influencer,” or a reality TV show contestant, but stay away from the arts at large.

As for the money, let’s just say that for every person who has been able to get a whole lot of coin for their work, there are hundreds who are scraping by and thousands who can barely get picked out of the slush pile. It’s not the prettiest reality but it is the deck of cards we have to play with. Think of it less of a deterrent and more of a “holy cats, I better hustle” motivator.

Secondly, you have decided that writing is what you want to do professionally. Excellent! Isolate the markets you want to write for. Check out their submission guidelines and follow them to an absolute tee. If you don’t? They are not going to read it. Be tenacious but respectful. Don’t give up but also do not bug them. Would you want a stranger contacting you all the frigging time? Probably not.

One truth about the submission process that can be supremely vexing is that sometimes you will get an automatic generated rejection message if you get a notice at all. I have had several instances of both and yes, it sucks. I can handle someone not liking my work, but it is nice to know if the person even tried to read it. But what can you do? Pick yourself up and submit elsewhere.

Thirdly, do not give up. Ever. It’s okay to think about it because it is tough and honestly, I think most professional writers have had those dark moments of doubt and worry. But that said, if you want this, you really truly want this, then you are going to weather numerous rejections, dodgy editors, nasty comments, and long stretches of silence. Is it maddening? Yes, but to quote Bruce Cockburn, nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight. At the end of the day, the only writer you are in true competition with is yourself. If your work is tight, then why worry about anyone else’s hustle? Keep your eye on your own prize.

For those of you who are already in the trenches, you are my hero. Writing is one of those arts that sounds fun or even romantic on paper. This is hard and lonely work. Sticking with it is one of the many things that separates the inactive dreamers and the firebrand warriors of action. All of you who have weathered the rejections, endured comments from friends or loved ones of the, “So when are your going to be published in a REAL magazine or by a big publisher, etc etc?” variety, and even thought about giving it up but yet never have, you are my hero. This world is not built for us, which is why we are going to grab that machete and blowtorch and forge our own paths.

Now, if you’re still feeling it in your heart, mind, and guts, then I say let’s go and shake some action! Life is too short to let your dreams lay dormant.

About Heather Drain

Heather Drain is a fringe culture writer who has written for Dangerous Minds, Video Watchdog, Lunchmeat and Cashiers du Cinemart. She has also been a contributor to The Rialto Report, The Projection Booth, Paracinema, Cinema Head Cheese and, on occasion, as a guest writer at both Rupert Pupkin Speaks and Turner Classic's Movie Morlocks blog. Heather currently writes for Art Decades as well as her own site, Mondo Heather, and is the Music & Culture Editor at Diabolique Magazine.

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