The Three Steps to Becoming a Professional Writer
As a career, writing can’t function outside a community. It’s a weird thing: you do it in isolation, because it has to be done in isolation. The work doesn’t happen without a good deal of alone time. At the same time, you SUCCEED at it because of the village rooting for you. The work, once done, needs getting in front of your tribe’s eyeballs or the endeavor falls apart.
There are three basic stages necessary to moving your writing career from a thing you do just because and your passion turned career.
(Disclaimer: this blog is a gross oversimplification. I’m writing it specifically to address the self-promotional nature of all my media outlets at the moment.)
Stage One: Awareness That You’re Writing
At some point in your life, you will decide that you want to write for a living. Although there are ways to just get a job as a writer with a company and have done, if you want to write stories for money then you need a tribe. If you’re like me, a handful of people knew already that you’d caught the bug. Some of the people in my life knew I was a writer before I committed to it. But if you’re also like me, then most of the people in your life don’t quite get that their awareness of same matters.
An essential stage in your career as a writer goes like this: becoming comfortable with making everyone in the world aware of the fact that you’ve made this decision. It’s a hairbrained decision to make, but you’ve made it. Everyone needs to know.
Because of the momentum thing — to be further explored next. Your tribe is made up of people mostly perfectly happy to know that you’re writing and how it’s going, but at the same time they’re unaware that your most powerful marketing tool is them. The foundation of the next stage in your writing career is making your tribe aware that you’re a writer. No, it’s not a phase. No, it’s not a passing madness. It’s you admitting to your addiction and deciding to turn it into a lifestyle.
The key is education. Your tribe needs to know that it’s only by THEIR help — each of them individually — that the tribe grows.
Stage Two: When People Care
After your tribe has grown aware you’re a writer, the next puzzle is making them care.
The only trick I’ve discovered that works for this is brave honesty. By this I mean saying what I mean, when I mean it, and when I care about it. I think it may be possible to make a career out of being one of those kinds of liars who DON’T tell the truth. If you want to build a tribe of people who’ll stick with you through anything, though, be honest. Be honest about what you like, what you care about, what you’re trying to do. Then, since we’re writers and the HOW also matters, tell your truth in the way that’s most honest too.
For me, that means writing a whole lot of blarney. I tell fairy stories, because that seems the best way for me to tell my truth.
That’s one part of getting people to care: tell the truth.
The other part seems to have a lot to do with telling the truth consistently and where people can see it. In this age of excessive content, attention is currency. A few obstacles between your stories and your tribe is too many.
If, though, you have a handful of people AWARE that you’re writing, and then you consistently put things in front of them that add value to their lives somehow, the idea is they’ll start building a habit. They’ll see you’re serious — they’ll see your value — and they’ll begin to care.
That’s the idea.
Remember momentum. Because this is the essential point: a few solid relationships is a lot of solid relationships. Your tribe starts somewhere. Several people who care is a lot of people who care. If five people care enough about your writing to tell two more people about your writing, and that pattern continues, your foundation has been set.
So make your tribe aware that if they care enough, they can help you out by telling, like, two people, and that would be amazing.
Stage Three: Anticipation
Your goal ought to be achieving a point where your tribe cares enough to preempt your news. You want to get to a spot where your tribe reaches out to you, to each other, to the ether, and asks when the heck you’re going to be putting stuff out there.
Which is the real purpose of this particular blog. I’m penning it for you to send to your tribe during that first stage in your writing career — when you’re building awareness. A writer’s media outlets can look a little spammy during that first stage, you see. But for a time, while that first momentum is building, a writer needs to create that awareness. A writer needs to inform their tribe that the writing is happening and where to look for it.
It has everything to do with momentum, you see: building momentum in that awareness stage is essential, because while you’re in that stage of your career YOU have to be in charge of building that awareness. Once you’ve reached a certain point of awareness, though, you attain a sort of critical mass. When you get to that point, then your tribe raises awareness for you. At that point, you get to focus on the rest of it.
But you need to raise awareness first.
Do yourself a favor and work on not being shy about telling people you’re a writer. For a while, it might feel a little spammy and a little pointless to be always telling people, “Hey, my blog is updated!” or “Hey, check out my book!”
Thing is, if you don’t tell them, who will?
The answer to that is: your tribe will. But first you need to build your tribe.
Hey, tribe. Only you can help me make it as a writer. It takes a village.