Writers don’t need signs telling them that they are writers. If you were offered money to never pen another word, most likely you’d turn that offer down flat. But how can you tell that your creative writing career is picking up speed? Are you on the path to success? Is there a shining moment when you realize, “Aha! I’m now officially a writer”?
Most writers consider themselves as having “made it” when they publish their first piece. Others consider themselves serious writers because they are serious about submitting their work; they submit on a regular basis and have even created a submission tracking system to keep it all straight. (Or they become a client of Writer’s Relief and know their submissions are being handled professionally for them!)
Whatever your definition of success, there are some clear signs that you may be moving into a new phase of your career:
- You’re crossing the great (genre) divide. Not only do you have multiple queries out there for your novel, you’ve published poetry and short prose pieces as well.
- You’re receiving good rejections. Your rejection letters from editors or literary agents contain some nugget of encouragement, a personal note with constructive feedback, or the coveted “Please send more.”
- Your writing has gone viral. You’ve created a significant web presence, a loyal following of readers, and you use social networking sites to promote your work and generate a buzz.
- You’re beginning to win awards and creative writing contests. It might be an essay contest sponsored by the local Rotary Club or the prestigious PEN/Faulkner prize, but people are taking note of your writing.
- You’ve made the decision to keep writing, joyfully, no matter what. Nothing, not even the snarky comments at the last writers group, can deter you from pursuing your craft.
- You are generally not intimidated or annoyed by the business of writing (or, if you are intimidated and annoyed by it, you’ve enlisted other people, like the submission strategists at Writer’s Relief, to help you).
Sometimes there is no specific “breakout” point so much as a realization that, even though you’ve been walking for the last three miles, at some point your feet came off the ground.
Success comes to a writer, as a rule, so gradually that it is always something of a shock to him to look back and realize the heights to which he has climbed. —P.G. Wodehouse
Here are some other telltale signs that you’re a creative writer who is determined to make it:
- You know what NaNoWriMo means.
- Your pockets/purse/car caddy are overflowing with scribbled napkins of dialogue.
- You surreptitiously check out other people’s bookshelves instead of their medicine cabinets.
- You’ve turned the woman down the street into a hit man’s wife in your head/novel, and now you’re scared to walk past her house.
- The “t” and “r” on your keyboard are pretty much toast.
- The people who work at the local bookstore know your name. And you’ve been reprimanded more than once for moving your own books to more prominent locations.
- You’re frequently spotted staring off into the distance with your lips moving and your eyes slightly crossed…
- You find a copy of your paranormal erotic romance novel at the nursing home when you visit Grandma.
- Your work clothes consist of sweatpants and bunny slippers, and your commute is about twenty seconds from coffeepot to computer.
- Your mail carrier gets nervous when he sees you running toward him each afternoon…in sweatpants and bunny slippers.
- You’ve been banned from the local coffee spot for stealing pens and eavesdropping on conversations.
- You find yourself considering copyrighting your emails and Twitter posts.
- Your family members no longer consider your writing to be a “phase.” Best of all, Aunt Judy has finally stopped asking when you’re going to get a real job.
Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. —Stephen King
Whether you’re short-listed for a prestigious literary award or celebrating the fact that you’ve mastered online submission managers, you already know you’re a writer. You’ve got the passion, the need to write. If you’ve put in the time and are constantly working to improve—and publish—your writing, you know your writing career is bound to take off. Perhaps it already has without your noticing.
At Writer’s Relief, we know how hard it is to break out of wannabe status into the world of published authors. If you’re serious and passionate about your writing, we can help get your work into the hands of literary agents and editors who will be most receptive to your work. Give us a call. We want your writing career to take off just as much as you do!
Question: Do you see yourself in any of the above examples? Which ones? What little habits do you have that say “I’m a writer!” (besides writing).
I’m in sweats and bunny slippers at the moment, and my neighbors always stare at me as I walk the dogs, lost in the story in my head. But I’m still welcome at the coffee shop as long as I bring my own pens. 🙂
It was great when my family realized my writing was not a phase. Their support continues to mean so much to me, especially when I’m doing public readings and their lives are exposed in my words.
In the recent past I have been writing poetry for local English language journals. My work appeared more or less regularly, but I lost interest, and started doing “other things”. Lately, I have been picking up on the work of a colleague, through the Net who lives in Northern California and we have been collaborating on poems. I sent a poem to a local journal and they accepted it, The collaborations seem to work for us, though it mostly his work that I take which I submit.
The issue is not that I am less of a poet, or an editor of poetry, but is there a market for collaborations. I do have other poems that have been published, and others “yet to be”, but my experience with editors has been discouraging, which lead me go in other directions.
@Zev: It’s been our experience that editors do shy away from poetry collaborations if only because they don’t quite know what the ramifications are of publishing a poem with two authors.
Aha! I do know what NaNoWriMo means!
A lot of what was written above applies to me especially the part about checking other people’s bookshelves.
Yes! It is heartening to know based on the above signs that I am on my way to writing success. I will get back to my novel now.
Ah! My prodigious eavesdropping at coffee shops has become enough of a problem that I am forced to rotate among many haunts in order to squelch suspicions. I drive ridiculous distances for a cup of coffee and a chair. Thank goodness I live in a large city! 🙂
Tough to write with a 2-year old and a wife who sings all day. Still searching for the muse, or at least a quiet place to finish that masterpiece.
Yes, I check other people’s bookshelves although I won’t bring myself to look in their iPad, Nook, Kindle or other device unless they want to share.
Oh, and when wife isn’t singing she says I’m making excuses.
I have folders that have either chapters, or paragraphs, or research, or just a line stuffed in my file cabinet. My characters conversations are difficult to get on paper because I don’t take shorthand. I have a half written novel on my computer. I’m old school; I pen my work, then type it. I am probably too old to hope for a career as a writer, but I want it enough that I started college this year. I’m a freshman at age 57. My English classes are driving me nuts because they want me to analyze other writers work rather than write my own. Next semester I’m taking a creative writing course!I love to read, but I want to get lost in a book, not analyze it! I live in my imagination whether I’m driving to work or cleaning the house. Now that I have the freedom to go to school I am devising my own degree to develop skills and gain knowledge that will allow me to finally finish that book.Oh and I have a loving husband that thinks I’ve gone totally nuts!
@Barry: Some people find that the most quiet place to write is actually in a closet. I know it doesn’t sound glamorous, but that would be my choice if we didn’t have an extra bedroom. I think that in Stephen King’s early career, he worked in a nook next to the washing machine. Both of these places have the added benefit of built-in noise canceling: some clothes will often still fit in the closet (even with you in there) which dampens noise, and the washing machine puts out a soothing (to me, anyway) woosh, woosh, with the added comfort of knowing you are getting your laundry taken care of.
I am going to be rear-ended one day for stopping to copy the messages on the churches in my town… I want to make them chapters in a murder mystery 😉
I also fantasize that the young missionaries on 10 speeds are gun toting hitmen.
I wouldn’t have it any other way!
It’s also fun when a neighbor sees the following message on your kitchen chalkboard:
Is the neighborhood gossip cut up in pieces or found burned to death in a barn?
Writing in the morning before breakfast, lunch and dinner. Getting up in the middle of the night to finish a manuscript. I live in Florida so my attire is cutoffs, barefoot, tanktop and, perfune, of course.
Was it the mail carrier or was it the woman down the street who told you about my bunny slippers?
As to my work clothes-I don’t like sweatpants very much, and I don’t wear bunny slippers. The rest, as they say, is left to the imagination.
Recently there was a Medicare scandal involving two doctors my husband knew, so I started looking around on the internet at their background and found what I thought was conflicting information. This started me on this investigative quest and will ultimtely be my third or fourth book. My husband and I collaborate…I write and he edits! Sometimes brutally! But if I can take it from him, I figure I can take it from a publisher. 150 pages into our first novel and then to get it published. My book club likes it so far. And yes, I live in sweats and gym socks…no bunny slippers yet. Plus I always have a nice warm golden retriever lying at my feet. She wonders why I cry sometimes when I write!!!
Writing comes absolutely FIRST. First thing in the morning. First thing before other work. I have 10 years backlog of first draft novels and detailed outlines for novels, but have only begun sending things out. This is due to my desire to write as well as the great authors I so admire—and I can tell when the language sings at that level and when it does not. I agonize, spill blood on the page.I understand that most careers are started with short stories. I take longer pieces and cut and cut and cut to extract the short story from it. Finally I am writing short pieces and have even found the ability to write Flash fiction. Being a detail oriented and psychological, descriptive writer, I never dreamed I’d be able to do that.
My Achilles heel is the business side. The writing process demands deep introversion. Marketers are extroverts, performers even. I can do that, but only erratically. The more I write, the less extrovert I am. My job it is to write, to capture the imagination of readers, to find the mysteries that will do that. To present the elements of the genre in new and original ways. This is hard and joyful work.
I have won prizes for poetry so easily, that I was not prepared for the struggle involved in writing long fiction. But I know I am able to capture people.
I have finally had a short story accepted that the editors LOVE. I feel the new stage opening up. But I will ask Writer’s Relief to help me.
By the way, I dress for work, in the Goth Glam attire that makes me feel part of the worlds I create.
Someone please tell me about the “t” and the “r.” I don’t get that one. However, I did try to do NaNoWriMo and that got me started, and now I have my chapter summaries written for another novel. On my To Do list today, is to put all of my scribbled on napkins, notebook papers and Post It notes in one place, on a document. Also, I have found FaceBook to be quite helpful. Friends from journalism school that I have “friended” are my “editing buddies.” One is working in Japan, in Nashville, in Virginia and Ohio, and I haven’t seen them in at least 25 years! I email them some pages and they mark them up and give me constructive criticism. Is there anyone else doing that?
Thanks to everyone for your wonderful comments!
@Alyne, You’re not alone in preferring writing to “the business of writing!” That’s why many of our clients come to us for help. We do everything to manage the submission process (aka the paperwork!). Great comment!
@Kimberly, When you write often, you’ll often break or at least dull the faces of certain letters on your keyboard. 🙂 Good for you for being organized with your critique!
Well, well, well……….I love the fact that I have been able to recognize myself in so many of those aspects listed above……..not to mention that the bunny slippers are not part of my everyday attire (unfortunately). LOL.
But, with often great critism, a writer knows what he/she wantas and goes to get it because the critism pushes them in that direction……and thats where i’ve been for several years now.
And, being in boston, massachusetts……there is a great deal of filmmaking going on…..and I’m glad to be a part of it…….but, are also looking to expand a writers group into something more than just a ‘group’.
1. Am not crossing the genre divide. Poetry is enough. 2. Not rejections so much, but acceptances. And a small part in a chapbook. But not enough time or the organizational skills to keep stuff “out there.” 3. Barnwood published me recently, and when I googled myself I found someone else included my poem in their blog–viral enough for me. 4.Yup. 5. For one thing E. walked out of writer’s group chuckling about “effing palm trees” after we read my “Weather” poem and as to X.’s mean comments: I plan to rub her nose in it when I win a poetry contest with those 2 poems. And I will win. Maybe. Am not particularly joyful–Too much death and suffering in my immediate world, but one learns to tunnel through and to write incessantly anyway. 6. Oh wrong. Can’t get much more annoyed or frustrated–not with the process but with my own ineptness in handling biz. That’s how I arrived at Writer’s Relief’s back door–a homeless beggar scratching for morsels and this sweet encouragement.
It’s good to be here and in such good company. Thank you.
@ Barry: Perhaps the house wren is your muse.
To start with I have felt or dealt with most of the signs, with the ex-
ception of bunny slippers. I have told those who have seen me speaking to myself, that I am not totally crazy, nor do I have money in the bank.
What they are witnessing, is my inmind conversation with a character, of which is either in a story I am currently writing, or one that is pushing themself on me to write their story.
You may find this strange, mostly because of the times inwhich we now live, but I do not have nor do I hope to have any use for the computer,
other than to use it as a typewriter, and to submit my work.Therefore I really don’t see myself ever having a website of my own.
I do not tweet, nor do I write blogs. I would however be honored to work with Writer’s relief.
Hope to hear from you soon.
It’s funny that the one thing with which I could identify was the comment about nobody asking you about your REAL JOB. Seems since I got the acceptance letter I have had lots of “We knew you could do it” “What’s your next project” etc…but not… “Well NOW that That’s out of your system….” if you can imagine. I am happy and proud to be a writer, contract in hand or not…and I look forward to my next few years telling the world how wonderful Romance is!
Some signs that I, myself, am a writer?
1.) I don’t leave the house without a notebook, two pens, and a voice recorder.
2.) More than half my Twitter feed is clogged with editors, literary agents, and writer-friendly organizations. (Like Writer’s Relief!)
3.) When walking somewhere, I always end up taking the scenic route so I have more time to plan and/or plot a story.
4.) Every moment when I’m not writing, I’m agonizing about the fact that I’m not writing.
James, Great list! And we’re glad you like Writer’s Relief! 🙂
SOOO looking forward to Camp NaNoWriMo! Best thing for procrastinators every invented (by who else but a fellow writer)
Doesn’t everyone have torn napkin/tissue/post-it-note character analyses/dialogue/next book ideas?
Hey! I live in Vegas! The guy down the street probably IS a hired killer … and we don’t wear bunny slippers — we go barefoot!
I knew when every newspaper article was a book plot, and my research files were bigger than my annual bill files.
Half a novel finished; already have a story line for Camp NaNoWriMo. Hope soon to submit to Writers Relief! Then I can really get eccentric.
Great to know I’m not weird, I’m just a WRITER! Thanks for your continuing support and encouragement!
Linda, Thank you for the comment! We’re always here to help, support, and encourage. We look forward to receiving your submission to our Review Board!
Memo to self: must get bunny slippers… 😀
James I like that list you got there! I agree with number 1 definitely!
Signs that I’m a writer because:
1. Almost every night I have to change my status from one of my social networking sites through a quote that I wrote myself, which takes a lot of time to really write. I’ve archived it on Word so many times.
2. I put my feelings on a pen and paper writing out each detail of it.
3. I start debating nightly and putting those thoughts down as if it was a lecture.
4. That finally I was able to work my courage of submitting my work to Writer’s Relief. It was really rough at first but I made the best of it. Now just hoping for their reviews and well um anxious for the postman really to give me the news. I’m afraid of opening an email again after being rejected.
5. That my family thinks that writing is not a “real job” or even a “dream” . They see it as a form of failed dreams.
A sign that I’m really a writer…when someone’s talking to me and I’m pondering my next plot, and I stare through them, then finally ask “You talkin’ to me???”
A-ha! I’m well on my way at only 16.
Sometimes (okay, all the time), I’ll find myself narrating everything that’s happening around me in my head. When I write in my head, I make the faces that reflect the character’s emotions… Not always appropriate in certain situations. My notepad is my baby and I think my cat is getting jealous. I think my parents figured out that it wasn’t a phase when I took 4 years (ages 8-12) to write a book. Yeah. Best of all, I’m a minor. I don’t need a real job and no one holds it against me that I still live with my mom! My keyboard is DESTROYED. Not just the “t” and “r”, but the “a”, the “s”, the “d”, the “e”, the “c”, the “l”, the “m”, the- *trails off, naming every key n the keyboard…* I got some new pajama pants today so I’m gonna have to sit here and type away all night to properly break ’em in. Last of all, I will keep writing, oh so joyfully, no matter what for the rest of my life.
Nina, Thanks so much for your inspiring enthusiasm! We love to hear it!
Thanks! Hey, it’s what I’m here for. 🙂 I’m feeling especially giddy since I finished the novella I’ve been working on! This site is very cool. My mom has been talking about how I should try to get published but the idea scares me half to death, especially since I worry my work isn’t very good… Oh, we are our own worst critics, aren’t we? 🙂
Wow! A lot of that stuff pertains to me, minus the bunny slippers!!
Warm slippers and dog, fuzzy bathrobe and PJ’s, NO BRA, laptop on lap, surrounded on couch or favorite armchair by sticky notes, books, pads, pencils, kleenex, water/coffee/fiber shakes, cookies, heater and blanket (when needed) and easy listening TV channeling the muse–I am set for an 8-10 hr. time-travel journey to another world. Hubby often feeds me and reminds me to get up and walk around, esp. since my little “trips” created a blood clot in a leg last year! Better to be addicted to reading and writing, I tell everyone, than drugs, booze, smokes, jewelry, expensive clothes, fast cars or soap operas! Can I help it? Not even in church when my mind wanders to protagonist-banter in my head!