My guest today is Laura Lee Carter, a local editor, writer, blogger, life coach, and all-around awesome lady. I first met Laura Lee through Northern Colorado Writers, where we’ve shared ideas and enjoyed the discussions at monthly morning coffee gatherings. Laura Lee’s story is a good reminder that even if we’re writing novels, we need to think of other ways to promote our work. Freelance articles on topics related to our fiction, interviews of figures in the world of publishing, or technical how-to articles on some aspect of publishing, are all promotional tools.
My Writing Life by Laura Lee Carter
Your first task in becoming a writer is to convince yourself that you are a writer. This means you have the internal resources to keep at it regardless of a preponderance of evidence to the contrary. In the beginning, this quandary comes up constantly. You feel so desperate to be published because that is the way you tell the world you are now a writer. But publishing doesn’t prove anything. What makes you a writer is that you sit down and write every day.
The learning curve is quite steep and with no clips to prove yourself, where to begin? Most begin in their local area, writing less than stimulating puff pieces for free. This can be a mistake. I’ve seen too many excellent writers get stuck in their local markets making close to nothing (Okay, 12 cents a word), because they are too intimidated to take the next step. Writing for the local market is a reassuring way to convince yourself that you can make some money writing. Prove yourself and then move on.
Venturing out to more widely distributed publications requires courage. I highly recommend spending some time at your local magazine stand. If you’re doing the standard rookie trick of writing the piece first, before you start to think about marketing it, feast your eyes on all the possible outlets for your precious words. There truly is a magazine on every subject under the sun! Unfortunately, many may be going out of business or pay very little, but you just need a few solid clips. Cruising the internet is not the same as holding a journal in your hand and picturing your article in it. Dream on.
Now comes the toughest part of all, patience and rejection. I imagine the greatest single stumbling block after self-confidence to most new writers ever becoming successful is a lack of patience. Waiting is a major part of the game. Dealing with rejection is the other part. Do you realize how many would be writers are immediately disqualified because they can’t handle these terrible two? Settle in. You’re going to be here awhile.
One way to combat that sinking feeling when you’re feeling frustrated is to go do something you know you’re good at, preferably something that provides immediate reinforcement. Cooking and gardening are great ways to prove to yourself that you have skills, you’re a productive member of society and the rewards are quite quick compared to waiting months for an editor to respond.
Another good way to combat early writer burn out is to acquire a writing coach, and also join a writer’s group. Finding a good coach can make all the difference when you’re just starting out. Of course you don’t know what you’re doing. You’ve never done this before. And they can be so encouraging when you’re ready to quit and go get a real job with a real paycheck.
I now believe the two most important ingredients in jump starting a new writing career are courage and stubbornness. Talent is key, but pure stubbornness can take you places no amount of encouragement can. When my courage dwindles, I remind myself of those wise words from Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100 percent of all the shots you never take.”
Thanks, Laura Lee, for sharing your thoughts on the path to publication. It was a pleasure having you as my guest.
Laura Lee Carter, MLS, M.A., began her freelance writing career in 2005 after 25 years as a research librarian. She has since published three books from her platform as the Midlife Crisis Queen (including Midlife Magic), and she worked with 50 Interviews author and founder Brian Schwartz on Finding Speaking Success: Mentoring Tips from the Masters. Visit Laura Lee’s Midlife Crisis Queen blog, and find her bio and writing clips at her website.