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.
ridgely johnson says
reminds of the grand quip regarding the lottery- you KNOW you won’t win if you don’t buy a ticket.
I write, my name’s in the pile.
thanks laura lee
Thanks for the great advice. If not for my critique group I would not be the writer I am today–or maybe not even a published writer at all.
And I love the Wayne Gretzy quote.
Patricia Stoltey says
Thanks to everyone who has stopped (or will stop) by today. And a big thanks to Laura Lee for her guest post and for being here to respond to comments.
MJ Morgan, Writer says
Thanks to Pat for hosting Laura Lee.
As usual, Laura Lee, you nail it! Great advice – a writers’ critique group infuses a weekly dose of courage whenever yours is waning!
Always hoping the best for you,
Jemi Fraser says
Courage – I’m working on it! Thanks for the advice 🙂
Jane Kennedy Sutton says
“Your first task in becoming a writer is to convince yourself that you are a writer.” How true. I’m always amazed that something that sounds so easy is one of the more difficult things to do – in fact, I still have to keep reminding myself.
Laura Lee Carter says
Yes, I always test out all of my new professions on a business card first, to see if it feels right. Luckily, it’s a cheap thrill!
Will I finally meet you tonight at the studio?
BTW, nice last name…Laura Lee
Jennifer Carter says
Great post, Laura. I always feel a little bit sheepish and almost guilty when I say I’m a writer because I haven’t been published YET. But I agree–I’m a writer because I write. So there! Something that made me feel all “official” was making my own business cards. The first title I used was, of course, Writer. Now I just glance at them on my desk and I’m reassured. 🙂
Name: Luana Krause says
Inspiring piece. Attitude makes all the difference. We are writers. Let’s not be afraid to tell the world. To quote Billy Crystal in “Throw Mama From the Train”: Writers write. Always.
Laura Lee Carter says
Go for it KK! I LOVE repotting plants! It’s so immediately reinforcing, and the plants shout out a big “Thank you!”
Laura, right on! I copied your ‘missed shots’ and am posting it on my group’s digest AMEN!
KK Brees says
Great post with words of wisdom, for sure. Patience is key and, not being all that patient a person, I’ve struggled in this department. I garden when I need to refocus my thinking, although with our short growing season, sometimes my gardening involves repotting a houseplant.
Patricia Stoltey says
Good morning, everyone. I felt so silly the first time I called myself a writer. Who was I to call myself anything but a retiree with a hobby? Now I attach all kinds of fun labels to my name (and retiree is not one of them — I’m working harder than ever these days).
Thanks for your insights, Laura Lee. And maybe you could come back one of these days and give us a post on stress management for writers?
Laura Lee Carter says
Another issue I didn’t have time to discuss is whether to only write about what you feel passionate about, or write anything for the money.
In retrospect, I believe in following your passion in your writing AND your life. That’s the only way to find true patience and perseverance. –LLC
Thanks Pat for bringing Laura’s words to light…I’ve been a writer (there I said it) for a long time but have not done so well on marketing. Moving out of local markets could do the trick.
Laura Lee Carter says
Those first few years can be so tough! I know of what I speak. Stress management is key. -Laura Lee, M.A. Counseling Psychology
Ann Best says
Thank you, Pat, for hosting Laura.
Thank you, Laura, for these words of wisdom–all so very true. I’ve always told myself (and still do) that you’ll never get anything published if you don’t write and if you don’t send out what you write (this is true of any endeavor–it’s the doing of it).
Waiting (for responses) and dealing with rejection are indeed the biggies for a writer. And of course, you’re only a writer if you write!
I am now going to check out your website!
welcome to my world of poetry says
Thank you Patricia for having Laura as a guest:
Laura I think tenacity is one great virtue in life, without it one can’t or won’t get far. Hope is another I think they go hand in glove,
Thank you for a wonderful post. Most enjoyable to read.
Alex J. Cavanaugh says
I practice my guitar when I get stressed.
Clarissa Draper says
Those are great points. Writing groups, venturing out, writing everyday. New writers need to know this stuff. Thanks for your wonderful post. CD
Margot Kinberg says
Patricia – Thanks for hosting Laura.
Laura – You really make such an important point about the need to be patient and to persevere. I’ve found both to be absolutely essential. I think all of that takes a lot of self-discipline, which requires commitment. Being really committed to writing means seeing oneself as a writer – identifying oneself that way. So maybe you’re right; that’s the first step.