In yesterday’s post, I focused on the importance of putting writing at the center of your career and letting nothing else become as central.
As if to echo everything I said, yesterday one of my Dream Team students remarked to our group,
With the increased volume of writing I’ve been doing, I’ve noticed that I’m able to get focused quicker and work a little more efficiently. It seems that writing begets writing.
And this is exactly my point. As Kelly said, writing begets writing. I’ve said the same a bunch of different ways in a bunch of different books and taught this principle over and over in my classes over the past ten years.
So, if you want to be a writer and you are not making writing central, your career probably won’t be taking off any time soon. However, it WILL gain momentum once you consistently make writing central.
My students are often surprised at how much momentum they can gain in a relatively short time of concentrated focus on writing when they hunker down and stay with writing and submitting their work consistently.
This is the same reason that NaNoWriMo works so well for some fiction writers. It’s amazing sometimes what you can accomplish with a deadline and some sustained focus.
So if you want to be a writer, put writing at the center of your workday. I think this is fairly straightforward, but it still needs to be said and put into action. (And this is, I’m sure not surprisingly, a central focus of my forthcoming book, The Writer’s Workout.)
So enough about yesterday. Today, I want to discuss why I think too much focus on what kind of writer you are is not helpful to most writers as many online discussions seem to indicate it is.
The publishing industry labels writing into categories for ease of discoverability by the reader. And certainly, most writers who write professionally are clear whether on not the current project they are working on is fiction or nonfiction, poetry or memoir, etc.
However, when it comes to platform, there is no point in mincing straws about which genre of writers need a platform and which don’t, and what kind of platform and when, because every professional writer needs a platform eventually. And the sooner every aspiring writer can accept and embrace this, the better.
So there is no reason for a long discusion on, if I’m a fiction writer, does platform apply to me? (Ditto memoirists, poets, etc.)
Platform applies to every single kind of professional writer who wishes to be read. If you don’t want to be read, don’t worry about it. Write as a hobby. There are many other reasons to write besides for publication.
However, if you plan to publish your work or have it published in the hopes that it will also be read, then you always need a platform. And, since you always need a platform, you may as well start laying the groundwork as soon as possible.
Again, it does not matter what genre you write in, if you want to get read some day, you will need a platform. But what platform or which platform should you focus on right now?
Unless you already have a devoted fan base, nobody is interested in what you are going to write. We want to know what you have written. And we want your work served up to us like either a home-cooked meal (if we are the home-cooked meal kind of audience) or like a three-ring media circus (if we run with the best-seller crowd) or however your specific readers would like it to be presented.
In other words, declaring yourself a nonfiction writer or fiction writer or a poet or a memoirist is not going to make or break your career. Just put what you have already written and published in the center of your current platform and then go write your next thing.
Writing careers are LONG. They last a lifetime. Most writers will write across genres both immediately and ultimately. Pretending that a fiction writer will never write nonfiction or that a nonfiction writer is too focused on the truth to ever write anything fictitious is counter-productive.
That’s not the issue from the writer’s point of view. From our perspective, it comes down to write AND grow a platform. You will juggle both. And you will either learn to love it or you will learn to tolerate the tension between the two because it’s necessary.
Regardless of how we feel about this continual tension, writing and platform development are two of the things you must do if you want to be a professional writer. There’s more to do, of course. And if you want the broader picture I hope you will consider purchasing my forthcoming book, The Writer’s Workout, which launches on December 6th.
My third post on resolving the genre/platform/timing divide on Monday, October 31st. In the meantime, you are welcome to read an excerpt from The Writer’s Workout on Scribd, another on WritersDigest.com, or download the free motivational poster inspired by the book.
Thanks again to Porter Anderson for asking the questions and to Jane Friedman for hosting Porter’s weekly Writing on the Ether column.