How to Avoid the "Writer’s Stigmas" and Promote Yourself

For those of you who enjoy writing, I’m sure you’ve heard of many of the stigmas that authors face from time-to-time. From being accused of anti-social behavior to not living in the “real world,” as artists who write for entertainment or for business, it’s sometimes good to consider what you’re getting into. Many famous authors and writers weren’t necessarily remembered for their works, but because they had a personality and were relatively quirky. Some personality tics can help you sell your work, because you’re creating a persona to tie into your work. However, there are others attributes, that we all have, that aren’t so great which can really put a damper into your ability to get work.

Here are a few tips to help avoid the stigmas to earn yourself a professional reputation, and the ability to find more work:

  • Keep up with Technology: In related posts, I had talked about how to use your technology wisely. From avoiding flame wars to ensuring you speak grammatically correct, your command of technology and computers is important in this “cyber age.” I know how frustrating it can be when new things come out on the market (Hint: Microsoft Vista or new forms of PHP programming), so consider spending a few dollars at your local community college and sign up for a four-to-six week course for whatever software you’re weakest on. They’re not that expensive, and you’ll gain confidence in your abilities as you go along.This link is a veritable writer’s toolbox perfect for crafting some savvy online tools to promote yourself as well. You’ll need to sift through the links, but the descriptions are pretty easy-to-read and you’ll be able to quickly ascertain what will work for you.
  • Join your Local Business Organizations: If you’re like me, you probably work a full-time job and then write in your spare time or, you spend a lot of time looking for work to keep up with bills as you grow your freelancing career. Time is valuable to you, especially when you’re trying to move forward in your career. I highly recommend looking for local business organizations in your area to network, and also join your university’s alumni association.
  • Start (or Join) a Book Club: It’s very easy for your social skills to weaken as you spend more and more time in front of a computer. One way to hone those skills, while getting something out of it for yourself, is to join (or start) a face-to-face discussion about a particular book once a month. Not only will it force you to read something outside of your normal scope, it will help you diplomatically improve your debate skills and get that intellectual discussion I know you crave.
  • Work Hard, Play Hard: In another tip, I had talked about the importance of play. I can’t stress enough how important it is to remember to balance your writing with getting off the computer and enjoying yourself. It’s so easy to fall in the trap of burn-out or worse, writer’s depression. Please, please, please reward yourself for all the good that you do in this field by spoiling yourself through fun. When you’re happy and well-adjusted, other non-writers will pick up on that and your business will grow.
  • Balance Promotion with Common Sense: As I had stated above, the worse thing you can be accused of as a writer is being dysfunctional or flighty, because it implies you’re not reliable, so a lot of the time we have to work around that by showing how unique–not crazy–and healthy we are. If you have a decent photo of yourself (make sure you ask someone else if you’re not sure) post that on your blog or website.

Are there things that you do to promote yourself that I haven’t listed here? I invite you to share your tips, and I will follow up with another blog post in a few weeks crediting your advice. Be sure to include your website or blog if you are interested.

Happy promoting!

Write Games? You Must Work for the Devil! Right?!?!

One of the first issues that came to my attention when I started writing for the hobby games industry and playing more video, card, PC, and RPGs, is the stigma that’s associated with gaming. Enter Dennis, from Game politics who has covered a whole host of articles on the subject, “Violence in Video Games.” (Caveat* I’ve written a few articles for the site.)

It’s funny how many times I’ve gotten weird looks and other sorts of declarations ranging from comments declaring everything from a “lack of maturity” to “video games are the work of the devil!”

And to top it all off, this stunning (NOTE THE SARCASM) article comes out. TV, Film and Game Violence seen as a threat.

Sports are violent. Sports are a game. Take ice skating, for example. How many comedians have done skits on “what went wrong” with the skater’s performance? Our entire media and local TV news are both violent; rarely does either of them specialize about what is great about humanity. Protect the children? Hey, your parents probably played “Cops and Robbers” or “Cowboys and Indians” growing up, with more realistic-looking guns than the ones they have out now.

Don’t agree with me? Fine. I get extraordinarily frustrated with all these studies because, in the end, people “forget” that there is a conscious brain behind the person absorbing the content that’s around them. Yes, there should be levels of play depending upon ages, and I have no problem with that. But if I play Resident Evil, for example, I know I’m smashing zombies — not humans. I don’t feel the urge, afterward, to go hit someone. I’ve already relieved my stress, without drugs, alcohol, or any other “harmful” substance involved and I have *gasp* morals against that sort of thing.

I play games because it makes me a better writer and I get some enjoyment out of it. Screenwriters, fiction authors and game writers — no matter what field you are in within the industry — are entertainers. We don’t create content to be “violent,” we create it to be entertaining within the scope of a license, a team, or our own, little universe for the purpose of selling that media to people who are interested in playing it.

Here’s the kicker: If so-called violent video games didn’t sell, no one would be making them!

Working for the “devil?” If money is the devil, then I guess I should probably let my horns grow. Huh, now there’s an interesting story idea.

On the Writer’s Strike

I have to apologize for my long absence. I’ve been working, writing, and doing other things off-line. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting more regularly, and you’ll see shortly that I’ll have some pretty nifty things to share with all of you.

The topic on many people’s lips these days in our neck of the universe is the Writer’s Strike. Whether or not you agree with such a concept (and before you say…”Oh, those writers…”) I ask that you stop and think about this from another aspect.

If you look at the different work industries, there are really two major spheres of what people do. Either you “serve” someone, by providing a service, or you “make” something, by crafting something new for a variety of different purposes. Traditional manufacturing aside, writers, artists, actors, web developers, photographers, singers, and all other “artisan-based” activities are one of the few, true “crafts” we have left. We make books, jewelry, performances, websites, paintings, and clothes. How much is a handmade item worth to you?

Well, to a writer, payment can be a pretty large bone of contention. You see, many of the people we write for view writing to be a service, and not a craft. As such, the rules for payment have never really been standardized, to the point where only three to four percent live like King. Couple in the fact that those of us who freelance do so within limited time frames, freelancing (even screenwriting) is not for the faint-of-heart.

What I believe this strike to be about is not the disagreement over what has been paid, but the rights that we, as sole proprietors, need to think about and address whenever new ways for our media to be distributed. Similar to images and music, there are usually stipulations that follow when royalties should be paid. Anytime you hear music on the radio or download it from iTunes, you are listening to a “paid” broadcast of that tune. (The “Save netRadio” issue recently arose out of this concept the past, few years.)

The key here, is that this issue needed to be brought up. If it wasn’t, it would allow and open the door for other media distributions to occur without recognizing the creators. I, for one, fully support the Writer’s Strike not because I have a vested interest (I’m not part of the Guild), but because writers need to be validated for the work that they do (Do you know the names of all the writers for your favorite shows and movies?) by being rewarded financially for a show’s popularity. After all, if it wasn’t for the writers, we’d all be watching reruns of M*A*S*H indefinitely.

For more on this topic, visit the Wikipedia entry entitled, “2007 Writers Guild of America Strike.”

The Renegade Writer

A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success

Written by two freelancers who broke the rules to win the game, this handbook contains a wealth of information for writers who are frustrated by the seemingly limited ways to operate in the freelance market. It explains that freelancers can negotiate for more money and better terms without risking their careers, shows that editors are not the writer-gobbling monsters many freelancers fear, and explains how to establish and foster work relationships.

In this updated second edition there are more ideas, more rules to break, and more resources to get started, including a suite of appendixes covering topics such as contract procedures, getting paid, services for freelancers, generating ideas, and doing research. As inspiration, the book includes examples of real writers who have gone against “expert” advice and flourished. Being shy doesn’t pay, and following the rules puts a writer in a long line of other sheep; with this text as a guide, writers can step out of the herd and build a successful business in a crowded market.

Available at Amazon.com

Wannabe Writer vs Professional Author

I’ve been writing for a long time, but throughout my experiences I haven’t always been a “pro.” There are a lot of differences between a “wannabe” writer and a professional, that sometimes can be hard for passionate wordsmiths to admit. But the reality is, being a writer isn’t some romantic “get-away” job, where you magically have tons of cash that allows you to whisk yourself away to an undisclosed location for months on end–where of course you work on your masterpiece.

Yeah, there’s a reason why that’s “only in the movies.” The reality of being a writer is that it sucks. Sometimes, it really, really sucks. It’s harder to make friends, because you spend a lot of time behind a computer; and you have a lot of competition. You often put more hours of work into an assignment than what you get out of it; obsessing over phrases, characters, and things you “could have done better.” People proclaim themselves to be writers all the time, but it doesn’t mean that they are. Even when you are officially “a writer,” there is no “insta-reward” where the sound of a thousand trumpets heralds your success. Oh, if only that were true, right?

Unfortunately, because everyone is a writer, it means that people who write for a living-full or part-time-have to work twice as hard at gaining credibility. Or does it?

I say, “No, that’s not true.” Here’s why. Those of us who want to call ourselves writers do so to make money. Period. We are entertainers, bloggers, marketers, information specialists, wordsmiths, and a host of other roles to use our talents to put food on the table. No credibility is necessary because if you’re earning income from putting words on the page, then you’re making it, regardless of what anyone says or thinks.

Here’s the sad part about this: It takes a lot of time and effort to get there. I’ve written for free, for newspapers, as part of other jobs, and pretty much anywhere I could (pending a wicked case of self-defeatism and writer’s block) until I got into a position that I love. Ramen noodles and tuna fish? Don’t like them so much now, but they are quite handy when you have a strict budget because you’re working a job you don’t like, along with a job you don’t get paid for, so you can get the job you want.

Wannabe writers are the folk that tell me, “Oh yes, you’re a writer? Did you know I used to write in h.s.? I’m sure I can write, too.” Or better, “Can you teach me how to write?” Or worse, “I have unpublished work that I’ll never submit, based on Harry Potter, but you know you have to protect yourself so I buy copyrights like crazy.” As a rule, I try to be nice to everyone, because you never know where someone might end up. But wannabe writers get on my nerves every once in a while because I literally eat, sleep and breathe words. I’ve visited forums all over the web, and the last thing that I want to be is an arrogant writer who is so condescending toward everyone else they couldn’t get a fan-base if they’re life depended on it. Believe you me, there are a lot of people who “claim to know,” but…if they aren’t making money doing what they’re doing, then it’s probably not someone you want to get advice from.

So if you sit on your laurels, don’t make money writing, whine and moan about how “talented” and “undiscovered” you are, and never submit, then you probably are a “wannabe.” That for me, is the difference between a wannabe author and a professional writer. A wannabe may write, however frequently or infrequently, but doesn’t know the market and doesn’t submit. Even if he (or she) submits occasionally, writer’s guidelines are more like “suggestions,” and rejection letters turn into bouts of major depression where each one requires a trip to the therapist, a jar of chocolate ice cream, and a crab session for six months to five years.

A professional writer keeps their head, knowing that sometimes there are extenuating circumstances that cause rejections, and keeps submitting. A pro writer might flinch at the rejection letter, but she certainly won’t stop writing as a result. Rejected work are excellent opportunities to look, see, and feel if there are improvements to be made or other markets to submit to. Period. A pro writer also knows that he is not a machine; there will be highs and lows, there will be times when you write 20,000 words and times when you can’t put one sentence together. Above all, a pro writer never stops thinking about their career because she knows that the minute she stops? She misses out on potential opportunities. Writing truly is a lifestyle–not just a job.

I’ve found that “wannabe writers” are very sensitive, so much so that any criticism-no matter how diplomatic it is-sends them crying or in a tizzy. Decide for yourself if you want to associate with those types of people; it’s up to you to build your own network. On the other hand, the ones that enjoy learning, the ones that work hard to be a professional writer and know the business, are the authors you do want to connect with-because we were all there one day.

Other writers are great for networking, but don’t take it personally if they make assessments about you and don’t return the friendliness. Every author has their own set of criteria who they want to network with, no matter how nice you are.

So next time someone tells you, “I’m a writer,”smile. So are you. Right?

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