Welcome to Day Three in this series about how to develop your brand as a writer. I’ve added Day One and Two to the end of this post, just in case you missed reading them. Don’t forget, your comments are appreciated!
11. Be Kind to Other Writers
I can’t stress this point enough: Please, remember to be kind to other writers. The writer that you support today may turn into your friend, your editor or your biggest fan. The writer that you share a kind word with today may find the energy to keep their creative juices flowing, which is something that’s great for all writers and creative minds.
If you seek out other writers to share your positive thoughts, I firmly believe that you should do so because you want to do it and not because you expect other writers to turn around and help you. That old adage “do unto others as you would have done to you” has definitely proven to be true for me. I look at other writers as a means of support and community. Who understands the solitary craft of writing better than another writer? Who “gets” those little milestones better than someone else who is trying to succeed just like you are?
12. Take Care of Yourself
Whether I want to admit it or not, one of the things I’ve learned is that maintaining a professional appearance includes more than just developing a professional persona. It means that you’ll need to dress appropriately for an event and do what’s best for your health. This is a very sensitive topic for a lot of people, and I understand that everyone has very personal thoughts on this subject. I hope that you’ll take into consideration that your physical well-being can have an impact on your career.
I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that writer’s depression is a very real danger of the craft. Sometimes, being a writer means that you are so absorbed in your creative efforts that you forget the world around you. I strongly encourage you to temper those solitary experiences with group activities to ensure that you don’t fall prey to a bout of negativity.
13. Choose Your Battles Wisely
It is very easy to misread a comment sent over email, and it’s next-to-impossible to interpret people’s true intentions on forums where anonymity reigns. Consider choosing your battles wisely, because your efforts leave a “digital footprint” behind. Emails can be resent and forwarded to other people; forums can get really nasty but can remain indexable and searchable on the web for a really long time.
When I get upset, I find a way to get rid of those nasty feelings as quickly as possible. Usually, I rant for about five minutes and then move forward. (Admittedly, I’m not perfect!) I believe that nothing is worth engaging in an online battle of words that will end up getting archived or repeated later. When in doubt, find someone to help filter your thoughts in inflammatory situations to ensure you’re remaining professional.
14. Be Able to Take Criticism
Unfortunately, not every editor or reader will watch what they say about your work. Some people are very harsh critics while others are not. The trick to dealing with criticism and editors is to not take their words personally, even if they come across as abrasive and arrogant. When someone offers a critique about your writing, usually they are making suggestions based on what you’ve written — not your skill as a writer.
Learn to be gracious toward editors and readers regardless of whether or not you agree or disagree with their comments. It’s hard (believe me I know) but if you can master this skill it can really go a long way toward enhancing your reputation. I also believe that if you are receiving very harsh criticism from a fellow writer or other professional, if their comments are important to you don’t hesitate to ask them for clarification. This is a very challenging field to get involved with because many writers regard like-minded professionals as competition. When I first started writing professionally I used to be one of those writers, but I’ve since realized how destructive that attitude is.
15. Treat Every Fan With Respect
After going to multiple conventions over the years, I’ve seen my share of awkward moments. There’s been times where fans are so nervous they stand in front of their favorite writer like a deer in highlights. I’ve seen other moments where a writer stands in a large, empty room and only five fans have shown up because everyone is off engaging in another last-minute activity.
I’ve had my share of moments when I was a “fan” too, like when I met Timothy Zahn. At the time Mr. Zahn was the overseeing editor for over thirty novels written in the Star Wars extended universe. I was okay at first, but then when I realized that this one man was responsible for wrangling multiple writers in an ever-expanding universe that he had to track all of the details for? Let’s just say I didn’t walk away feeling as if I acted professionally.
When you meet someone that’s read your work, treat them with respect. They may ask you questions, they may giggle uncontrollably or they might want to take your picture with them. Whether you have an audience of one or a hundred, meeting your fans face-to-face is a HUGE deal and what you say will have a lasting impression on them.