A Writing Career: Be Yourself!

Do you ever sit and plan out your career?

Recently on a listserv, authors were talking about careers. Some knew exactly where they wanted to go and were laser focused. Some were looking all around and trying a bit of this and a bit of that. How do you plan a writing career?

What are you good at?
Which pieces of writing are bringing you the most attention? This is a hard one because some of the writers were having success with nonfiction pieces; yet, they longed to write fiction. (Not many vice versa!) The question became, do you stick with nonfiction to build a career? Some needed the income from their nonfiction and considered it their job; fiction was their passion, but not the bread-winner, so they could only fit it in around other projects.

There’s nothing wrong with this! Good writing is good writing. Why not make money at what you do and do well? Often, we don’t see ourselves and our work clearly. The marketplace has a way of rewarding good work and it’s clearly something to which you should pay attention.

Where do your passions lie?

Darcy Self Portrait quilt
“Six of One, Half a Dozen of Me,” self-portrait quilt. c. 2014 Darcy Pattison

Are you a frustrated poet? Do you love YA novels? Or do easy readers excite you because you’ll be helping someone learn to love reading? For me, everything I do winds up being teaching. I like to take complex material and simplify it for others so it’s practical and easy to implement. But I also love poetry, writing fantasy and science fiction novels, and writing for this blog. Picture books are especially exciting for me to write. I’m all over the place. When you have a multifaceted set of passions, sometimes you need to prioritize. Or understand that for this season of life, one passion will sell better than anything else.

If you need some tutoring in order to be great at a passion, then get it.

Unique: No One Else Could Do This
One way of thinking about this is to answer this question: What can you do that no one else could do? What’s the one type of writing/publishing in which you could be the best in the world? Top Dog! Why mess around writing mediocre pieces? Instead, find the one thing that you do best and no one else can match you.

Maybe it’s one of these:

  • Nature poetry for K-3.
  • Erotica for New Adult readers.
  • Christian fiction set in NYC for New Adult readers.
  • YA dystopian stories set on Mars.
  • Picture book family stories for the MidWest.
  • Preschool picture books that include a grandparent.
  • Vietnam War stories for middle grade girls.

It doesn’t matter that you are the only one in your category and you’ve even invented the category. Vietnam War stories for middle grade girls? Yikes! Unlikely. But it that’s your passion and you can pull it off with integrity and excellence, then do it!

That’s how you build a career. Do something no one else has done and do it with such excellence that no one can turn you down.

Easier said than done? Of course. But a career plan worthy of striving toward. And in the end, that’s all we can do. Butt in chair. Write. You might as well choose to write what will build your career.

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