Thursday, March 15, 2018

You Can Lead A Horse To Water (But You Can't Make It Write)

I am not the most successful author out there (a glance at my tax returns will tell you as much), but I try to do my part to help other writers whenever I can. That goes double for fledgling writers, who have all the spark and creative verve one could ask for, but who have no idea how to turn it into paying work. They, understandably, are looking for answers to basic questions. Questions like, "what do I do with a novel when it's done?" or, "how much can I get for a short story?" Most of the time the big question they ask is, "how do I get started?"

First things first. Choose your weapon.
The difficulty I've run into is that, for every writer who is completely serious about making that leap to the professional realm, I run into five who really aren't. This isn't to say they're bad writers, or that they can't produce great work. However, if someone doesn't have the bit between their teeth, there is nothing you can say or do to put it there.

You Can't Light Someone Else's Fire

To be clear, being a writer and being an author require two very different sets of skills. If you just want to be a writer, then you have total freedom. You can write what you want, when you want, and however much or little you want. And you don't have to please anyone but yourself. If you want to go pro, though, then suddenly you are no longer the one calling all the shots. Now you have to produce on a regular schedule, you have to keep the content coming, and you have to ask how well the work you're producing is going to play with the audience you're trying to find.

And if they don't like it, then you are the one who has to change what you're doing.

Deadlines don't care how much NyQuil you're on, either.
There are a lot of folks out there who really dig the writing part. The process is satisfying, they enjoy the flex of the creative muscles, and they like the idea of being able to get paid for doing something that brings them that kind of pleasure. However, they don't adjust to the change in skill set required to make money as a writer. Everything, from hitting a deadline, to producing every day, to self-promotion, marketing, and brand awareness just isn't something they want to be a part of. And, for some of them, they get so frustrated by that whole apparatus that they just don't work on any of their projects at all.

And you know what? That's fine.

Why is it fine? Because if someone else isn't willing to roll up their sleeves and put the pedal to the metal, that is not your problem. You can sit in the passenger seat and give them all the driving advice in the work, but they are the ones who have to start the car, and head out onto the road you're directing them to.

So the next time you lead someone to water, just leave it at that. Don't beg them to drink, don't get them a cup, and for the love of all things holy do not try to push them in if they don't want to go. Because sure, you can get invested in someone else's success if you're trying to help them out. But you are trying to offer a hand up, not carry them up the whole damn mountain. If they won't climb on their own, then shrug your shoulders, and get back to your own hike.

If they want it badly enough, they'll meet you at the top.

That's all for this week's Business of Writing. If there are any other frustrated attempted mentors out there, pop into the comments and share some of your experiences. If you like what I'm throwing down, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Or, if you'd like to help me keep doing what I'm doing, head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron, or Buy Me A Coffee. Either way, there's a free book in it for you as thanks!

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