I went to the RWA conference in Atlanta in July and was blown away. I was inspired, I learned, I made new friends, I fell in love with fried chicken, fried green tomatoes and sweet tea, I met some of my all time favourite authors, and reaffirmed my career choice. It was a fantastic conference and I will certainly go back.
Besides learning about craft, publishing choices, social media and how to kill people (a very cool session with a former special forces operative), I learned what it takes to be successful in this business of writing. Yes, that’s right. I learned the secret while I was in Atlanta. You need three things. These three things were universal to all of the successful authors I saw. (Success was usually their own measure, writing as much as they wanted and what they wanted.) It didn’t matter if these authors were traditionally published, Indie published or self-published. It also didn’t matter if they rocked social media or stayed away from it. (Weird, but true, the online stuff didn’t seem to matter that much, though most authors had some kind of online presence.) With each author I met I was astounded by the three things they all had in common. The three things you need to be a successful creative person.
1. Courage - We must have the courage to bare our soul to the world. And that is what writing is all about. We must open ourselves up, if we want to touch others and make them care about our words. It is hard to let others into the deepest, most secret parts of ourselves, but this is what we need to do if we want our stories to thrive. We also need courage to finish our stories, to send them out for publishing or to take that leap into self-publishing. In one session at the conference, I heard from four authors who had the courage to change their publishing careers. They gathered their courage and changed what wasn’t working and took leaps of faith. (Two went from traditional to self-pubbing, one leapt to a smaller publishing house, one changed genres – it was all very inspiring and very courageous.)
2. Hard Work – I was amazed over and over again at how hard these authors worked. We are talking 8 hours/day, 5 days a week at least. Some of them seem to put in that much time and still have a day job. Others are working 12-14 hours a day. This is what amazed me the most. The sheer amount of work these authors do. I knew becoming a writer wouldn’t be easy, but in order to succeed you must be willing to do the work. It is not a part-time job. It is not a hobby. To be a published author you must work like a professional one. Just think how hard and long doctors, lawyers, police officers, and teachers work each day. This is what we need to be doing too. I think this is what impressed me the most.
3. Passion – Last, but certainly not least, we must have passion and love what we do. In order to put in the time and effort to learn the craft, in order to create masterpieces from our minds, we must have passion for story. Or it could be the passion to make people laugh, or to give them knowledge, or whatever it is that turns your crank and got you into this crazy business. Whatever the passion is, it has to burn brightly and be enduring. I believe that this is something we all have (or you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog), and if our passion grows dim at certain points in our lives, then we just have to revitalize it and care for that flame. It’s a flame that won’t go out on it’s own. (At least that’s what I believe.) It might just need tending from time to time. Keep your passion bright.
Writing takes hard work, courage and passion. This probably isn’t new to anyone, but it struck me to the core when I was at the conference surrounded by hundreds of other writers. And the good thing…. these are things we all have. Okay, so sometimes I have to go looking for my courage under my bed, and sometimes hard work gets lost in that glass of wine at the end of the day, but passion is something that never deserts me. And since I always have passion? I know I will continue to dream and to write. And really? Nothing else matters.
What about you? What do you think it takes to make it as a published author? What traits do you see as important? How do conferences make you feel?