Friday, 19 October 2012

Staying Power - Who needs it?

 This week I have been for a job interview. It wasn't my dream job, and it was as much to do with research as it was to do with wanting the job, (i.e. nothing). But one of the questions I was asked is, "What other jobs have you done?" It took quite a while to answer because there have been so many...

My interviewers politely smiled and made noises about my ‘varied and unusual’ career but I could see them mentally marking me down as someone with no staying power. I didn't get the job.

It's not a good sign when the interview panel start on lunch whilst you are still talking.

Afterwards, I googled 'jobs of famous authors' and came up with an impressive list; for example, before he was famous, Douglas Adams worked as a hospital porter, a barn builder, a chicken shed cleaner, a hotel security guard and bodyguard. Jack Kerouac worked as a gas station attendant, cotton picker, night guard, railroad brakeman, dishwasher, construction worker, and deckhand. And Harlan Ellison was apparently a tuna fisherman, crop-picker, hired gun, nitroglycerin truck driver, short order cook, cab driver, lithographer, book salesman, floorwalker, brush salesman, and actor. 

‘Varied and unusual’ careers, but staying power? 

You bet. They had staying power in the thing which mattered most. Writing.

And I know an awful lot of other really GREAT writers, who for whatever reason have not yet been picked up by a publisher and shown the world their amazing talents. These are the people with real staying power. So let’s hear it for the unpublished.

“You only fail if you stop writing.” 
(Ray Bradbury.) 

And in case you’re interested, here is my own impressive alphabetical list of jobs … admin officer, baker, barmaid, book writer, canteen assistant, child minder, cleaner, clerk, cook, copy writer, dog walker, editor, elephant tamer, fairy, group leader, hypnotherapist, illusionist, jelly wrestler, kitchen porter, liar, llama’s back end, mother, nanny, opener of doors, picker, pill packer, queen, rocket scientist, sock packer, teacher, umbrella stand, volunteer, waitress, warehouse person, writer, xylophonist, yodeller and zebra.*   
*Some of these are made up*

What has been your most unusual job?

Monday, 1 October 2012

AUTHOR WANTED - Apply Within

Susan discovered that being an
author was as easy as riding a bike
Many years ago when I decided to be an author, I thought it was just a matter of writing a really good story, finding a publisher and signing a few books in the local bookstore. Simple. Beyond the ability to write, I had no idea of the range of skills I would need, and I sometimes wonder if I knew then what I know now, would I have persisted?

Writing is a journey. But it's not just a journey to publication; it's a journey of self-development, fraught with ups and downs and long periods on the flat.  Apart from the obvious writerly attributes (imagination, knowledge of grammar, punctuation, spelling and syntax, ability to use word processing software and the desire to blend these into a story), most of the required and desirable skills are only to be found within. And you won’t necessarily know if you’ve got them, until you need them. 

The writing process for example needs good time management and great organisation skills, especially if you also have a family and/or other job. The hours are long, often unsociable and you will be paid well below the minimum wage, and to actually get pen to paper, every day or week or month, or however long it takes to get the story out, takes commitment. Even the best story in the world has days when you feel like it’s not going anywhere, when it’s just a hard slog, and you wish you could jack it all in. 

And that’s the easy part. Once the initial phase of writing your story is complete, there will be an extended period during which you will be re-evaluating, revising and rewriting your work. You will need to be self-critical, and prepared to let go of things you love; shaping, sculpting, crafting, over and over again until your story is right. No one can tell you how long this will take. If you are not motivated by perfection you will sell yourself short.

Dennis was a patient man, 
with a quiet determination 
to succeed.
When you’ve finished, you venture onto the road to publication; patience, determination and tenacity are your key skills here. After submission, you may wait months, or more probably years, before publication. Or, if you choose the increasingly popular method of self-publication, your skills will involve technical know-how and getting to grips with different self-publishing media, project management (because books still need proof-readers, editors, cover-artists and illustrators) and you will still need all that patience, determination and tenacity because nothing happens quickly in the publishing world.

You will also need to give some time to self-promotion. A strong media presence is increasingly important via social media sites, blogging and your own website, and you will need to be confident, friendly, thick skinned and have a sense of humour whilst raising your public profile.

When your book is finally out there, you must dedicate your waking hours to publicising your book, both in person and via the wonderful world wide web. School visits, author signings and publicity stunts are all expected methods of promotion. Ditto for confidence, friendliness, etc.

Plus of course, you will already be working on your second or third book by then, so multitasking must be added to your list of skills

So, if I knew then what I know now, would I have persisted? The answer is a very big and definite POSSIBLY. Except of course, it doesn't matter. I'm enjoying my journey, I don't want it to stop, and I probably couldn't anyway.