One of the community’s I am a part of had a thread using KM Weiland’s list of 15 signs you might not be acting like a writer as a checklist. The article contains some useful advice, so I recommend taking a glance if you do write. Although I do not believe being an author is a matter of ticking boxes, I thought I would share my compliance (or lack thereof) for people who are interested in me.
- You’re trying to be the next Janet Evanovich/J.K. Rowling/G.R.R. Martin. My immediate thought was that I would not like to be any of them, as I would have to sacrifice the goatee. Which reveals the real reason I write: so I have an excuse for arty shots of me looking intense in a black polo-neck. More seriously, I think everyone who shows their art to someone else wants to discover that other people feel as passionately that it was worth creating, so I would not reject being as famous as any of them.
- Your time is better spent on activities other than reading. I might be the exception that proves the rule on this one. If I spent more time reading, I might never actually write anything.
- You’re obsessed with following The Rules. I am somewhat of a plotter, so I do often outline in an approximate three-act structure. However, once I start writing the spaces between the significant incidents tend to bloat and shrink so subsequent drafts look less and less like the classic swooping escalation. I will admit to a strong preference for grammatical accuracy though.
- You’re protecting your originality by avoiding instruction on the craft. I have had a slightly odd outlook on life for as long as I can remember, so my uniqueness is too deeply ingrained to fear losing it to someone’s experience. Although I am not seeking a formal qualification in creative writing, but did chose to have King’s On Writing over a more frivolous present.
- You change your writing process every time an expert suggests something new. How often is too often? I experiment with different methods until I have a feel for them. One of the advantages of writing over more mainstream jobs is that I am my own boss and team, so I do not have to wait for approval to change my process. Until I see every change reducing my productivity, I am more concerned with undue fear of change.
- Your genius doesn’t need to be critiqued. Lawyers build their arguments partially by attacking their own case to find the flaws, so I love a second set of eyes on something.
- Your tender ego can’t bear to be critiqued. A few months ago I received feedback that one of my stories was riddled with errors, along with a document titled Corrections. After a few minutes spent thinking that it could have been worded more tactfully, I opened the document and started reviewing the suggestions. Possibly after many years of going into Court expecting the other side to tear my submissions apart I benefit from an odd perspective on criticism.
- You believe everything everyone tells you about your story. I am always amused by advertisements that splash “96% of women said they would not go back” type tags, then reveal in tiny print “of 32 respondents”. Do any authors have a large enough group of beta readers that even a majority opinion is statistically significant? The last time there was a disagreement over whether parts of a story worked I mostly stayed with my original idea, so I feel I have the balance for the moment.
- You spend more time checking your email than working on your manuscript. I do check my email more than once a day sometimes, as a quick break between larger writing tasks. However, addressing the wider message, I check Twitter and Google+ once a day and am not on Facebook. Maybe once I am famous I will have a high enough volume of social media interaction to press against time available to write.
- You start ten stories for every one you finish. My goal for the year is to not add anything to my unfinished pile. So far I have no only finished everything I started, but have restarted the novel I put down last year.
- You don’t believe you’re really a writer until you get something published/you’re a bestseller/you get a movie deal/Stephen King blurbs your book. I want to be really good at writing, in the same way I want to be really good at other things I do. However, I have already received external validation as a lawyer and as a business analyst before I would have labelled myself as exceptional at either, so I usually remember my moments of doubt might not be objective.
- You’re only writing a book in order to sell a gazillion copies, quit your day job, and retire to the Bahamas. Writing currently is my day job. I might quit if writing required me to move to the Bahamas. I am divided on selling a huge number of books: by inclination I want to respond to all the tweets, and comments I receive; if I become very popular will the strain of ignoring people start to eat into me?
- You talk about your story more than you write about it. I have, as I suspect all writers have, people with whom I discuss details of my work. However, I only started broadcasting that I was writing after I had work accepted. So, if anything, I talk about writing less than some social media gurus recommend.
- You only write when you’re inspired. Breaking that barrier was my goal a few years back. I am so used to writing whether or not I feel like it now that I feel twitchy if I have a day without significant progress, for even the best of reasons.
- You’re not writing.This is possibly the next goal to resolve. I abandoned word-counts in favour of larger goals, which has actually produced more work with less worry over whether a day spent in research counts as writing. But, viewed at the right granularity, am I writing enough? Am I writing too much? Would I benefit from spending time world-building for my own world instead of writing tweaked versions of the real world?
Of course my inner critic has a different view, but they are currently focussed on berating me for not being able to fix DRAM using only the power of my mind so you will have to content yourself with my positive side’s view that whether or not I am acting like a writer is a question for me alone.
Perceptive – or pernicious, depending on my mood – readers might wonder why I posted this if the question is mine alone. I refer them to the lede, where I said it was for those who were interested.