Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Having Talent Is Not Enough

Had a problem getting into my Google account and Blogger sites yesterday, so i was not able to leave comments on the sites I usually visit. Sorry guys; I could only lurk:-)

Anyway, yesterday I met a man who used to be a very good writer. His company sent him to see me about some business matter, and he was curious enough about what I do to ask me about it and I had a moment to engage him because my computer was driving me dilly because I couldn’t access Google or Blogger sites.

The man said his stories were published in national magazines, and rights to those stories were also a number of magazines across Africa.

“I used to receive cheques out of the blue from magazine publishers, saying that they’d sold the rights to my story to publishers in other countries. All I had to do was cash the money,” he said.

Then major life events, including divorce and alcoholism happened, and his life had a downward spiral until his career prospects disappeared too.

“I know I’m a very good writer, and the writing process was very easy for me. Once had a story I wanted to tell, the words would just flow. And now when I sit here and tell you about it, I feel like a drunk who regales people with tales of his past glories,” he said.

Now he’s starting his writing career from scratch [again] and the publishing world he knew has changed. He started a blog to showcase his work and expected that publishers would encounter his work and ask for more to publish.

But publishers are not knocking on his door like they used to, and I felt bad telling him that there are enough writers out there that publishers don’t have to search out talent from the Internet.

Well, we all know it happens. Once in a million. To someone else:-) And most of us just have to read the editorial guidelines and keep sending stuff out.

I don't think he liked my view that he has to find the publishers, study their editorial guidelines and then choose the ones who are looking for material that look close to what he writes.

Or that he has to do a lot of marketing of his work to potential readers and build a following long before publishers even offer him a contract.

Or that he couldn't just create his masterpieces, post them on his blog and hope that his readership will grow. He has to go to where his potential readers hang out and entice them to try out his material. And he has to supply them with material consistently enough for them to start coming to his site on a voluntary basis to see if he has something new to them.

Will he take my advice? I don’t know. He said he would, and I emailed him editorial guidelines for a publisher whom I think he could write for. But many people ask me about getting into writing, and some of them never seem to go beyond asking about it. “I don’t have time to write,” they tell me. And I say nothing to that, because we all get the same 24 hours per day, and we allocate what is important to us to it. Not giving writing a higher priority is not a bad thing; it just is for some of us, because we have other things that we need/want to do with our time. Even if we do want to be writers. And writing is work, just like any other profession/family obligation /parenting /housekeeping chores.It requires you to put aside time for you to do it, or it doesn't get done.

I did feel compelled to tell him that he can succeed as a writer: clearly he has confidence in his abilities and his history of having published gives him an advantage most beginning writers don’t have. But I’m not quite sure if he is hungry enough, persistent enough to keep writing and sending his work out.

And in that, we are different: becoming a writer was not easy for me, and I knew I had to fight for the right to be called writer, and to make a success of it. And I learnt the hard way that marketing is crucial for a writer’s success, even when the publisher assures you they’re doing a lot of marketing for the work.

Question: What motivates you to sit down and write/blog, when you could be working in your garden, cleaning the house, having fun with your family or friends?


Laura said...

I am motivated by trying to quieten the voices in my head!

REALLY its true! I have so much going on in my head that writing about some of it helps me to make sense of it!

BeckyJoie said...

Well said.

Tamara said...

If I was working in my garden, cleaning the house or having fun with my family or friends, I'd probably be thinking, "I want to write about this."

And so I do.

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