Monday, May 24, 2010

The Writer's Tree (A place for us in the writing profession)

The other day a critique buddy of mine shared her excitement about her plans to attend her first SCBWI Summer Conference in LA this year. She's got a completed novel manuscript that's caught positive attention from editors at regional conferences. She has an active blog that's frequented by writers from across the nation. And she's known and loved by many people in her local SCBWI region. But after saying how glad she is to be going to the big conference filled with "actual, really famous authors," she added, "my plan is to just listen and learn and try to look like I fit in."

Why is it that it is so hard for us writers to ever feel that we've done enough and achieved enough, to "belong" in this profession?

Is it the fact that you can go into any coffee shop, in any town, in almost any country, and find at least 3 or 4 people who purport to be `writers,' there?

Is it because there's not necessarily a degree that's required for this profession? (Although we know that more and more writers are getting MFA's -- still many are not).

Is it because most everyone in the world has toyed with the idea of writing their own autobiography, or perhaps a few stories for their grandchildren, and therefore people don't belive you're "a real writer" until you've published at leaste a couple of books and been able to quit your day job and move away from civilization into a log cabin in the woods to write. (An unlikely scenario for most of us).

Probably it's partly the fault of all of these things. But perhaps it's also caused by our own lack of believing.

At any SCBWI event we attend we find experienced authors who have published multiple books, but who still stand there welcoming the newer ones of us with open arms. It is not that we "can't" belong, but rather that we think we're not qualified YET....

But, I think, that writing is like any other profession. We start out on the bottom rung of the ladder, or the bottom branch of the tree, and we work our way up, one educational achievement, or "failure," or "success" at a time."

So, it's not so much that "we're in," or "we're out," but rather that we're all on different branches of the tree -- we're all at different spots in the journey. And just because we haven't reached the big nest of best selling authors at the top of the tree, it doesnt' mean we're not in the tree. We're climbing upwards, towards the nest, bit by bit.

So look at those wonderful multi-published authors waving down at you from the top of that tree. And then look below you at the branches you've already passed in your climb.

Check out the branches. Some you've climbed past already. Some are the ones you're reaching for now. But if you're serious about your writing, wherever you are in the tree, you belong here. Happy climbing! Don't let the sap and the tree ants get in your way.


Can you say I have...

  • become an active member of a critique group
  • been writing, revising, and submitting my work to agents and/or editors
  • gotten at least 5 rejections, and I'm still climbing, dude...
  • attended one or more children's writing conferences
  • placed high in a writing or illustrating contest.
  • gotten published in magazines with short fiction, non-fiction, or illustrations
  • gotten positive feedback from editors/agents/or more experienced authors at conferences
  • gotten a positive rejection from an editor or agent
  • had an editor or agent request my full manuscript -- whether they decided to buy it or not.
  • started a writing blog or website and maintained it
  • established a regular schedule for my writing time
  • "got" an agent or an editor
  • sold a book!!!
  • did a public reading or book signing
  • spoke at a conference or taught classes for newer writers
  • published more books!!!
  • tried writing in a new genre and found success there.
  • Add your own other branches here.... There are many.

Did you find you've climbed more branches in your journey than you thought you had?

Wherever you and I are on this journey, we do belong here. We doubt ourselves and we have questions. That's normal, they say. But don't lose track of the branch above you.

Let's you and I enjoy the view as we keep climing rung to rung up the Writer's Tree.