|The author, Dane F. Baylis|
WHAT MAKES A WRITER?
The Really Truly Deep Dark Secret!
There are any number of people out there who will say that what makes a writer is that he/she writes. Period. I'll agree that, if this isn't occurring, then there's little else to be said. Writers write.
What this doesn't take into account is that, if this were all, there'd be damn few published authors. What isn't taken into account in that truism is that it's a two part process. A writer also takes a chance.
Sometime, somewhere, a writer has to expose his/her writing to other people. Yes, an awful lot of advice centers around keeping a journal, but a notebook full of observations is just that, a diary with a fancy name, unless it is put into a form meant to communicate with other people. You might have drawers full of manuscripts, but unless they see daylight they're just so much musty paper!
Do I mean you should be sending out submissions and risking rejection in all its harsh manifestations? Not unless you've got a pretty thick hide and a grasp on your craft. Form letters are pretty impersonal and usually close to useless other than letting you know you struck out again. So how do you get exposure and helpful criticism?
Well, there's the easy gentle route of friends and family. They will usually be the most receptive, if not the most honest, when it comes to your budding ambitions. Caveat here, if you have something particularly truthful and blunt to say about your sister or Uncle Bob, I wouldn't pick them as an audience. Save that for after the Nobel Award Ceremony.
Try joining a local writer's club. There are more of them than you might imagine, from some that have been around for decades and have a large membership, to others that involve just a few people and meet at their neighborhood library. You can Google search for these or try asking the librarian or at a bookstore. There are all levels of skill represented and more than a little desire to help. Just do your self a favor and check your ego at the door.
But you're a poet? Take a look around for open mic nights. Yes, it is scary and there's not much opportunity for discussion while people are waiting their turn. (Also avoid reciting your life's work tranlation of the ENTIRE Odyssey into modern English.) Afterwards, ask someone you heard to talk about their work. Poets are usually more than willing to return the favor. A number of these types of events have a featured reader as an opener. This is someone with a track record and, more than likely, publication credits. Get to know these people. Don't make a nuisance of yourself, just ask if they might have time to meet with you for some pointers.
As time passes you may find yourself being ASKED to submit work to small presses and literary journals. This will likely involve having to pass through some kind of editorial process. Take a chance! Nobody bats a thousand but if they ask you then there's something they've seen or heard they like. Whatever is accepted, be gracious and thankful and remember, every door opened leads to another more grand.
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In the meantime...live, love, write.
Dane F. Baylis