Writing Career Mindset

6 Jan

If you’ve followed me even for 5 mins, you know how I feel about the whole Writing Career thing. I’ve spent years coaching and doing succession planning as and HR Partner, and that mindset roles into this life very easily.

So many people say they want to have a writing career, but don’t treat it that way. Let’s talk a little bit about what a career — any career, not just a job — should look like.



A career should goals and reviews. Yes goals and reviews. If you don’t know where you want to go and you don’t check if you’re getting there or not, how do you judge progress? A career moves forward, brings you challenges and rewards. “I want to write a book” or “I want to publish a book” are nice wishes. Now put some framework around them to make them goals: What kind of book, by when, how many books, who do you want to publsih with, do you want to write for income, what would that take? etc.

Just like everything else you think about when planning where you want your current career to take you, you need to do that for your writing as well.

What if you’ve never had a “career” outside the home. There’s a lot of people who have been stay at home caretakers who have built amazing skills that translate well. I mean, seriously, have you ever met anyone as organized as a stay-at-home wife and mom? Seriously, she could dispatch just about anything with ease.



I’ll be honest, I have (ok, once, I’m not typically a PJs person) showered and put fresh PJs on to write. It’s one of the joys of working in your house. But, that needs to change when you’re out networking. Take a look at some of your favorite authors. How do they dress at events? How does their genre/audience effect their image?  Some wear suits. Some wear trendy clothing. Some have created their own t-shirts that advertise their books. Some dress more like the characters….But ALL of them have an image that does not say “I write in my PJs or sweats all day.” Define your professional look and make sure you pack it for conferences and meetings.



I am a writer. Say it. No really, say it out loud. Now, go say it TO someone. You are a writer.

Now, go BE a writer. Not just a hobby writer. A Writer. This doesn’t mean you have to write 40 hours a week. It doesn’t even mean you have to write a book in a certain amount of time. It does mean that you’re investing in your self as a writer. If you can make the time or money, you’re getting to workshops and/or conferences. It means that you create the time to write and then use that time to write. It means that you sit at your laptop and tell yourself: It’s time to work. I’m building a career as a successful writer.



Otherwise known as Public Professionalism. Conference of all types are places people cut loose…but how loose is okay. I know where that line is for me, and everyone needs to define that line myself. Remember, you’re there to make a positive work impression on potential agents, editors, co-writers, critique partners, workshop partners, readers, etc.

Also, we’ve talked about agents and eavesdropping on them. It would be foolish to think that other people aren’t listening to us at these events. One wrong statement can damage a reputation forever. As an HR person, I try to basically ignore anything that goes on at a company event that isn’t harassment of some type. People are relaxing and bonding, but there are lines that can’t be crossed. Those are the ones you can’t come back from. Yes, I’ve fired all of ONE person because of company event behavior. Remember, you can’t get fired as a writer (well, you could fire yourself) but you can slam doors in your own face.



The work. It alllll comes down to The Work. Are you doing it? Are you saying your doing it, but you’re not. Nothing else matters if you aren’t writing. Not that good? Write. Write slowly. That’s ok, just write. No confidence in yourself or your work? Write. Not sure what you’ll do with it when you’re done? Don’t worry about that now, go write.

You’ll get better. You’ll get faster. You’ll learn what you need to know — But, without the work, none of the rest matters.

8 Responses to “Writing Career Mindset”

  1. Eisley Jacobs January 6, 2010 at 5:29 pm #

    You mean I shouldn’t go out in my jammies to a book signing?!?! *snap*

    Note taken… *sigh*


    Good blog! Worth the time you spent on it.

  2. MG January 6, 2010 at 7:45 pm #

    Stop being so friggin cool. I can’t take it. (btw, I’ve done all these things. I’m there. Go me!)

  3. briaq January 6, 2010 at 7:51 pm #

    YES! Being opinionated makes me cool 🙂

  4. Kimberly Franklin January 6, 2010 at 8:24 pm #

    It’s all about the work, isn’t it? Great post…so true!

    : )

  5. briaq January 6, 2010 at 9:50 pm #

    It IS all about the work 🙂


  6. Steve January 9, 2010 at 4:06 am #

    I have no particular interest in writing as a “career”. My day job as a computer professional suits me just fine. I just want to write a particular YA novel I have in mind and find an audience for it. Does that make me a bad person?


  7. briaq January 10, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    A lot of professional writers have a day job. *Actually* most do. The money in writing is… oh wait, there’s almost no money in writing.

    The last stat I heard was that 5% of multi-published, on the shelf (so they currently have 3 or more books shelved in bookstores) have the ability to make a living off their writing.

    The one thing I would say Steve is that you should keep your one-book plan under your hat. We’re in a time when publishing is tight and the first question that pops to mind might be “Why take a risk on building and branding him for 1 book when this other person we can do three books after we’ve branded him?”

    BUT, that is you’re career mind set. Write one book, Do it well, Get if published. You just adjust the career aspect to that goal 🙂

  8. Steve January 11, 2010 at 2:48 am #

    Hi Brian,

    I see your point. Thanks for the response. I guess if my goals are non-traditional, I’ll have to figure out a non-traditional model.


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