By Christina Katz
As professional writers, we write and we write and we write, but wait a second, isn’t there anything else we can do to jumpstart our careers?
You’d better believe it. Here are twelve booster rockets to pop you out of your chair and into action.
Take stock of your writing from the past year. Purge your file cabinet. Clear your clutter. Set up new, better systems to track ideas and writing-in-progress. And don’t forget your computer. You probably need to purge and organize in there too. Most importantly, if you’ve been putting it off, back-up your entire computer system. Then make an extra copy of your most valuable writing and send it to a friend or family member for safekeeping. If your system ever crashes you’ll be oh-so-glad you did.
You’ve eliminated the junk and it feels good, doesn’t it? Now it’s time for the good stuff — updating your portfolio. If you provide more than one service with your writing skills, you may want to keep separate portfolios. For example, I have one for articles, another for consulting, coaching, editing, and teaching, and another for my newsletter’s back issues. Not only is reviewing your progress from the past year satisfying, it’s good preparation for number three, which is…
3. Give Yourself a Pat on the Back
Do not skip this step! It doesn’t matter whether you’ve met all of your goals so far or not. You absolutely deserve to celebrate past accomplishments before you go forward. Besides, you’ll probably glean valuable insights about where you are going based on where you have been.
4. Pat Another Writer You Know on the Back
Perhaps you could meet for tea or coffee and compare portfolios with each other, tell tales of caffeine-fueled deadlines met, stories of overzealous editors confronted, accounts of elusive scoops professionally snared. When that’s all done, you could review page-by-page your stunning book, ohhhing and ahhhing in all the appropriate places, of course. And before parting, take a few moments to acknowledge what you’ve learned from each other. Because let’s face it, no one appreciates what we strive for and accomplish as much as another writer.
5. Form a Writing Circle with Like-Minded Writers
What better way to share resources and encourage each other on a regular basis. Writing groups are great places to share insights you’ve gleaned about editors based on their likes and dislikes, swap ideas for increasing productivity, and set lofty goals you’d like to accomplish, but could use some encouragement attempting. Support groups are not merely for giving and receiving critical feedback. They can be helpful for moral support as well. Mind the gossip and gabfest though, accountability first, socializing second. And whenever possible, invite in publishing writers who can share real-life success stories.
6. Re-evaluate your Niche
Perhaps when you started writing, it was all about parenting because you had just had a baby. And maybe you favored the attachment parenting school of thought. But what happens when you tire of writing about breastfeeding, the family bed, and endless opportunities for bonding? I’ll tell you what happens, you start looking around for fresh ideas — food writing, travel, maybe even book reviewing. Writing can be a terrific outlet for a fickle nature. Simply abandon the terra of well-traversed writing material when the appeal of incognita pales.
7. Assess your Strengths and Weaknesses as a Writer
What strengths can you leverage as you move forward? What weaknesses could use improvement? Seek out classes that specifically address your needs. Investigate local community college schedules, check out online classes (http://www.writersontherise.com/classes.html), and talk to your writing friends about workshops they’ve taken. Nothing beats a word-of-mouth recommendation.
8. Review and Renew Your Subscriptions
Are the magazines that show up in your mailbox each month still your favorites or have you outgrown them? Since writers read publications for inspiration as well as potential markets, it’s important to subscribe to those that resonate strongly with you. If you are tight on cash but need sample copies of publications to query, I suggest Moira Allen’s article, ” Finding Sample Magazines – Without Breaking the Bank at http://www.writing-world.com/basics/samples.shtml.
9. Join a Professional Writer’s Association
Like, perhaps…the ASJA (http://www.asja.org/). How would it feel to say, “[your name here] is a member of the Association of Journalists and Authors.” More professional, yes? I think you’ll agree that the multiple benefits are worth the cost.
10. Join a Regional Writer’s Association
Joining Willamette Writers in Portland, Oregon (http://www.willamettewriters.com/) has been a boon to my career. What regional writing organization might serve your upcoming goals? Google the nearest group and show up at the next meeting. The networking opportunities alone are worth the price of membership.
11. Create a Reprint File
All those articles you published last year can be turned into cash next year if you resubmit them strategically. Three good articles on the topic include:
“Selling Reprints” by Moira Allen
“One Article, Many Checks: Selling Reprints” by Kelly James-Enger
“Selling Reprints: An Editor’s Perspective” by Lisa Crayton
12. Plan Now to Attend a 2008 Writer’s Conference
Don’t just consider attending a writing conference in 2006, but actually commit to going to one. You can start at Shaw Guides (http://writing.shawguides.com/), but remember, do not pass go and collect the increased self-esteem until you actually make the reservations.
The main thing to remember as you assess your writing progress from last year is that you are further along than you were. You can move even further ahead by taking time now to reflect, assess, and dream about where you’d like to be at this time next year. Good luck!
You are welcome to reprint any article in your zine, newsletter, newspaper, magazine, website, blog, etc. so long as Christina’s title, byline and bio remain as they appear with each article.
Christina Katz is the author of “Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids” (Writer’s Digest Books, March 2007). She is a featured presenter at the Writer’s Digest/BEA Writer’s Conference, The Whidbey Island Writers Association MFA Residency, and the Willamette Writers Conference. She’s been teaching writing-for-publication classes for six years and has appeared on Good Morning America. She is also publisher and editor of “Writers on the Rise” and another called “The Writer Mama.” Christina blogs daily at http://www.thewritermama.wordpress.com/. For more about “Writer Mama,” visit Christina’s website at http://www.thewritermama.com/.