Taking Stock of my Writing Career

I’m happy with the level of skill and the versatility I’ve achieved, but I wish I’d gotten here 10 years ago.

I am very happy with what I’ve produced for the blogs since November.  When we decided to start blogging, I went into it knowing it would require me to put aside everything but paid work and blogging for six months to get us off to a good start. I think we’re off to a good start already, but I’m sticking with my commitment to focus solely on blogging and paid work until May. Diana and our contributors have played a huge part in the success we’ve had, but I am pleasantly surprised at both the quality and the consistency I’ve managed to maintain.

When I started writing this on Monday, I had drafts for daily posts in Sourcerer’s queue to take us through Friday (including one of my own), and a post for Monday in my inbox. That left me a lot of time to write, network, and talk with contributors this week. It was a fabulous position to be in.

What I am not happy with, as far as my career is concerned, is this: I’ve never submitted a piece of writing, aside from newspaper stories, for academic or commercial publication. I wasn’t even comfortable calling myself a professional writer until I had an epiphany a few months ago and realized that every job I’ve ever had, with a couple of short-term exceptions, has required me to write every day to get paid. Maybe I’ve been more mercenary than artist with my writing career up to this point, but I do have a writing career, and I need to start thinking about it as such.

This latest foray into blogging has given me some confidence as a writer I didn’t have when I started. It’s improved my revision skills and it’s helping me overcome my perfectionism. I’ve had a few professional experiences lately that have given me confidence, as well. Honestly, if you will permit me a gaming metaphor, I feel like I’ve gained a level.

When I decided to go public on the Internet to support these blogs, I was o.k. billing myself as an editor and a scholar; but I felt a little silly calling myself writer, organizer, and promoter. I don’t feel silly at all about that now.

Even if we’re  as successful with these blogs as we’re ever going to be, I feel validated. I made a commitment back in the Fall to a fairly large and diverse group of people. I’ve held up my end, and they’ve all supported me. So have a lot of people I never would have met if not for these blogs. I’m grateful, and I’m always alert to opportunities to pay that support forward. For once in my life, I took a leap of faith and it worked out well enough to exceed my expectations.

I’ve been discussing, for a while,  submitting a guest post to a blog that I read often and sometimes comment on. Over the weekend I gave them a commitment. I’m planning to sit down and  write the first draft sometime in March (after I get my A-to-Z writing done) and submit it in April. At some point during that discussion, I made a pitch and said:

“I’ll give you the first read, and if it’s not what you’re looking for, I’ll publish it someplace else.”

I’ve been thinking about that conversation for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve realized I had absolutely no anxiety about rejection when I made the statement. If what I submit isn’t right for the blog I submit it to, we’ll still be friends. I’ll make another pitch at some point and try again. That’s a new experience for me. I’ve always been anxious about rejection, and about the quality of my work in general, but I appear to have made real progress on that. I have the personal friends who support these blogs, and the readers and bloggers I’ve chatted with over the past three months, to thank for that progress.

Which brings me back to taking stock of my career. I do not really know where this confidence and emotional maturity I’m experiencing lately is coming from, but the “new” has worn off and it’s starting to feel like a breakthrough. It’s happened since November. It is a gift, and I’m old enough to realize that I need to make the most of every day I have left on this little blue planet.

So maybe instead of making a New Year’s Resolution to produce a certain amount of draft fiction this year, I should have resolved to produce two short pieces of writing (any type), have some trustworthy critic-types read them with an eye to improving them, and submit the finished pieces to publishers until I find somebody who likes one well enough to run it.

The idea is to do the thinking while I get the blogs through the spring and be ready to sit down and write the first piece over the summer. The minute it’s finished, I’d send it out and start the next one.

What do you think of that resolution, friends?