Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Top 10 Things Every Writer Needs (in no particular order)

1. A leakproof pen.

Whether in your pocket or on your pad, a leaky pen creates a messy distraction that few writers can afford. After all, we're so easily diverted from the task of writing. What could be more appealing than rinsing out an ink stain or searching for a better pen‐‐even if it means a quick trip to the store? 

2. A small notepad.

Writing is more than a job; it's a lifestyle. No matter where we go or whom we're with, we're always writing, if only in our heads. Random thoughts‐‐brilliant or mundane‐‐will never amount to more than flashes in the brain pan unless we record them as they occur. Once we write them down, however, we have the luxury of waiting for them to evolve into greater works. 

3. At least one honest critic.

Let's face facts. An honest critique is hard to find, especially among family and friends. If you find at least one person who'll always tell you the truth, no matter how painful, count your blessings. A person with some literary sensibility would be nice, but someone who simply enjoys a good read will do. 

4. At least one morale booster.

Who couldn't use a steady supply of positive affirmations? We're only human, and our egos love to be fed. Your supporter could feed you a varied diet, including glowing reviews and reminders of past successes‐‐whatever it takes to keep you in the writing game. 

5. A computer with Internet access.

Like it or not, we're living in a wired world. Most publications have an online presence, and many of them will accept queries and/or submissions by email. Even those that persist in using postal mail usually promote themselves on the Internet. Besides, you can become part of a community of writers and lessen the solitude that often comes with this craft. 

6. A day job.

The ongoing use of postal mail by some publishers means writers need to make copies of their stories and letters. Not to mention little things like food and shelter. Unfortunately, writing doesn't always generate lots of revenue. The truly creative writer knows how to reap the non-salary rewards of holding down the obligatory day job. If you have to give up one third of your writing time in order to pay the bills, why not throw in a few perks? 

7. A quiet retreat (or two).

A retreat can be as simple as a separate room in your home or as exhilarating as a seaside cottage. All that really matters is removing yourself from the demands of partners, children and pets whenever possible. Consider it a gift to your loved ones. As long as you get the time you need to write, they won't have to endure your fits of frustration. 

8. The fellowship of other writers.

Birds of a feather. Peas in a pod. Most people, regardless of their pursuits, enjoy the company of like‐minded individuals. Other writers understand us unlike anyone else. We don't have to explain that staring out the window is part of the creative process or justify our latest late‐night writing binge. 

9. A collection of great writing.

Everyone needs heroes. Whose writing do you most admire? Whose career do you most covet? Keep their works handy and refer to them often. Re‐read a favorite passage as often as it takes to fire up your tired brain. Give yourself over to the masters, and they will guide you through the creative journey. 

10. A selection of lousy writing.

Not every published writer is a master of the craft. If a particular story makes you shake your head in disbelief, clip the story and tack it to the wall over your desk. Whenever you feel your talent is gone and no editor will ever buy your work, look at the clip. If that hack could get published, what's stopping you?

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