Sarah M. Eden
At the ripe old age of five, Sarah M. Eden wrote her first book, "The Sun," which stunk worse than cooked cabbage on a hot summer day. Sarah, at the ripe old age of much more than five, is now the author of ten historical romances, which her mother thinks are fabulous, including 2008 Whitney Award Finalist Seeking Persephone and her most recent release, Courting Miss Lancaster. When not writing and/or avoiding responsible things like cooking dinner, doing laundry or making vital phone calls, Sarah makes friends and influences people at www.SarahMEden.com
Traits Every Author Needs to Have (or Fake)
I write fiction. Thus, I'm all about making stuff up, including my own level of competency at this whole Being An Author thing. I've discovered a few things along this often perilous journey.
1. Writers are a strange, strange lot.
2. Cheetos leave an orange tint on a keyboard that is all but impossible to remove.
3. Authors need a tool belt filled with certain character traits. Some authors come to the profession with them already. Some develop them. Others just have to pretend.
What are these mysterious, essential, oh-so-important Author Traits of which I speak? Gather round whilst I impart bits of wisdom.
Trait #1: Endurance
I'm not talking about the running up a mountain at full speed for two straight hours kind of endurance. Let's face it, people whose hobby by its very nature sees them on their backside at the computer for hours on end aren't really cut out for that sort of thing. I like to think of this as mental endurance, intellectual perseverance, stubborn stick-to-it-iveness.
There is nothing in the Author Rule Book that promises instant gratification or freedom from frustrating, grueling, drawn-out battles with our own muses. Sometimes being a writer isn't even that fun. Rejections. Writers' block. Don't even get me started on the editing, rewriting, reworking, re-everythinging.
As Richard Bach said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.”
Trait #2: Thick Skin
Authorhood is not for the faint of heart. Even before your manuscript gets into the hands of agents or publishers, it needs to get ripped apart. Probably more than once.
“Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.” --Sidonie Gabrielle
A true author learns to recognize when their work isn't at the level it should be. They learn to take it when someone else points that out. This doesn't mean you always have to enjoy it, but you have to understand that it's necessary to improving your craft.
Here's a little tidbit for you: Get a critique group. Gather together a bunch of your fellow writers with similar goals, though not necessarily the same genre, whose judgement you trust, who aren't afraid to tell you like it is. Meet together often.
One of two things will happen in your critique group. You will either come out of it with polished, improved manuscripts and strong friendships that will see you through the inevitable ups and downs of this often-cruel industry. OR, some or all of your group will discover they can't handle hearing what's wrong with their writing, what needs work. Positive feedback is essential, but it's not everything.
Word to the wise: If you are someone who needs constant reassurance and pats on the back and someone to tell you your writing is amazing even when it isn't... Time to either pretend you can take it until you really can or reconsider your career path.
Do you have to be the writing equivalent of Chuck Norris right from the start? Not at all. Just know that's your ultimate goal. Facial hair optional.
Trait #3: Patience
A lot of you have probably already stopped reading this. Writers aren't known for their attention spans. The irony is, this industry has a certain pattern of operation:
wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, WORK FRANTICALLY UNDER A SUDDEN, URGENT DEADLINE, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, WORK FRANTICALLY UNDER A SUDDEN, URGENT DEADLINE
...Are you picking up what I'm laying down?
We all want success to come right away, for the wheels of literary fortune to spin faster than a ride at the state fair. That's just not the way things work.
Learn to be patient. Or learn to fake it.
Trait #4: Being Okay With Yourself
That's a really lame title for Trait #4. Ah, well. That's beside the point. I debated calling this trait “self-esteem,” but somehow that wasn't quite what I was going for.
As authors we pour ourselves into our work only to send it out in the world and watch it, and us along with it, get ripped up and stepped on and analyzed and rejected. At the same time, we can receive accolades and praise and adoration. We dread the criticism and crave the praise.
I have this saying (I actually have a lot of sayings, but this is the one that applies), “If you aren't enough with it, you'll never be enough without it.”
If you have to have the praise in order to feel good as an author, no amount of praise will ever be sufficient. There will always be critics. Always. People aren't always going to like what you write. You need to learn to not let that color how you see yourself as a writer.
You have to be square with yourself. You have to feel like you have something worth saying, that you have talent. Tell yourself that again and again until you start to believe it.
Take up your pens. Press forward. Fake it 'til you make it, my friends.
*** (from Christine) Thanks for being my guest today Sarah. This is something I really needed to hear today. It's so true that we need to learn to accept the bad with the good and not let it get us down or make us quit. Becoming published is a long hard process and we must push forward and endure it all.