We tend to think of a writer as a voice that others listen to. That’s true. But no writer reaches any measure of success unless she, too, is listening to voices herself. Here are the four voices that I listen to, in no particular order:
The craft of writing
We all have room for improvement. From time to time I’ll read an instructional book that I hope will improve my sentences and paragraphs. I even went, to a seminar, last month, on the use and abuse, of commas (can’t you tell?).
But mostly I study the craft of writing by listening to the voices of better writers. I don’t usually just read their books; I study them. I consider the structures of their paragraphs and admire the variety in their sentences. I feast on their focused dialogue and marvel at their narrative arc. I become a better writer when I read better writers.
The business of publishing
You want to get published one day? You’d better get a basic education in the business of publishing. Go to your local used bookstore and pick up ten books on how to get published. Learn to read and understand what publishing companies want, and then follow directions (if you can’t follow directions, you’re instantly out). Know what a query letter is, and how it differs from a proposal. Learn which publishers may be interested in your voice or topic or genre, and target them. If you love to see rejections, just follow the steps I outline here.
The art of platform
You want people to actually read what you write? You’d better help people learn your name. I’ll admit that this is my least favorite part of today’s publishing reality. But it is a reality. If you have a strong message that you believe in, then you want more people reading it rather than fewer people. Building a platform increases the odds of this happening. Start a blog, join Facebook, get a twitter account, self-publish a few short stories, enter writing contests, attend writing conferences, submit articles for publication in low-circulation magazines. Do whatever you can to get more people reading your writing more. And sit at the feet of the platform guru, Michael Hyatt (Google him).
The voice of inspiration
If all of this sounds like work, that’s because most of it is. But this part is the fun part. Subscribe to Writer’s Digest or other writing magazines. Read the stories of breakthrough authors and imagine how your story will read one day. Watch the Netflix documentary on J.D. Salinger, or read Stephen King’s On Writing. Join a writer’s group. Play Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 55, No. 1 in F Minor (works for me every time). Find out what inspires you to write and to write better, and incorporate it into your diet.