I was asked on Facebook a few weeks ago whether I’d learned anything in my time as a corporate lawyer that I found applicable / useful to my career as an author. The answer is, absolutely yes.
With that as preface, here’s what it means to me to be a professional writer:
- You meet your commitments. If you discover you can’t make a deadline, you promptly notify the people who are expecting to receive your work.
- You get the job done. See above, but also, your output is work, and you have the ability and the will to sit down and do it. If you-as-author are waiting for inspiration to strike, you are a dilettante.
- You are flexible. You are a skilled creator, able to create as requested. You are a pony with more than one trick, you have more stories to tell than one. You can write in many formats, and can learn few formats when you need to.
- You communicate clearly. You are clear about deadlines and deliveries.
- You come prepared. And when you are ambushed with a meeting you were not expecting, your skills are strong enough and you are full of enough substance that the other meeting participants think you must have prepared, even though you didn’t.
- You know your market. You understand the genres in which you write, and your audiences. You know what they’re expecting, and how much you can twist their expectations to surprise them without losing their interest.
- You hone your craft. You read for entertainment, and you read to improve.You can market. You know what your brand is. You know how to position your writing.
- You can sell. You can tell people what any story is about in a way that leaves them wanting to read it to know more. You may be an introvert (you are probably an introvert), and you don’t let that stop you. You can collapse in your hotel room later; when you’re standing at the table, you can grin and pitch.
- You look the part. Partly this is brand, in that you cultivate a consistent look; but also, you cultivate a look that says take me seriously and read the stuff I write. You look like someone who’s worth the investment of $20 or $20,000.