SURVIVAL for Writers
In Special Forces we’re taught that the acronym Survival provides you with the first letters of the keys you need to survive. I recently published The Green Beret Survival Guide which frankly, I feel, is the most important book I’ve ever written, because it has information in it that can and will, save people’s lives. In it, I cover the acronym in terms of a survival situation, but here, I want to use it in terms of being a writer:
S: Size up the situation, your surroundings, yourself, and your equipment.
Size up the situation: There are two ways to take this: one is in preparation and the other is in the actual situation. For preparation, you size up your potential situations by doing an Area Study (which is covered for survival in the guide but for writers in Write It Forward. which is the most important book I’ve written about being an author– how to save and grow your career). What that means is you must understand the publishing landscape you plan to be part of. Things are changing rapidly in publishing. My theory is NY is eighteen months behind, which in the digital age is an eternity. You have to read blogs, articles, go to conferences and conventions and network.
Always remember one thing: consider what bias each person brings in to their advice/information.
Size up yourself.
What are you good at? What are you weak at? Remember, your writing is only going to be as good as your weakest part. But your tendency is going to be to want to focus on your strongest part. That’s natural, but you have to fight it.
U – Use All Your Senses, Undue Haste Makes Waste
Use all your senses. Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. I’ve never had an editor or agent make a comment about a manuscript I didn’t already sense on some level was there.
This is a marathon not a sprint. While the digital age is moving fast, we have to take the long view. The number one key to success is to set a long-term goal and do whatever it takes to get there.
R – Remember Where You Are
One of the problems is there is so much advice out there, it’s hard to know what to listen to. Whenever I present, I remind everyone in the room that they each have to process what they receive through their own specific set of circumstances. There are many roads to Oz, and Oz means different things for different people. So there is no one right way.
You have to become as well informed as possible, be realistic about your situation, and then map out your own plan.
V – Vanquish Fear and Panic
The number one problem writers have is fear. Stephen King says fear is at the root of all bad writing. It’s also at the root of bad business. Because there are so many options available, we get overwhelmed. One of the hardest things for writers to do is to make a decision and stick with it.
I believe it’s the best time ever to be a writer because the Internet has opened up distribution to everyone. Discoverability is the problem. But I see so many writers who are paralyzed, unable to make a decision, so that they are letting opportunity slip away.
I – Improvise
Because we have so many options in the medium in which we present our writing, we have to keep our mind open to how we can best use those options. I am constantly trying different things, both business wise with Cool Gus Publishing, and as a writer. I tried doing a serial two years ago but it was too soon. But now I’m writing one because I think it’s time has come.
V – Value Living
No matter how hard it gets, never quit. It makes little sense to want to be a writer, but you have to love it. Especially when things get really tough.
Frankly, the people who will be successful in publishing are the ones willing to work hard enough at it, even when it seems like they should just pack up and go home. I still love Terry Gilliam’s quote about being an artist (can’t beat a Monty Python for a good quote) which is in How We Made Our First Million on Kindle: “Talent is less important in film-making than patience. If you really want your films to say something that you hope is unique, then patience and stamina, thick skin and a kind of stupidity, a mule-like stupidity, is what you really need.”
A – Act Like the Natives
Find writers who are doing what you aspire to. Read their blogs, their articles, their writing. What are they doing? How are they doing it? Then figure out how you can do it better.
L – Live by Your Wits, But for Now, Learn Basic Skills
A disturbing trend I’m seeing is too much focus on marketing and promotion and not enough on learning the basic skills of writing. The best promotion and marketing is writing a good book. Better promotion and marketing is writing more good books.
The bottom line is the number one survival priority for a writer is to become a better writer. To go from being a very good craftsman to blossoming into an artist.