coppervale (coppervale) wrote,
coppervale
coppervale

On Becoming A Writer

I'm seeing lots of posts, and essays, and articles about the boundary between being an amateur and being a professional writer. The not-an-urban-legend complaint among many unpublished wannabes is that they are being held back by the Cabal Of Pro Writers/Agents/Editors what have you. The truth is a lot simpler: if you're good at it, and keep working at it, eventually, your ability will catch the attention of the right person.

There's also a running joke about a secret word or phrase that, when invoked, can confer an aura of professionalism on a writer.

The thing about that is that it isn't a joke - it's real. The catch is that it can't be invoked by the aspiring writer. It has to be conferred.

"You're not a writer until a writer tells you you're a writer," Harlan Ellison once told me over dinner with a mutual friend. I nodded in agreement. "Okay, hotshot," said Harlan, "who told you that you were a writer?"

"Paul Chadwick," I replied. (Creator of Harlan's favorite comic, CONCRETE).

"There you go," said Harlan, nodding.

There are some published authors who aren't very good, and might never be. And there are unpublished writers who are professional calibre, and will remain so, hopefully to their desired goal of publication. We work in isolation, but it is not an isolated profession. When one of our own comes to the table, we recognize them, and pull out a chair. That's how I got started - and that's how many of you will get started, even if it takes a long while to get the deals you want.

If you have the ability, then you just need to add a good work ethic - and eventually, someone will notice.

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