Editor’s Note: this post has been written by Steve Papesh, an Education major and Chinese minor at Lewis University. Steve is interning with the Jet Fuel Review this semester and will be contributing blog posts periodically.
For many beginning writers, the fantasy of being able to write full time is simply a daydream that we turn between dealing with our boss and avoiding work. How is it that professional writers are able to make that seemingly impossible leap from part time muser to full time author?
According to Grant McDuling, who has been writing since the 1960s, there are seven general rules that must be followed if you want to become a professional writer. The first step in McDuling’s seven point plan calls for you to take control of your life. Whether you want to change jobs, resume your education, or say to hell with it all and live life as a penniless beggar you need to be able to find what it is that you want to do, and then pursue that path.
McDuling’s next point is a much simpler one. The second point that McDuling preaches is to have the right attitude. If you believe that you are a real writer, then the rest will follow. You cannot just say that you are a writer though. In order to be a professional writer, you need to actually practice writing.
Once you have done some writing, the next point that McDuling advocates is to market your writing. According to McDuling, about half of your time should be spent on promoting your work. After all, it does not matter how good your writing is if no one has ever seen it.
Organization is another major point that McDuling emphasizes for the aspiring writer. You need to set up regular writing practices in order to effectively produce your work. This may sound a bit less romantic than the vision that many people have of the spontaneous creation of the professional writer, but if writing is your lively hood, then you need to be able to produce in order to avoid starving and winding up homeless.
It is in this vein of practicality that McDuling also states that a professional writer should know what it is that editors are looking for. Writers need to know their audience and be able to meet deadlines just like any other person who has a professional career.
Finally, McDuling reminds writers that, in order to be a professional, you need to be able to deal with the minor problems of everyday life including procrastination, lack of motivation, and, of course, writer’s block. It is not any easier to make the transition from part time to full time writer than it is to start up a small business, and you also need to be able to handle the issues that will come with that. The growing pains that come with becoming a professional writer could be enough to send many new writers back into the more conventional job market, but if you follow these seven points and prepare yourself for a rough transition, it is possible that you can become a professional writer.
— Steve Papesh