I have dear friend who recently told me that particularly on days when he feels frustrated about his writing, he asks himself – what did I do today that will move my writing career forward? And as he looks closely at that, he's usually surprised to find that he did a whole lot of things. It's just that like so much of life, forward movement is incremental, yes?
To paraphrase somebody – most of life is spending standing in line for something. But if it were not for the small, pixilated steps, the larger picture can never come into focus. Every day, we are pointillist painters, we writers. And here are the five areas of your writing life that for my money, are going to collectively bring a career into focus.
Write Promote Network Learn Live well
That's right: WPNLL – pronounced – wipnill
So consider adding the following to your daily regimen:
WRITE every day. You might have more than one project you're working on; tend to at least one of them. And yes, generating ideas and spitballing is most productive and falls under this category, absolutely.
PROMOTE your material. Write and send query letters, enter screenwriting or prose competitions, follow up on calls, meetings and queries. Stay very on top of who has your material, when you'll hear back and what new opportunities have since cropped up.
NETWORK both with other writers and with professionals where possible. If you belong to a message board about writing or screenwriting, visit it daily seeking to build relationships. If you blog or blogs, visit and comment. Keep building those relationships. Are you signed up for a class? How about a one hour Learning Annex course? Is there a festival or film community gathering in two weeks? Sign up. Continually seek opportunities large and small to create, sustain and nurture relationships with other writers and filmmaking aspirants of any stripe. Networking is extraordinarily powerful. It is impossible to overstate that fundamental truth.
LEARN more about the craft and the business constantly. Follow the trades. If the Hollywood Reporter or Variety are too much to absorb regularly, read Entertainment Weekly – a quasi-trade with pull-quotes, box office and celebrity news. Subscribe to Creative Screenwriting, Script Magazine or Written By. Sign up for classes, read books and see a lot of movies. Prose writers should subscribe to Poets & Writers or Writer's Digest.
LIVE WELL by taking care of your essential core. We writers are sensitive souls. Pouring our hearts out onto the page is what we do. So be sure to exercise, get enough sleep, meditate or in some way return to your creative, essential self so that you can sustain and nurture the energy required to do steps one through four above. This one can not be overstated or over-emphasized either. A burnt out writer does not produce good material and is not fun to hang around with. Put your wellbeing before all else because everything you produce flows outwards from that.
Know that life is good and writing is joyful. If this feels like work – well, it should, there's no candy-coating that – but it should not feel like drudgery. Remember, nothing worth having comes easily. Any writer who makes a living at it is one who has worked long and hard for the privilege.
Real life moves much more slowly than the stories or screenplays we write. But if you can, do one thing to move your career forward today. Maybe it's that you just read this. Maybe you went hiking and had a great idea and stopped to write it down. Creation is the highest form of human expression. Tend it well.
Each day: Write, Promote, Network, Learn and Live Well. Wipnill ©.
Side effects may include: productivity, career opportunities, dizziness and wealth.