the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a love of all things literary. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days with her husband, Matt, imagining things unseen and chasing their two children around their home in Northern California. To connect with Shan, check out her website, FB, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.
Did you know there's a difference between being a writer and being an author?
A writer is someone who creates art using only words. She creates story. A writer has all sorts of tools at her disposal. Pens and pencils, computers and tablets, story boards and craft books. A writer might be messy or organized. A writer might be highly motivated or not. Sometimes a writer writes because she wants to and sometimes she writes because she has to. Sometimes a writer doesn't write at all--she simply watches the world twist and turn around this moment and that and she allows story to percolate deep in her soul.
An author is different. While an author spends much of her time wearing her writing hat, she understands that though story might be the most important thing she does, if she wants her book on the shelf, she has other responsibilities.
Keeping it simple: The writer's focus is craft and creativity whereas the author in us understands that publishing is an industry.
Young writers often confuse these two roles and falsely assume that being good at one means you will naturally excel at the other. In truth, mastering these two roles and finding a healthy balance for each in your day-to-day life, takes practice.
Because the writing always precedes the authoring, the writer in us tends to be more dominant. We practice writing, fill our free time with words, and willingly surrender our resources for tools that will make us better.
Today, I want to remind you that learning to be an author is just as important as learning to be a writer.
Here are six skills you, as an author, must hone:
Respect others' time. This is the earmark of a true professional. Each interaction you have should begin with the understanding that everyone's time is valuable and no one has enough of it. From the readers who will one day read your stories to the agents and editors, sales reps and marketing gurus who will help make your book a reality--everyone is busy. Any time these individuals choose to devote to you and your stories is time they could be filling with any number of other things. Gratitude is never, ever amiss. Be sure to show it.
Take pride in your work. When you send off a story to an agent or editor, you are saying "I believe this belongs on a shelf somewhere." If you don't truly believe your work belongs on a shelf, you have some soul searching to do--or perhaps some rewriting. We never want to submit anything less than our best to industry professionals. Work hard, write well, and then rest in the pride that comes with a job well done. I know--I KNOW--this is hard for those of us who struggle with issues relating to our confidence and I don't mean to imply that if you struggle here, you're not fit to be an author. We all struggle with our own worthiness to some extent, but if we do not think we've created publishable work, it's dishonest to attempt to convince the professionals to believe something we do not. So work hard and then be proud of what you've accomplished.
Do your own research. In the course of any given day, I receive emails asking me for information the sender could have easily acquired by doing a simple internet search. Don't be this person. I know it's easier to drop someone an email or a text to gather information, but it's also lazy. Asking your agent or editor to do something you can do on your own is unprofessional and clutters their inbox with minutiae that screams, "MY TIME IS MORE VALUABLE THAN YOURS!"
Build your platform. As an author you'll be expected to cultivate an audience. Ideally, your stories will gather readers to your stage, but in the current climate, publishers are looking for authors who already have people gathering around to hear whatever it is they're saying. While your stories should absolutely take priority, you must give consideration to how you plan to interact with potential readers as you build your platform. More and more of this responsibility is falling onto authors and while social media has opened many doors, it is imperative that you learn to use it thoughtfully and intentionally.
Establish a support system. Your family will play a role here, I'm sure. As will any editors and agents you team up with along the way. But what I want to stress here is that your agent cannot be your entire support system. Neither can your editor. You will drain the life out of those who believe in your writing the most if you do not take the time to extend your reach beyond the obvious. Go to conferences. Join critique groups. Make friends in the industry, friends who will understand the unique calling and responsibility of being a storyteller. You'll need these friends along the way. They'll keep you sane. They'll keep you writing. And they'll keep you from taxing your agent and editor with expectations that are wholly unfair.
Meet your deadlines. This sounds simple at the outset, but as writing turns to authoring and your career begins to grow, so does the quantity of deadlines that must be met. Get yourself a calendar, mark these dates in permanent marker and do everything in your power to finish your job on time. As an author, your deadlines usually start the clock ticking for others and if you do not get your work turned in on time, you're eating up workdays that do not belong to you. Oh, look at that! We're talking about valuing others' time again. I cannot stress enough how important this is.
And that brings us full circle, I think. That whole respect thing. It's at the very core of being professional and is a foundational skill you must master if you're to be an author others want to work with.
I wonder, do you have a hard time balancing the writer in you with the author you're working to be? I do. At times, I struggle violently against it. The writer in me is selfish and wants to write only when she is inspired and hates waiting for others to do their job. It can be a challenge to maintain professionalism when writing requires such emotion of us. And yet, I so value these things in others. It shows maturity and a commitment to excellence. And the authors I admire most, work hard to hone these skills.
How about you? Which persona is hardest for you to wrangle: the author or the writer?