Taking Stock of my Writing Career


I’m happy with the level of skill and the versatility I’ve achieved, but I wish I’d gotten here 10 years ago.

I am very happy with what I’ve produced for the blogs since November.  When we decided to start blogging, I went into it knowing it would require me to put aside everything but paid work and blogging for six months to get us off to a good start. I think we’re off to a good start already, but I’m sticking with my commitment to focus solely on blogging and paid work until May. Diana and our contributors have played a huge part in the success we’ve had, but I am pleasantly surprised at both the quality and the consistency I’ve managed to maintain.

When I started writing this on Monday, I had drafts for daily posts in Sourcerer’s queue to take us through Friday (including one of my own), and a post for Monday in my inbox. That left me a lot of time to write, network, and talk with contributors this week. It was a fabulous position to be in.

What I am not happy with, as far as my career is concerned, is this: I’ve never submitted a piece of writing, aside from newspaper stories, for academic or commercial publication. I wasn’t even comfortable calling myself a professional writer until I had an epiphany a few months ago and realized that every job I’ve ever had, with a couple of short-term exceptions, has required me to write every day to get paid. Maybe I’ve been more mercenary than artist with my writing career up to this point, but I do have a writing career, and I need to start thinking about it as such.

This latest foray into blogging has given me some confidence as a writer I didn’t have when I started. It’s improved my revision skills and it’s helping me overcome my perfectionism. I’ve had a few professional experiences lately that have given me confidence, as well. Honestly, if you will permit me a gaming metaphor, I feel like I’ve gained a level.

When I decided to go public on the Internet to support these blogs, I was o.k. billing myself as an editor and a scholar; but I felt a little silly calling myself writer, organizer, and promoter. I don’t feel silly at all about that now.

Even if we’re  as successful with these blogs as we’re ever going to be, I feel validated. I made a commitment back in the Fall to a fairly large and diverse group of people. I’ve held up my end, and they’ve all supported me. So have a lot of people I never would have met if not for these blogs. I’m grateful, and I’m always alert to opportunities to pay that support forward. For once in my life, I took a leap of faith and it worked out well enough to exceed my expectations.

I’ve been discussing, for a while,  submitting a guest post to a blog that I read often and sometimes comment on. Over the weekend I gave them a commitment. I’m planning to sit down and  write the first draft sometime in March (after I get my A-to-Z writing done) and submit it in April. At some point during that discussion, I made a pitch and said:

“I’ll give you the first read, and if it’s not what you’re looking for, I’ll publish it someplace else.”

I’ve been thinking about that conversation for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve realized I had absolutely no anxiety about rejection when I made the statement. If what I submit isn’t right for the blog I submit it to, we’ll still be friends. I’ll make another pitch at some point and try again. That’s a new experience for me. I’ve always been anxious about rejection, and about the quality of my work in general, but I appear to have made real progress on that. I have the personal friends who support these blogs, and the readers and bloggers I’ve chatted with over the past three months, to thank for that progress.

Which brings me back to taking stock of my career. I do not really know where this confidence and emotional maturity I’m experiencing lately is coming from, but the “new” has worn off and it’s starting to feel like a breakthrough. It’s happened since November. It is a gift, and I’m old enough to realize that I need to make the most of every day I have left on this little blue planet.

So maybe instead of making a New Year’s Resolution to produce a certain amount of draft fiction this year, I should have resolved to produce two short pieces of writing (any type), have some trustworthy critic-types read them with an eye to improving them, and submit the finished pieces to publishers until I find somebody who likes one well enough to run it.

The idea is to do the thinking while I get the blogs through the spring and be ready to sit down and write the first piece over the summer. The minute it’s finished, I’d send it out and start the next one.

What do you think of that resolution, friends?

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About Gene'O

Compulsive writer, amateur photographer, and blogaholic. Also an evil genius.

16 thoughts on “Taking Stock of my Writing Career

  1. I think that’s a great idea. Submitting pieces for publications is an important experience as a writer. When I gave up original fiction writing a few years ago (no matter how I hope to get back to it in the future), I had no idea that non fiction, outside of studying papers and dissertation, would become something I love doing as much as I am now.

    The fear of rejection I first felt about submitting papers for publication has now turned into a thrill, even when I get a negative answer. It was a surprising breakthrough in my own writing. It was particularly important to me since all of this began to fall into place when I was in a bad place about my writing as I had to drop out of my Ph.D. It has helped me transition a lot and build some confidence as a writer.

    All of this rambling to say that I wish you luck for your writing projects and am looking forward to the future of this blog. You’ve indeed been doing a great job with it already!

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  2. Diana says:

    I’ve also never submitted a work for publication. Oops.

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    • Gene'O says:

      Your situation is different. You will write a disseration. I will not write one, exactly, but I will have one, if I live long enough.

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      • Diana says:

        Well, yes and no. Most folks I know have already had publications, either literary or creative or both, and have done conference presentations. It’s something that’s kind-of expected of us, but my writing and speaking anxieties,have always sort of nixed that.

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        • Gene'O says:

          I overcame the speaking anxieties by being forced to do it until I got comfortable with it. That took years.

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          • Diana says:

            I’ve gotten better at it since I’ve had to teach, but I get nervous in a different sort of way when I’m speaking to people who are experts.

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  3. I think it’s fantastic that you’re in a place where you don’t fear rejection. I totally agree about ‘gaining a level’. I think writing two pieces and sending them to be published is a great idea!

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    • Gene'O says:

      Hey, thanks! Now, I just have to figure out what to write.

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      • Well, yeah, there is that.

        For me, the where-to-start of it all is the biggest thing. I’m strategic: so it’s all about coming up with the right thing, the right time, and having everything set up right to support me.

        Which has kept me from ever getting my writing career going. So I totally empathize with what you’re saying! But one of the joys of self-publishing, in a sense, with a blog, is that you can call yourself a writer. Especially once you know you have readers!

        You’ve gotten much further in six months than Holly and I did with our blog, but it also sounds like you’re putting in a lot more time. We have yet to get things calmed down enough to get ahead on posts. We tried getting ahead by one day for a couple of weeks, but that got complicated fast!

        So what I’m trying to say I suppose is: keep up the good work!

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        • Gene'O says:

          Thanks! I know what you mean about the where-to-start. And yeah, we’re putting in quite a lot of time with it, but we also got very lucky not just once, but three times in January.

          I posted my first Zero to Hero post at just the right time place the pingback very high in the listings and drop a comment on the first page of the forum thread, then went and liked about 100 posts in the Z2H tag list. That got Sourcerer an insane number of views through my gravatar. Then Diana got a post Freshly Pressed. And a week after that, the entire Southeast was snowed in for two days and she posted a meme-based post about how funny southerners act when it snows and titled it Snowmageddon and we shared it with a lot of people on Facebook. People are still finding that post with search engines. Once we realized we were getting a real spike, we posted 11 times over the next 24 hours. All that added up to tripling our traffic for about six weeks, and when it settled back down, we ended up with quite a few regular readers.

          We try to write ahead, but that is difficult to do consistently. That’s one reason I write series. I can get in the zone and hammer out 2000 words, and turn that into posting for two or three days. Having a few contributors really helps, too. Even a single day of being able to post without writing is huge for me.

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          • So, to contradict my own comment about us being able to call ourselves writers: I read a story on io9 recently (http://io9.com/5814484/myths-about-the-future-that-could-ruin-your-life) that, among other things, quoted this:

            “When people indulge a little too much in their fantasies about the future, daydreaming rather than thinking about the obstacles that stand in the way of making their desired future actually happen, it saps their motivation and energy. So it’s important to not spend too much of your time thinking ONLY about how great the future will be – you’ve got to couple that with thoughts about how the work will get done.” -social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson

            So I guess my point is, the hard work is still ahead!

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            • Gene'O says:

              Yeah. The hard work is always still ahead. I didn’t say this in response to your comment, but, I made sure I could call myself a writer before I started these blogs.

              The whole writer identity thing is a real issue for me. I wasted way too much time in my life agonizing over whether or not I could call myself that. I woke up one morning and realized I’d been paid, every day of my life (with a couple of interludes for things like bus-driving gigs), to write something, for 20 years. I think that makes me a writer. If writing is how you feed yourself, no one can deny that you are a writer.

              GREAT QUOTE.

              (and sorry if I’ve missed more of your comments – found those last two because I was going through my archives. I am not the best moderator in the world, and sometimes I miss notifications)

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          • Oh, also: thanks for sharing the successes! I don’t know that we have really capitalized on ours, sticking instead with our normal posting schedule. And when we got freshly pressed, it was a guest post…

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            • Gene'O says:

              YW. We really try to take advantage of lucky breaks. Recognizing and capitalizing on opportunities have done more for us than anything else, except maybe the quality of what we’re producing. But, keep in mind, we’re academics. We’re always busy, but we’re always able to carve out a little personal time, so we have an advantage there.

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