The Long Way
Every one of the Miss Demeanors started our respective journeys the exact same way. We each aspired to be writers. After taking the first steps, each of our paths diverged. That’s how it works. We all have our own paths as human beings. Mine has been particularly non-linear which has been awesome. Literally. I’m sometimes stunned when I step back and look at things I’ve accomplished while my attention was focused on the little twists and turns. I’ve been through a few career reinventions. The path I’m on now is, arguably, the direction I’ve been headed all along. And I get to carry with me the alchemy of experiences that shaped my successes in the past which helps me recreate the magic, over and over. Seems to be working out so far so I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve learned along the way: 1. Do the work. There is no shortcut. You write. You read. You attend workshops, conferences and bootcamps. You keep writing. You join – and participate in – local chapters of national organizations tailored to your genre (Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Sisters In Crime, etc.). You write some more. Strive to master the craft and prove it. There is no substitute. 2. Find mentors and listen to them. One of the first things I do when I chart a new course is study those who have gone before me. This leads me to level-set my expectations and identify people who are generous with their time. Every industry has its pack. Writers often refer to it as “finding our tribe.” Learning about the people whose careers I’d like to emulate uncovers their peers and partners. I seek out opportunities to mix and mingle with these people, ask questions and listen to the answers. If someone is willing to teach I prove myself as an enthusiastic pupil. Then I go back to Step 1. 3. Give back. Participate. Share. Be as generous with your time as your mentors are with theirs. If you’re packing the heat of Steps 1 & 2, don’t worry about making mistakes. Count on them. Embrace opportunities. Jump in to help others in whatever way you can: volunteering at conferences and book festivals, sharing expertise, etc.. Helping to pull off an event creates camaraderie. The world is small and memories are long. 4. Celebrate others as you would have them celebrate you. We all know this one as the “Golden Rule.” Be the type of person you’d like to have in your corner when you reach your milestones. Play nice and you’ll find your cheering section full when it’s your turn. 5. Never stop learning. Art is subjective which means tastes, styles and market forces are subject to cultural influence. This means studying, well, everything. Particularly those tastes, styles and market forcesthat drive your genre. I’m not suggesting you pander. I’m suggesting you keep writing, keep reading, keep going to conferences and writing organization chapter events. If you’re really adventurous, stretch yourself. If you write novels, write a short story or two. If you write short stories, write a novel. Experiment. Then go back to Step 1.