25 Mantras on Writing and Professionalism

As a follow-up to my previous post about “bad news,” I decided to write my thoughts on what I feel it means to be a professional writer. You may disagree with me, and that’s okay. I firmly believe that your path is not the same as mine. Take what you want and leave the rest.

    1. Any advice, news, tools, or people that distract you from getting words down on the page is not valuable to you as a writer, regardless of how positive or uplifting you feel afterward.
    2. Having a writer’s platform is meaningless if you don’t have any readers, because your brand’s awareness does not always equate to sales.
    3. Avoid any bandwagon that declares publishers or retailers are bad or evil.
    4. Know your own worth but be realistic about it.
    5. Learn the tools, but don’t make your platform your primary focus if you have nothing to sell.
    6. Don’t quit your day job. Don’t quit your day job. Don’t quit your day job.
    7. If you submit a story, pitch or job application, don’t wait to hear back before starting on the next one.
    8. Respect and support other writers that are more experienced that you are.
    9. Writing is NOT a competition. What (or who) one reader or employer likes is going to be very different from someone else. Sometimes, you aren’t a good fit for the job. Sometimes, an employer doesn’t want to re-train a new writer to work with them. There’s a lot of slots to fill; find the ones that work for you and keep looking.
    10. Understand that some people will be happy for your success and some people won’t. Learn to tell the difference and distance yourself from those who are jealous or are willing to sabotage you.
    11. Don’t talk shit or make boasts you can’t back up. You never know how that will come back and haunt you — until it does.
    12. Remember that there are misconceptions about writers and, in some cases, there is nothing you can do about it.
    13. Know that success is relative. One writer’s accomplishments are not your successes, so quit worrying about what someone else is doing. Their “greatness” doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
    14. It’s okay to have a bad day! Experience that bad day, then get over it and get back to work.
    15. If you are a writer, be flexible but write what you’re interested in and work for the people you have a good relationship with. Do not become a slave to your job.
    16. If you can’t afford to be a full-time writer, explore your options and find a part-time job or something else to do. Being a poor artist isn’t virtuous or ideal — it sucks.
    17. Always keep an eye out for new jobs or opportunities and network, network, network.
    18. Don’t be afraid to say “No” when you need to.
    19. Resign yourself to the fact that you may never be as popular or wealthy as Steven King. The, focus on the readers that you DO have.
    20. Learn how to resolve interpersonal conflicts and identify people who can’t. If you wind up on the receiving end of something like this and your assignment/job/project is affected, know that even though it might feel like a personal attack, it’s more of a reflection on the person who can’t resolve the conflict.
    21. Get it in writing.
    22. Realize that you are not a machine. Some days you’ll write faster than others.
    23. Recognize that everyone functions differently and cultural nuances affect not only how people work, but how they respond to people and what they do at work, too. If someone doesn’t get back to you right away, it’s not because they’re ignoring you.
    24. Understand that your rejection letters may not have anything to do with the quality of your work or “you” as a person. Don’t take them personally.
    25. Keep up-to-date on technology and don’t be afraid to learn new things that make you more marketable.





About Monica

Monica Valentinelli is a writer, game designer, and consultant who lurks in the dark.

Monica has published both original stories as well as tie-in fiction for games like Vampire: the Masquerade. Her short stories have appeared in many anthologies and collections including Extreme Zombies, Don’t Read This Book, and New Hero Volume 1.

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