Episode 29: What does success look like?

On February 9, 2019, Kasie and Rex discussed what success looks like. Here are the show notes:


Dr. Kasie Whitener, GenX Fiction Writer, Process Consultant

Rex Hurst, Fiction writer and English instructor

Theme for the day:

What does success look like?

Agenda review:

  • Writing is a profession, right?
  • How do you become a writer?
  • What does success look like?
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Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

Segment 1

So we’re part-time writers for the most part. As much time as I spend writing, I’m not paid as often for writing as I am for a variety of other things.

I do know people who are paid to write. Some people who are paid to write all the time. Journalists and novelists alike. People who are creating and getting paid to do so. What must that be like?

Not every writer is trying to make a professional go of it. A lot of writers are doing it for personal expression, to meet a creative need, to tell a specific set of stories, to metabolize grief or trauma or pain. People write — and we’ve said this before — for all kinds of reasons.

Be that as it may, there are some jobby-jobs out there for writers. So this show is about that. Here’s a list of writer jobs:

  • Communications Director
  • Speechwriter
  • Technical writer
  • Screenwriter
  • Novelist
  • Columnist
  • Public Relations
  • Book editor
  • Marketing communications
  • Proposal writer
  • Grant writer
  • Content strategist
  • Translator
  • Video game writer
  • Journalist
  • Greeting card writer
  • Ghostwriter

Have you had any of these jobs? What was the best one? The worst one?

Also this list:

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Segments 2 & 3

So how do people get these jobs? This article says there’s no job called “writer” but there are lots of jobs out there for people who are writers. Clever.

You have to be a good writer, first and foremost. You can get good with schooling. Major in English because it forces you to 1) read a lot of other writers and 2) write about what you’re reading. Do you know any writers who didn’t major in English?

Our friend JR deLorenzo is an attorney, so he wasn’t an English major. Jodie Cain Smith majored in theatre in undergrad. Mike Long was a finance professional, pretty sure English wasn’t his degree.

But if you’re coming out of college and want to write for a living, it’s a good idea to get good at it and while your history professors and business professors might ask you to write, they’re unlikely to teach you how to write.

It doesn’t have to be college. There are hundreds of online classes, workshops, seminars, and conferences that advertise teaching writing. What was the most influential learning environment for you?

And a lot of writers are “self taught” meaning they read voraciously and learn, by reading within their genre or reading the canon, the difference between quality work and poorly written work.

This list and this list tell you what to read:

  • The Prince of Tides
  • Paradise Lost
  • Cry Horror by HP Lovecraft
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • All the Light We Cannot See
  • No Plot? No Problem! By Chris Baty (who started NaNoWriMo)
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  • Mrs. Dalloway
  • A Farewell to Arms
  • Lolita
  • On the Road
  • The Grapes of Wrath

This list tells you these books will make you a better writer:

  • Self Editing for Fiction Writers
  • Zen in the Art of Writing (by Ray Bradbury)
  • Write. Publish. Repeat. (by Sean Platt and Johnny Truent)
  • Story Genius (by Lisa Cron)
  • Steering the Craft (by Ursula LeGuin)

Segment 4

So what does success look like?

Joanna Penn offers this:

What is your definition of success for this particular piece (story/book/poem) and for your writing career?

How will you track and measure that success?

What do you want to do with that success? What is the point in your creative work?

Five tips for becoming a successful writer:

  • Identify what you are
  • Submit yourself to a master
  • Show up and do the work
  • Master more than one skill
  • Be kind and generous

Kinda feel like that advice could be true in a number of places and ways.

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