WEEK 38 - #VoidDeckWriter: Hard Lessons I’ve Learnt Since I Started as a Writer
For Week 38, I thought I’d share a few reflections I’ve gone through and processed since I started as a fiction writer.
Week 38, and the end of September is coming - that’s 75% of the year flying by. As I near my birthday, I often end up in a position of reflection. This week, I thought I’d share a few reflections I’ve gone through and processed since I started as a fiction writer, which now serve as lessons I can apply to my current creative career.
Here we go:
You’re Unique, and So is Everyone Else
Let’s get the first elephant in the room out of the way - as an individual, you’re unique, and there’s only one you, yes. However, that also means we’re all creators in our own right and thus, if we want to go into the business of being a professional creative, it is our own responsibility to find our own Unique Value Proposition - or what makes us stand out.
And what if the world doesn’t get your message or who you are? Maybe these questions will help: Are you applying yourself daily? Practicing what you believe in? Are you aware of your intentions and what you do?
These were questions I learnt to ask myself when I started questioning who I was as an individual and writer.
Because while you can have a goal on how you want to appear to your audience, the only aspects you can control are your clarity on who you are as a creator and how you practice and apply yourself every day so that you show up how you want to every day.
Yes, all work has an audience, but our audiences have no obligation to do everything they can to look for us in our corner of the Internet / World / Realm.
In short, you’re not owed an audience just because you’re a creator.
What were some lessons (hard or easy to stomach) you learnt while on your own path to mastery / your goals? Share them in the comments!
Relationships Built Purely on Transactions Don’t Last
“You cannot be a writer if you don’t have empathy.”
This was something I learnt from a panel from a few Singapore Writers’ Festivals ago, from Shamini Flint, one of my go-to mystery writers in Southeast Asia. It’s quite common for established writers to receive emails or notes from emerging or budding creators, looking to ask for advice. While it takes a lot of courage to approach someone to ask for help, there are also a few things I’ve learnt to maximise your asking:
Be polite - Going “Hey, what’s your camera model?” without giving the person you’re asking some context of who you are sounds rude. You don’t like it when a stranger comes up to you and nudges you going, “Hey, can I look at the book in your hand?” right?
Ask with the genuine intention of learning, not a miracle solution - There are no “formulas” to success, like there is no one definition of success. So when you approach a more established creative to learn more from them, approach them only if you have something you want to learn about - if it’s specific, even better. I have mentioned to some students before - having a mentor does not equate quick success. Therefore, when you ask for help, be prepared to go through thought processes, and do the work as well.
(Note: Here’s also something I learnt - while it’s good to gain some inspiration from people you look up to, do take note that it’s not a good idea to follow a creator whose creative process you’re not willing to work towards or align with. - e.g. if you don’t like making sales calls, it might not be a good idea to ask an entrepreneur who specialises in sales calls for long-term help.)
You are building a genuine relationship - People can tell when a relationship is transactional (i.e. I’m only talking to you because I want you to be my ticket to a professional career. I'm saying hi because I want you to help me promote my book. I’m taking an interest because I have work and want you to use your rep to help me get a gallery show. All of which I don’t intend to reciprocate). And when a relationship is transactional, it doesn’t last beyond the transaction if it goes through in the first place.
Remember that while you have a life and passion for your work, others do too - It’s your intention to ask for help. It’s their choice to decide whether or not to help, and there will be times where you don’t get responses or rejected. When that happens, remember this - half the time, it’s not personal. If you’re busy and passionate, so are others. DON’T GIVE UP YOUR CRAFT OR FINDING MORE WAYS TO LEARN if it’s something you want to continue to pursue.
At the end of the day, it’s about supporting and uplifting each other in the community. And when you want to contribute in your own unique way, people can feel and recognise that.
Have Fun with the Process
And at the end of the day, a lot of being a creator is about having fun with the process. Book Launches and Events can give you a high for the duration and maybe after the event, and you have all the right to bask in that creator’s high, especially when it has to do with your audience loving your work. However, what if I told you that you can actually experience that same creator’s high / happiness on a more regular basis?
Focus on your process - and having fun with it - as you work towards your goals.
Events and programmes will come and go - they are duration / date-restricted, after all - but you will always have your creative processes. How do you want to show up for yourself as a creator every day? And are you enjoying the process on your own? What is the most fun way to improve or continue your practice?
If I have trouble with these lessons, does it mean I shouldn’t continue?
Feedback, while important, is just as important as self-awareness and application. Many of the points I’ve mentioned above also lend themselves to questions that require a bit of reflection of intention and how we want to show up as ourselves.
That said, here’s something I will say outright -
DO NOT GIVE UP. DON’T GIVE UP. (Unless you have gone through a thorough processing of your thoughts and made the empowered decision to not continue) And even if you did, know that you can always go back to your craft. if that’s what you want.
But yes, that’s it from me - my main lessons that have stuck with me throughout my career as a writer. I hope this has helped with providing some insight on a mindset and career sustainability level.
And that’s it from me, see you all next week!
How do you feel like you’re showing up every day? Do you want to improve it or does it feel great and fun for you? Share them in the comments!