30 July 2008

Ten Secrets to Success, According to Freelance Writer Robert Bly

Successful freelance writer Robert Bly has written many, many books (most of them available on his website in ebook form). The one I own is called Getting Started as a Freelance Writer. In it, Bly gives detailed information about how to become a freelance writer, as well as how to make a comfortable living at it.

Toward the beginning of the book, Bly gives a list of ten secrets of success.
  1. Define what success means to you. Then pursue success as you define it--not as others do. For me, it's doing what I want, and avoiding the things I don't want to do. For you, it may be getting your novel published or becoming a radio talk show host.
  2. Love what you do for a living. Noel Coward said, "Work is more fun than fun." Time never moves more slowly during the day than when you are working at a job you loathe.
  3. Find the intersection of your passions and the needs of the market. What do you like that also interests other people, and that they are willing to pay for? Therein lies your writing career.
  4. Become the best you can be at what you do. Work tirelessly to increase your skill and knowledge. It's been said many times that there are only two ways to improve your writing: write and read. So do both. Write every day. Read all the time, and read widely. Also, take writing classes. Attend writing conventions.
  5. Specialize. Master and dominate a niche of the market, rather than attempt to be a jack of all trades. Constantly add to your storehouse of knowledge and experience in the specialized fields you write about, whether it's cats, crafts, cooking, or computers.
  6. Be the consummate craftsman. Always do your best on every job. Never give work short shrift because you agreed to short money. Once you tell the client you are taking the job, she expects and deserves nothing less than your best effort.
  7. Be the client's ally and partner, not her adversary. The angry writer who is constantly screaming at agents and editors is a cliche. Embrace the positive attitude of prolific author Isaac Asimov, who said, "I love my publishers!"
  8. Do not undercharge. Charge what you are worth. But don't overcharge; don't make it difficult for clients to hire you.
  9. When in doubt, get the money up front. A retainer check for half the fee is the quickest way to separate serious clients from time-wasting prospects.
  10. Don't waste time with things that may be pleasant or entertaining, but do not help you achieve your goals. Value your time as the precious limited resource it is.

These tips have been helpful to me (I have the page marked in my book), and especially number two. "Love what you do for a living." That is the reason I resigned from my teaching position in order to become a full time writer. Harlan Ellison explains it perfectly when he says, "I didn't choose to be a writer. That's what I am--I'm a writer."

Bly's book also quotes Ray Bradbury, who explains the passion for writing:

The act of writing is, for me, like a fever--something I must do.... I've never doubted myself; I've always been so completely devoted to libraries and books and authors that I couldn't stop to consider for a moment that I was being foolish. I only knew that writing was in itself the only way to live.

While I appreciate Bly's ten secrets for success, I feel I don't really need any success secrets. Writing is so much a part of me it doesn't matter if I'm successful, or if my writing is something that stays only in the realm of Blogger. I'm a writer. That's just what I am.

So thanks, Mr. Bly, for the tips, but I'll be writing regardless, thank you.

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