Build A Body of Work
I want to return to a basic of writing—any type of writing. Whatever you write, are you writing consistently? Are you continuing to work at building relationships with the gatekeepers (magazine editors, online editors, book editors, literary agents and other professional writers). I know it is basic but consistent writing and working at this business is critical. It rarely comes easy or quickly to any of us. In fact, we often fight the discipline and consistency of writing.
Occasionally someone will look at the volume of my own writing and exclaim, “How do you do it?” It’s just like eating an elephant, one bite at a time. As writers, we write one sentence then one page at a time. Over seven years ago, we moved to Arizona and I sorted through a lot of materials in this process and threw away unnecessary papers. I kept my magazine clips—and there are literally boxes of them. Some days I’m amazed that I’ve written over 60 books and the first one. When I Grow Up was published in 1992. In these years, I’ve been able to build a body of work. The concept of consistency and building a body of work may be new to you.
Years ago on the way to a writer’s conference, I chatted with a literary agent. I was just beginning my writing work and he encouraged me to continue building a body of work. It’s not a single book or a single magazine article but the sum of your work in publishing that eventually makes an impact. What are you doing to build a body of work? Are you writing consistently? Are you growing in your understanding of the publishing business? I confess that I learn new terms and new aspects constantly.
Some days I don’t feel like cranking out some words but I do it. As I’ve traveled the country and worked with different writers. I know some writers are inspirational writers. They only write when they feel the story in their fingers and put it on paper. Others are journeymen and professional writers. They pound the keys day in and day out—whether they feel like it or not. I fall into that latter category (most of the time). It’s helped my consistent writing.
As a young journalist training in news editorial, one summer, I interned on the Peru Tribune, a small town newspaper in Peru, Indiana. I’m fairly certain anyone I knew isn’t at the newspaper any longer. We had no computers and the typesetting was done with a Linotype machine in the back of the building. We had our story meetings at 7:30 a.m where the managing editor talked with the reporters about the stories to be written that day. In that short meeting we received our particular assigned stories, then hit it with the full knowledge of our 11 a.m. copy deadline. Our stories went quickly through the editor and appeared in the printed afternoon paper at 3 p.m. We had no time to sharpen our pencils or hem and haw about writer’s block. We had a deadline to meet—which we met day after day.
I’m committed to writing consistently. I want to keep my fingers on the keyboard and keep them moving to write articles, chapters for books and book proposals. I’m committed to building a body of work. It might not pay off immediately but in the long run, I know consistency counts.