Having reached this point with writers, one usually finds that they are capable of writing decent stories which can get attention and acceptance in publishing terms, but that these writers are still not getting paid — nor are they fully aware of what they are doing. Yes, they have a better idea of what they are trying to say; yes, they can describe their potential readership with some accuracy; but no, there’s still hardly any money coming in.
What’s the next step?
Counter-intuitively, the next step is not to do more writing.
The next step is this:
•Take a look at your writing space. Stand near it, rather than sitting ‘in’ it — look around at the chair you use, the pens or papers you use, the laptop or other device you use. Look around at the room — the window, the door, the walls. Take a walk around the space, inside and outside.
•Pick up and put down some of the things you use. Don’t do anything with them other than look at them for a moment.
•Pick up and look at some of your recent writings. Don’t read them, just look at them — feel the paper, or, if they're on-screen, scroll through the documents.
Now do the following steps. Don’t worry if they seem crazy at first — you’ll get the idea in a minute:
1. Sit in your usual writer’s chair for five minutes. Don’t do anything other than sit in it. Then get up and walk around the place for five minutes. Then sit in the chair again for five minutes; then walk around for five minutes. Do this for a while, five minutes in, five minutes out.
2. Once you’ve done the above, open up your laptop or other device or writing pad or whatever you use and hold it open for a minute, then close it for a minute. Open it for a minute; then close it for a minute. Do this for a while, open and closed.
3. Once you’ve done the two steps above, sit and write something for five minutes, then take a five minute break, then write again for five minutes and so on, for a while.
The end result of this apparently meaningless series of actions is to get you to step back a little from the objects, spaces and actions involved in the process of writing. Many writers ‘blur’ what they are doing as writers with the implements and environments used to write in and with. This might not seem important, but it can lead to a fuzziness in terms of achieving a product with their writing too.
Which brings us to one of the most important steps: defining exactly what a ‘product’ is for an individual writer.
Take a look at this dictionary definition:
Product: an article or substance that is manufactured or refined for sale.
The key point to note about it is the last bit — ‘for sale’. Articles of all sizes, kinds and descriptions can be produced in huge volume at just about any time — but only some will ‘sell’: that is, only some will end up in the hands of someone who has exchanged money for them. That’s what the writer needs to concentrate on at this point.
No, this doesn’t mean that you, as a writer, must only write material that will sell in the sense that you must abandon anything that isn’t commercially motivated. That’s not what this is about. But to understand what is meant here by the word ‘product’ you must grasp that a product is intended to hand up in someone else’s hands in exchange for money.
It might seem like labouring a point, but it’s an important fundamental. If you leave that bit off the end of the definition, you can end up in a loop, generating ‘products’ that you have to give away or which end up sitting unread on your laptop.