February 24th, 2014

5 Tips To Help Writers Embrace Change

Kathryn Craft

Kathryn Craft

by Kathryn Craft
Turning Whine into Gold

Everything’s changing.

Yep—that’s a whine all right, and a truth, and the summary of this entire post. Change is as constant in publishing as any other industry impacted by computerization in the past twenty years.

But change can be especially hard to grapple with for writers. Here’s why, and some tips for turning whine into gold.

Nature of the beast

Whine: Storytellers are constantly adrift in imaginary worlds, conjuring unexpected pressures that, in the end, will force some sort of inexorable change. Yet day after day writers depend on their coffee, their chocolate, their word count, their wine, their cat, and their Obi-Wan Kenobi action figure (oh—is that just me?). Constants serve as touchstones for an inner life in a constant state of upheaval.

Gold: Storytellers are change specialists. Yes, we usually control that change. But actual, real-world challenges, although rarely welcomed, provide fodder for our stories, and ground them in the realities of the world in which our readers live. Real-life shake-ups can stimulate the imagination in ways that refresh both story and career.

Age

Whine: Of course we all know writers who sprang from the womb with their tiny fingers already curled around a pencil. But the need for reliable income, the need to go through some real life “material” first, the distraction of children and unsupportive spouses, the need to grow into one’s voice and gain perspective—for many reasons, writing is often a late-stage choice. And as you get older, adaptation of any sort can get more challenging.

 Gold: Corporate human relations executives, whether hiring MBAs or chemists, favor employees with a background in the arts. Why? They adapt better. Use your innate creativity to negotiate the changing tide, knowing that you are better equipped than most to do so.

Time required

Whine: Let’s say that it takes a decade of concerted effort to power up a publishing career. If you did that between 1995 and 2005 you may have had your first laser printer, a dial-up modem, and an unimaginable number of kilobytes of hard drive space. Your soundtrack changed from albums to disks to mp3s. Landlines became cell phones—then, in the next decade, smart phones. In publishing the past decade saw genres blur, the advent of digital publishing and social media, the emergence of the independent author, and constant redefinition of career roles. A decade in this technological age can make a writer dizzy.

Gold: A decade in this technological age is nothing short of revolutionary. New options abound. Niche markets can be built, at almost no cost, for exactly the kind of book you want to write, and you can publish and promote it yourself with relative ease. You need only rewind two decades and imagine yourself writing with a typewriter, onionskin, and Wite-Out to see that the gifts outweigh the challenges.

Personal investment

Whine: Writing is a ridiculously front-loaded effort without any guarantee of financial gain. In return for all you’ve done to learn the ropes, you’d like to be able to count on them to hold your weight. But the ropes keep swinging, and are hard to grasp.

Gold: Publishing has always been a gamble. That’s why you were drawn to it—you wanted to see if you could make it. In an industry where even veterans are now scrambling for an edge and guessing at what comes next, your own best guess can fit right in. The gamble still exists, but your greater career input stacks the deck—knowing what you’re made of, you know better than anyone whether investing in self is worth the risk.

Faith

Whine: As our chosen industry continues to evolve, the destination called “success” is losing definition. It’s getting harder to have faith that we are still on the right path, in the right woods, within a career story that we still have the power to bring to a satisfying conclusion.

Gold: People who whine for the golden age of publishing forget that the industry has always been extremely selective, and that the parameters for those who made it in were always subjective. Preparation and faith were your only hope. Social media and independent publishing options allow us to supplement the “wing and a prayer” method with more of our own efforts than ever before.

So what say you?

Are you willing to both control and surrender to story change? Are you willing to use your abundant creativity to adapt? Are you willing to cash in on new methods of working? Are you willing to invest in yourself and the changing industry? Do you have faith that ever-present change might be able to work to your benefit?

If the answer is yes, you are indeed an alchemist, capable of changing whine into gold. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go learn how to use the gizmo that will let me take credit cards on my iPhone. Increased impulse purchases, BAM! Can you even believe it?

Art of FallingKathryn Craft is the author of two novels from Sourcebooks: The Art of Falling, which was released on January 28 and has already gone back for a second printing, and While the Leaves Stood Still (due Spring 2015). Her work as a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, specializing in storytelling structure and writing craft, follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she now serves on the board of the Philadelphia Writers Conference and as book club liaison for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She hosts lakeside writing retreats for women in northern New York State, leads Craftwriting workshops, and speaks often about writing. She lives with her husband in Bucks County, PA. Although a member of The Liars Club, she swears that everything in this bio is true.

35 comments to 5 Tips To Help Writers Embrace Change

  • I agree with all of the above, Kathryn…and whether I’m whining or mining for gold depends on the day. But that’s not surprising for a writer who spews pathetic suckage one day, and scribbles blinding brilliance the next!

    The key to happiness, I think, is, no matter which day you’re having, is to remember that tomorrow, it may be the opposite.

  • Orly Konig Lopez

    “… knowing what you’re made of, you know better than anyone whether investing in self is worth the risk.” <— Perfect!!

    • I think we sometimes forget that if we aren’t willing to invest in ourselves, we’re not sending a very strong message to the publishing professionals about our worthiness!

  • Thanks, Kathryn.

    Time required: The modern age has provided distractions such as social media that can erode time. So some of the benefits may be cancelled if we don’t maintain writing discipline.

    • As someone who has lost hours in that time suck, I hear you, Kathy! But what on earth would we do without that free promotional venue? A writer’s entire life is a balance between distraction and focus. That’s just a particularly enticing distraction!

  • I got a lot out of this post, Kathryn. Thank you. I am brand-new to trying to get published, and on throwing myself into it I discovered that the world of “being a writer” had changed a lot from the way I had understood and envisioned it all these many years. Maybe I should have jumped into it years ago, or maybe now is just right – but whatever the circumstances you are right about this: artistic people are inherently creative and flexible! We are well suited to handle change!

    • Yes things have changed so much! No point in regret though, as the economic meltdown was hard on established authors as well. Just jump in an learn how to swim a new way!

  • This blog comes a good time for me. Lately, my personal and writing life have been nothing but change and I detest change. All the changes with technology are annoying because of the learning curve but honestly they are easy to embrace because they make the writing life easier. And there is very little emotion involved!

    I think it’s a writer’s personal life that is hard to side step. Those things must be dealt with or they stifle the creativeness within. I thank God everyday for my writing friends who slap me around and tell me to get over myself. 🙂 Everyone has baggage. Unfortunately one of these good writing friends, Laura Drake is moving away and I’m missing her already. It’s a change I detest more than most.

    • Sharla, that’s the good thing about social media—you can stay connected to Laura so well. If some of your social time will free up, maybe this is an opportunity for you to mentor a younger writer. Nothing else makes you realize how far you’ve come, which is a real spirit-booster.

  • Thanks for this, Kathryn … whine to mine … or the two conflicted sides of our neurotic profession? I do both depending on my mood and if there’s a full moon. So instead of a whine I bay at the moon 🙂

    • Haha Florence! I put this quote in the comments last time but it seems appropriate here, too—and perhaps in every single “Turning Whine into Gold” series post. It’s from
      Sarah Ban Breathnach: “The one thing we do have absolute control over is the quality of our days…how we greet, meet, and complete each day is our choosing.” Then she adds, “We hate to hear this.” So true. Ow-whoooo!

  • I figure we’re all going to write anyway, so you can either quit or roll with it.

  • In my classroom I change the routine, desk arrangements and wall “coverings” often–just so I won’t get bored. When my students complain I tell them they’re too young to be complaining about change. After all, things can’t get better if they don’t change!
    -Fae

  • I like that, Fae. Also: if currently unpublished, you can’t get published without change! 🙂

  • I love this article, Kathryn. It’s filled with common sense and told in a light-hearted way. It gives all writers hope!

    • Thanks Catherine. You just learn one way then you have to learn another–it’s time-consuming but doable, and absolutely necessary. When it comes to progress, whines will fall on deaf ears!

  • Whenever I baulk at change I think of my Grandma. She is 97, physically frail but mentally just as sharp as she ever was…and she keeps inviting me to play Candy Crush on Facebook. Now that’s a woman who can embrace change. 67 years her junior, I think I can give it a crack too.

  • Thank you for the age paragraphs. I am determined to disregard my age for a while and just use my experience and time to pour out the stories. 🙂

    • I know it ‘s unladylike to discuss one’s age (says my 94-year-old aunt) (oops) but I know for a fact that we can tire of learning new things. Once we allow that mindset to grab hold, though, our days in publishing will be numbered. Authors who are not computer and internet literate–and, unbelievably, I still meet such people– are deluding themselves about their career opportunities.

      • I just feel behind the 8-ball because I’m not in my 20s or early 30s building a writing career. On the other hand, what I write now is worth the wait. And having a good relationship with technology sure does help. 🙂

  • I’m still very new to writing, so I don’t have much to whine about, excerpt maybe Instagram. I just don’t get it and can’t get it to work. I have noticed writers who have been around for much longer, complain about how they have to do more promo. To me it’s not only a chance to get my books out there but engage with my readership. Tweeted and reblogged.

  • Reblogged this on Ella Quinn ~ Author and commented:
    Tell me what you think?

  • Great post, Kathryn. It’s as if you’ve peeked into mine and Mathair’s writing room. While she leans towards the “gold” (always bright, positive and willing to change with the times), I am the opposite, “whining” and pessimistic and immoveable. LOL. Your post did wonders for my view on things, though. And I might be more inclined to see things golden. 😉