Friday, April 1, 2016

Writers: Everyday We Hustling

I see this MFA as an apprenticeship, a time when I completely immerse myself in all things writing-related. Besides attending my classes and learning from my peers, I listen to interviews with successful writers to hear about their process and the trajectory of their career. I read articles written by editors to learn about what they’re looking for on the page.  I scour blogs for writing advice and sign up for newsletter updates to find out about the latest competitions and submission deadlines. Every single day, I learn something new.

The other day, while listening to yet another interview with a badass writer, I had an epiphany. Writers are hustlers. We have to be. No one’s going to give us a raise because we’re putting in extra hours. No one cares if we wrote today, or sent out a pitch, or revised a story. We’ve got to make our own fire.

That’s what being a writer means in the 21st century. We can’t let the grass grow beneath our feet. The publishing industry is changing fast. Major publishing houses are merging, and baby indie presses are being born every day. With the internet as a platform for telling stories on an epic scale, the way we read as a society is transforming before our very eyes.

Writers have to juggle lots of bowling balls. Creating, networking, revising, reading, editing, submitting, mentoring, teaching, re-submitting, reading more, researching—and somewhere in there, sleeping.

Also, writers are sorta like lone wolves. No two writers are doing the same thing. We love commiserating and communicating with other writers. We join writing workshops and online support groups. But the truth of the matter is that we’re each on this journey alone—the lone hustler. In a way, we have to fly solo in order to do the work that only WE can do.

Part of being a writer is the solitary act of sitting at the writer’s desk. But without the other part, the engaged hustler, our work might never reach an audience. It’s a complicated balance between connecting with our creative self, which requires deep listening and intuition, and engaging in a meaningful way with the world around us.

There’s no slowing down in this business of writing. There’s always more to read, more to write, and more to revise. Some days, I’m overwhelmed by the abundance of great writing I want to read, magazines I want to pitch stories to, competitions I want to enter. My mind is a constant ticker-tape of topics I want to write about, residencies I’d like to attend, workshops I want to teach, and stories I wish to tell.

Mankind has been writing stories for a very long time (and telling them for even longer!). And yet, no matter how ancient the art of storytelling may be, there is nothing static about this craft. The way we tell stories is constantly expanding as we share with one another and learn new ways to create meaning from words. So, writers, get out there and ---