Friday, 5 June 2009

What A Piece Of Work Is A Writer...

...how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!

Good thing Shakespeare's out of copyright. I might have changed a word there, but I'm sure he meant 'writer', not 'man'. You see, I've been thinking a lot, lately, about the different kinds of work a writer has to do. It's easy to say 'I'm a writer' or 'I want to be a writer,' as if writing is just one thing, something easy, putting words together on a page, stringing words into sentences, building sentences into paragraphs. It's not that simple, though, is it? Let's take a look at some of the roles that make up the writer's portfolio of jobs.

Organiser. This is external and internal. Externally, we have to be well enough organised to make time to write - and then use that time to write. Internally, we have to be able to organise our stories or articles or books or blogposts, to give them a structure which will, in turn, give our readers a useful or powerful experience.

Researcher. So much easier now we have the Internet - I found the quote that started this blogpost in seconds - but still not always easy, and sometimes time-consuming, not to mention distracting. (I was looking up Motown song titles and lyrics yesterday, to make sure I was citing suitable ones for the nightclub scene I was writing, and accidentally spent half an hour listening to samples, reading Motown history and doing other fascinating but unnecessary things.) We also need to research markets for our work, agents and publishers who might help us, ways to publicise what we do.

Imaginer. We need to build and maintain powerful imagining muscles, especially if we are writing fiction, but also if we are writing non-fiction as we need to imagine who will read what we are writing, why will they read it, what are they likely to want from it, and so on.

Juggler. Again, this is external and internal. Externally we need to juggle writing and all the other things in our lives, and internally we need to juggle plots and sub-plots; themes and rhemes; nouns, adjectives and verbs; many things of different shapes and sizes, so it's not easy.

Salesperson. We have to sell our work (or try to), which means presenting it well, writing appropriate covering letters, sending it out and enduring the inevitable rejections, and keeping going even when that seems pointless.

Publicist. Successful writers need to publicise their work, and this can be very difficult, when a writer who may have worked in isolation for years suddenly has to be impressive in all sorts of unfamiliar settings from business meetings to book launches.

So there's six jobs which are part of any writer's work. I'm sure there are more than six, though - any suggestions?

This post is brought to you by the cleverness of Blogger scheduling. I'm away for a mystery long weekend with my Paramour - details next week!

9 comments:

Carol and Chris said...

Hehehe, I know I am not a writer and I can honestly say that I have never written a blog post that was either useful or powerful :-)

I hope you have a wonderful weekend

C x

HelenMHunt said...

Excellent time manager - hollow laughter!

Lane said...

Ah so true. If only it was as simple as just locking yourself way to write.

Hope you'v had a good weekend away!

Queenie said...

I've had a fab time, thanks! And Helen I don't believe it, you must be a good time manager with all the things you fit into your life.

Karen said...

Glad you've had a good weekend - and yes you've hit the nail on the head as usual - there's so much more to writing than writing.

One skill I do lack is the ability to remember to get the dinner on once I become absorbed!

Debs said...

Shame we don't get paid for doing all those jobs.

Hope you have a great weekend.

Queenie said...

Karen, oddly enough, food-related tasks are the ones I never do forget!
Debs, I know...

PI said...

This makes me think - the juggling bit - that I don't put my brain into gear properly. But it's only tiny.

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

We have to be stubborn, keeping going despite all the odds.

We have to be passionate.

We have to have a keen sense of the aesthetic.

We have to be observers, paying careful attention to people, things and places.

We have to be intuitive and empathetic, understanding what makes people tick.

We have to be good communicators, in text at any rate, but it's helpful if we can do the face-to-face, or voice-to-voice, thing too.

We have to be able to type, or wield a pen. Or a dictaphone.

It's useful if we can spell and do grammer.

But the gert big bloody obvious one you missed out was... wordsmiths! We have to be really good with language.