Sometimes, You Just Can’t Help

January 24, 2007

Writers, especially working writers, are among the most generous bunch of beings on the planet. They’re constantly putting down their own work to help someone else – with a critique, to help finding a better word or a new source.

But some of these wanna-bes who float in and out of the forums, bulletin boards, and discussion groups are thoroughly toxic, and a writer needs to learn to detach from these parasites before they suck the life out of you like vampires.

We all start knowing very little. We all need mentors. We all need to ask questions.

However, if nothing replaces doing the actual work.

If you want to be a writer, you have to sit your butt down in the chair and write. You have to research markets ON YOUR OWN, read the submission guidelines, and figure out what’s the best match.

Sure, another writer can guide you on a query letter and give feedback – but don’t expect another writer to do the work FOR you unless you’re paying said writer to ghost.

A working writer is under no obligation to walk a stranger into his editor or publisher, simply because the writer’s working and you’re starting out. You have to earn the respect and admiration that makes the writer OFFER to recommend you. You have to care enough to read the newbie mags, scour Writer’s Market, and learn basic grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. That is YOUR job. And, it’s in addition to crafting a piece so intelligent, creative, and lively that it pulls ahead of the pack.

Writers, when faced with such a lazy newbie, answer the first question kindly and point the person towards a source of information. Then, if the nagging persists and no learning curve is demonstrated, walk away. The wanna-be is never going to be satisfied, no matter how much you do for the person, and will suck you dry.

Save your energy for your own work and for emerging writers who EARN your respect.


One comment

  1. Hey, Devon,

    Excellent advice. I can usually tell right away who is serious about writing and who just wants to see her byline on an article or book.

    You’re right about professional writers being very generous though. I think we are. We just LOVE what we do and we want others to join the fun. But, for us, the writing is the REAL fun part. And for people who don’t really like to write…well, we can’t do that for them.


    Suzanne Lieurance
    The Working Writer’s Coach

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