I read a lot of blogs, namely because I believe the best writers are 1) perpetual students, and 2) are stronger when they read a lot, particularly in other areas that might not be their genre or even directly related to writing.
One of my favorite bloggers (as some of you may already know) is successful CEO and leader in Silicon Valley, Steve Tobak. He had a really interesting post this week called Leadership Presence–Do You Have It?, which inspired me to write today’s post.
Successful Author Presence—Do You Have It?
All of us (writers) balance this fine line of complete narcissism, and profound insecurity/self-loathing. We have to believe that our ideas, opinions, stories are something others want to pay money to read in order to be successful. Yet, we are constantly plagued with self-doubt. Chronic doubt is possibly a built-in mechanism to bring balance to The Force.
Just my POV.
If a writer is too full of what he believes he knows, he won’t grow and eventually will stall and burn out. That or his hubris eventually will just drive others away. This type of writer can’t forge strong relationships because everything is a competition. Eventually others just say, Okay, sure. You’re better than us. Bye.
In the current paradigm, we need a team more than ever. Also, likability didn’t matter fifteen years ago, yet now? Likability is getting to be a bigger and bigger deal. Readers will eventually just gravitate to writers who know how to tweet without putting others down.
The Emotional Vampire
On the other side, a writer who needs constant props and ego-stroking eventually wears out those around her. She can’t grow and mature either because she’s in the business for the wrong reasons. We writers should be here to teach/inform (NF) or entertain (NF/fiction), not to use our audience as emotional hostages.
The Author With “The Right Stuff”
Yet, there are those writers who have a “presence.” It’s a tough thing to explain. But, I think Steve’s list might help me try:
They’re Not Born with It
Talent is highly overrated. Character matters in this business. It’s why I dedicate so much time to talking about the writer as a human being. Without self-discipline, drive, humility and a certain work ethic, a writer won’t make it long-term.
The writer with successful author presence generally comes from a background that’s already fired out a lot of character impurities. Whether it’s a tough childhood, bad marriage, law school, or time as a police officer, this writer has a different je ne sais quoi that stands out.
Being Right A Lot
This writer is open to listening to a lot of people and processing a lot of information quickly. Rather than taking shortcuts, this writer knows where to funnel energy. If she makes a mistake, she readjusts and doesn’t waste time moaning over making a poor choice. She throws herself into the work knowing that, if we make enough wrong decisions, we grow enough to start making a lot of RIGHT decisions.
Hey, I’ve done literally EVERYTHING wrong. But I’m still here ;).
Knowing Your Stuff Cold
There are a lot of ways to train to be a good author, but great authors must read. The authors with presence study everything. Either they inhale craft books or they devour fiction. They watch movies and series, then break stories down to see what’s working, what isn’t and how to duplicate the magic.
Every time I meet a writer who says, “Well I want to be a best-selling author, but I don’t like to read.”
The author with presence understands the basics of his craft and practices to perfection. As Picasso said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
Confidence is often birthed from hard work. One of the reasons I am a HUGE fan of writers blogging is it helps to build confidence. Confidence isn’t BS bravado, rather it’s a mindset that any problem can be solved if broken down into enough pieces.
When I used to run critique groups, I had too many writers who just wanted ego stroking, to be told every word/sentence/idea was a rainbow nugget of gold. If I tried to point out the problems, these types of writers would fly into a hissy-fit-rage.
Yeah, that would be NO confidence.
On the other hand, I’ve also been blessed enough to work with writers like Piper Bayard, who had enough confidence in themselves to take the criticism and then ask the tough questions. ”How do I make it better?” “What do you need to me do/read?”
Writers like this have enough confidence to not be derailed every time they get feedback that doesn’t tell them they’re a unicorn-kitten-hug.
Piper now has a multi-book deal with a traditional publisher, btw :).
Thinking a Few Steps Ahead
Writers with presence regard writing as a career. They think strategically and long-term. These writers (even before they finish their first books) aren’t viewing publishing like a literary scratch-off ticket. They’re already planning the next book, the series, the next series, and which publisher(s)/publishing options might be the best fit, etc.
Too many writers have desperation coming off them in waves. Why? They have ONE book and market it TO DEATH. They aren’t playing Career Chess; they’re playing Publishing Tiddly Winks.
Frequently, these writers are survivors. There is a reason we see a lot of lawyers, doctors and former military people become best-selling authors. These writers embrace pain and harness it for advantage.
Believing You’re Special
As we talked about in this week’s Boxing Series, there is a lot of resistance in this profession. The world will never be short of people who will call you a talentless hack/poseur/fake/amateur/nut.
It’s The Resistance.
The Resistance is made up of two types of people. Those too chicken $#!& to follow their own dreams, or those so full of themselves they can’t bear to share the spotlight. Both types of people build themselves up by putting others down.
The writer with presence holds fast to the internal knowledge she or he IS SPECIAL. She tunes out the haters and presses on. No matter the push-back, this writer has a calling and this calling is intimately tethered to the internal belief that she has something the world wants to read/hear/learn.
Just like no one is born with talent, none of us are born a “Writer with Presence,” but we can learn to be that writer. Just set down the ego, roll up the sleeves and WORK HARD.
What are your thoughts or opinions? What would you add to the list? What are your experiences? Have you dealt with the narcissists or even the emotional vampires? The jealous, the immature? Have you been that person and had an A-HA! moment?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of March I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!