I picked up a great little book a couple years back at a writer’s conference called “The Art Of War For Writers” by James Scott Bell. It’s filled with short readings that have been a spur in my side as a person who wants to write. I wouldn’t mind tracking through his book with you wannabe artists out there.
His first point is this (and it’s kind of crass): “Write this down: It’s about money. The publishing business is a business.”
His lesson is that if you intend to do morethan just hobby-write, then you can’t be blind to this reality. All the great writing we can produce is fine, but if it can’t gain a readership, then you’re really just writing for you and God. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that but…if a writer writes in the forest and nobody reads it, has that writer produced a word?
How is this thought helpful? For me, it encourages me to continue sharpening my saw. To improve my skills. And to keep writing. Too many Christian artists, recognizing that God has gifted them, stop right there, assuming that God will do the rest of the heavy-lifting. Their talent will just naturally be recognized because ‘God gave it to me.’
But this isn’t how life works. He gave us Eden, but expected us to cultivate it. He gave you a body, which you must condition. To some he gives marriage, which then must be nurtured. And if he puts the spark of the artist in you, then your journey has only just begun. It’s time to roll up your sleeves, and get down to work.
“The Art of War For Writers” by James Scott Bell is one of the best books for writers I’ve come across. It’s filled with more than short readings that cover everything from soup to nuts about the writing life. Bell’s second entry is this: The writer must understand the essentials of success for a long-term writing career, and the count the cost accordingly. He then gives – in typical blogging style – a list of 10 characteristics of that successful writer. (Personally, I weary of the 3-Reasons-Why… / 5 Practices Of… style of blogging. One day I’m going to write a blog: “7 Reasons Why I Hate Blog-Lists”).
Desire. “It’s got to be a hunger inside of you,” Bell writes. Most of us could check that one, or you wouldn’t be reading this.
Discipline. “It’s all about production,” he says. “A quota of words, six days a week.” I agree. You can’t just write when the mood suits you. You must lash yourself to your writing mast and write for a regimented time or word-count. Even if you just do a face-off with the computer screen. One day soon, the dam of creativity will burst for you if you give it a chance.
Commitment to Craft. “The writers of great books zealously learn the craft of their profession.” I have a dozen screenwriting books on my shelf. I’ve invested in a couple of classes. I’m beginning to connect with some writer’s groups in Hollywood. This step is critical.
Patience. “It takes time.” Yeah, yeah, yeah, James Bell. I know. Now hurry with the other 6 steps.
Honesty. “Be willing to confront your weaknesses as a writer.” Ouch. Mine is too easily being discouraged. We can’t let our world come crashing down on us because we didn’t get enough ‘likes’ or comments on our post. We have to have the long view. In this day when even my cat is blogging (Maggie’s latest – “4 Reasons Why Your Owner Doesn’t Change The Litter Enough”), it’s just going to take a long, concerted effort to break through and gain a readership.
Willingness to learn. Basically a repeat of #3. Bell is stretching his list so he gets 10 items, not 9.
Business-like attitude. Should go without saying.
Rhino. “Learn from every rejection.” Personally, I love getting slapped hard in the face, or opening up an email that says, “You’re worthless as a human being and you can’t write either.”
Long-term view. “Don’t think: ‘Do I have a book inside of me?’ Think: ‘Do I have a writer inside of me?’ I like that a lot. You’ve gotta have multiple projects circling inside of you. My life hasn’t ended because the “Ben-Hur” movie crashed and burned. I have three other projects waiting in the wings. On to the next project.
Talent. And I love what Bell says here. Read closely and carefully. “The least important. Everyone has some talent. It’s what you do with it that counts.”
Your thoughts? Which of the ten items challenges you the most? Let’s dialogue.