I’m teaching at a writing conference in North Carolina this week. Attendees have gathered from across the country, and beyond, to learn and meet with editors, agents, and professional writers. Conferees come with hopes, dreams, and expectations. For some, hopes and dreams come to fruition; for others, expectations go unrealized.
Writers are an interesting bunch. If you lined up 100 people, and had to choose the writers among them, without asking questions, you’d probably guess wrong. We’re diverse, creative, and multi-faceted
Following are several types of writers I’ve encountered at conferences:
The Over-Confident Clueless
This variety of conferee is interesting because instead of researching markets and publishers, they make assumptions and proceed without asking questions. Many have never published an article or anything else, but come with book proposal in hand, confident they will leave with a contract. An even more interesting aspect of the over-confident clueless is they advise others based on their own assumptions and opinions.
In fairness to the Overconfident Clueless, I’m guilty of doing the same at times, assuming someone’s words or actions are intended to wound or being so sure of something I never taking the time to investigate further. It’s ease to be confident of your opinion, yet clueless to the truth.
The Bulldozer is akin to the over-confident writer in some respects, but very different in others. The Bulldozer has a strict agenda and nothing and no one is going to get in the way. Bulldozers are the ones who push aside others as they run to the appointment sign up room, ignore the bell signifying their appointment time is up and continue talking, thus, cheating the next person out of their full time slot. The Bulldozer monopolizes the conversation at an editor or agent table, follows editors and agents into the bathroom, or slips in a side door to see an editor when they aren’t even registered for the conference. It has happened! Bulldozers are inconsiderate and annoying. While persistence is a good quality to have in the writing life, when coupled with rudeness and self-focus, negatives outweigh positives.
All of us are guilty of bulldozing at times. We want what we want and are determined to make it happen. Sometimes Bulldozers are unaware they’re plowing over someone’s feelings or cutting them off in mid-sentence, but often a Bulldozer knows, but doesn’t care. With concerted effort, the detrimental bulldozer mentality can be tamed and controlled.
The impatient writer is the one who doesn’t have time to learn about the process of publishing, the craft of writing, or the mechanics of grammar and editing. Like the Overconfidence and Bulldozer, the Impatient forges ahead with half-knowledge and no interest in learning. Instead of taking time to hone the craft of writing, the Impatient opts for the fasted route to get words in print and is often disappointed with some aspect of the results.
Who among us hasn’t forged ahead without seeking wise counsel or counting the costs? Who hasn’t been impatient with a process, person, or perspective? We live in a fast-paced world and impatience is the by-product. Identify your impatience triggers and take steps to heighten your ability to assess, wait, and delay impulsive actions.
Following a conference years ago, I talked to a woman at the airport who brought a book idea to the conference. I was astounded when she told me her time frame for accomplishing her goals. “I’ll write the proposal next year, and then I’ll write the book the following year, and send it to editors the year after that,” she said. When I asked why she planned to take three years, she said, “Oh, I don’t want to stress myself.”
Often we miss opportunities because we aren’t willing to exert the necessary effort. The reasons vary—fear of failure, perceived inability, or uncertainty. But when you feel that internal Spirit nudge, trust that you don’t have to take the next steps in your own strength and be willing to initiate forward motion.
The teachable writer is my favorite kind of writer, and thankfully, Teachables represent the majority of the writers I’ll encounter this week. The Teachables are willing to learn and grow as writers without having unrealistic expectations. They are receptive to instruction, soaking up information like a sponge, utilizing creativity, and diligently honing and crafting words that inspire and meet the needs of readers.
While it’s easy to label others, it’s much more difficult to look at ourselves, our imperfections and flaws, our impatience, rudeness, lack of focus, and, yes, laziness, and accurately assess areas in our lives that need adjustment or elimination.
If you think about it, we’ve all been the over-confidently clueless, bulldozed our way over others, made impatient decisions we later regretted, or missed opportunities because of fear, lack of confidence, or laziness. But hopefully, the majority of the time, we wear the teachable hat, listening, learning, and growing in life’s journey.
Each time I attend a conference, I’m reminded that we are all works in progress, endowed with unique gifts and talents, and divinely created for an individual purpose.
“The things you have learned and received and heard and seen…practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9 NASB