During my stateside trip, I met up with some old friends. One them is the mother of a pageant queen. I've known both mother and daughter for years. I can remember when Lisa was lanky nine-year-old. This goes back to when I used to be her horse riding instructor and her mother was my hair dresser. It seems like this happened in another life.
Anyway, I know this girl. And if I'm to be honest, I have a rather negative view of beauty contests. Thus, it came as quite a shock to learn that this smart girl I knew has grown up to be a beauty queen. But as we talked, I learned that her major is broadcasting. She really wants to be a news anchor. While I know a lot of pageant queens often end up working in one kind of public speaking job or another, I like many people I know, assumed she got the job because of her looks. It never occurred to me that the woman who participate in pageants might be making a calculated career move. I cannot say exactly how many this is true for, but the little girl who wanted to rider horses and later decided she wanted to be a news anchor, that's exactly what happened. When she gets out of college not only will she have her degree, but a resume` filled with years of public appearances and speaking engagements. People will say it was luck or her beauty when she lands her first job.
I bring this up because, as so often is the case, thinking about this got me to thinking about writing. How many of us have writers have planned and made strategic choices about our career goals as thoroughly as my friend's daughter?
I think as writers we need certain skill sets. Writing certainly, but not only writing our own ideas. How about writing on deadlines. The ability to meet other people's expectations. Public speaking and interacting with strangers. Remembering the names of people you meet. Learning when and how to choose your battles.
I know writers to defend the most mundane things and have been guilty of it myself, but is so important to NOT do that because the day will come when something truly matters to you. If you don't argue over stupid things, you editor, agent, publishing house, will be much more likely to listen to you. But I digress.
My main point here is that even though it often seems like sucessfull writers are three parts luck, on part talent, I doubt that's the really the case. This is another reason why "building your brand" is dumb advice. Scurrying around trying to create a name with no substance is like getting a college degree and expecting that alone to land you a job. Maybe, a long time ago that was true. But when you graduate with 1000 other majors just like yourself, add in all the other universities who have just set x number of graduates out into the job market, you get a lot applicants for a limited number of jobs. Those with resume`s are more likely to land the job. The same is true for writers. There are a lot of "applicants," many of which who write well. So how do you stand out?
1. Write something that blows up overnight. (You cannot will this into reality!)
2. Build a resume`. ( You can make this a reality.)
In other words, ignore preconceived notions about the prestige of something. Don't go around sticking your nose in the air at (insert contest here) or (insert magazine here.) I.E. Novels are better than short stories. Be smart. You want legit writing credits. But don't let your ego keep you from an opportunity to build your resume`.