initiative

April 14, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I made my way to an essay by Kurt Busiek on breaking into comics (via Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog).  Busiek wrote one of my favorite comics of all time (Marvels).  I think he’s a pretty smart guy.  And this essay is genius, because he touches on a topic that doesn’t get discussed very much at all:  initiative.  That is, to break into difficult artistic freelance pursuits like writing, art, photography, etc., you need a hell of a lot of initiative.  You need to carve your own path.  If you can’t do that — if you keep looking for a set of rules or guidelines to tell you exactly how to break in — you probably won’t make it as a freelancer.  Because as a freelancer, nobody is going to give you a structure or a clear-cut path to follow.  You have to make your own game plan and have the will to follow through.

I get a lot of e-mails asking how to get published, and I’m happy to answer them. (In fact, I’m getting them enough now that when I get some free time I want to do up a FAQ on my website that I can just point people too.  Free time. . .HA!)  But I’ll admit that they confuse me a little — it’s not like it’s some deep dark secret.  There are tons of books and websites and workshops and people out there talking about how to get published.  I learned about the business at first by reading a bunch of books from the library.  When people ask me how to get published, I say the same thing.  I point them to a few websites (like the SFWA information center) and tell them to do a bunch of research to learn about the business.  There’s too much information to fit in an e-mail.  (Did I mention that whole books have been written on the topic?)  If they’re really going to learn this stuff, they need to get out there and do the research themselves.  And if they can’t or don’t want to do that research — how on earth are they going to find the will, perseverance, and initiative to actually make it as a writer?

Anyway, the Busiek essay is really awesome.

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8 Responses to “initiative”

  1. Markysan Says:

    These days it seems that people want everything handed to them. “Conventional Wisdom” makes most people believe that to accomplish anything you need to either know someone, follow the strict rules of the game, or get very, very lucky.

    You are right. How one gets published is not a mystery. There is tons of information available, and most of it warns that sending a novel to the slush pile rarely results in a sale. Knowing an editor might get your stuff read, but not sold if it isn’t any good.

    The part that baffles me is that most of the time, the people asking HOW haven’t actually written a word yet. They want it all laid out for them before they make the effort. On this, a little initiative would go a long way.

    I think your #1 entry in your “how to get published” FAQ should be “Write Something”.

  2. Kurt Busiek Says:

    Thanks — glad you liked it!

  3. Casey Says:

    Thanks for the SFWA link. I’d forgotten about that one.

    LOL to the “not written a word yet” bit…but its not as strange as you might think. Especially in hollywooooood. About 90% of the folks out there have an “idea for a synopsis that might get outlined for a movie/tv-show/whatever”.

    People, by our very nature, are lazy.

    To actually get through the creative process and complete a story is the show stopper for most folks. I’m not yet published (haven’t tried yet), but my oh my I already wish I had a nickel for everyone who has commented “I’ve always wanted to write a…” when they find out that I write. I’d self publish and go live on a Caribbean Island somewhere. -grin.

    As I’m slogging through the editing/fixin’/revising part of my completed brick, I’m starting to think about the next steps, and appreciate the time you take “here” for those of us also on the “path less traveled”.

  4. carriev Says:

    OMG Kurt Busiek posted on my blog… Thanks for stopping by, sir!

    Yeah, the other thing no one really talks about is you’d better love love love whatever it is you want to break in at because you’re going to be doing a heck of a lot of it for no reward for a very long time.

  5. Casey Says:

    You say that, and then someone like Goodkind writes his first story…ever…and becomes a gajillion-aire via an auction. go figure. 😀

  6. Spike Says:

    This makes my inner grouchy old lady cackle. I am self-taught on almost everything I do. I just got some books and launched in. Made mistakes, tried again. And did most of this pre-internet (gasp!) when you had to go to a library and use a card catalog to find your book. It always seems like the people who ask me questions on how to do *insert skill I’ve taught myself* want me to Matrix them. Which I would totally love, btw. Especially for the martial arts stuff. So cool. Thanks for the rant space!

  7. Steven Gould Says:

    You really need to change that sentence to read:

    If they’re really going to learn this stuff, they need to get out there and DO THE RESEARCH THEMSELVES.

    Maybe add bolding, italics, and a 72 point type size for the caps, too.

    Or, in other words, I agree!

  8. Joy Says:

    I think sometimes “how do I get published” is not really the (entire) question being asked. There may be an element of validation-seeking buried under that search for a laid-out path, more along the lines of “when, exactly, am I a Writer” instead of the purely how-to approach.

    For example, if you want to be a lawyer, there are steps you take, tests to pass, and at the end you end up with a credential. Freelance artistic pursuits are less concrete when it comes to granting titles. The easiest metric is publication. ‘If I get published, I must be a writer’ – therefore the question of ‘how do I earn the title writer’ turns into ‘how do I get published’. As you say, the answer to the latter question is out there in fairly plain sight; the answer to the former is not, and calls into question a whole murky host of issues ranging from personal self-esteem to the current cultural value placed on the arts and artistic practitioners in general.

    Busiek’s very salient points regarding the freelancer as a small business bring to mind my thought process when I was exploring my options and desires to write and consider myself successful at it. I am very happy writing, and have some evidence that I’m reasonably good at it. I am very very unhappy doing all the other small business, sale-of-self work it takes to become a published author. As much as I want to be published, I ultimately decided I had to choose another metric besides publication to validate my calling myself a writer – if only to justify to myself attending conferences and workshops designed to help me improve my craft and reach that goal of publication!


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