Mature writers can be described and often recognized as those who have gained experience, found ways to reach out to readers, and begun to develop proficiency in their work. They probably have acquired at least a few publishing credits too.
Contrast that portrait with the very first stage of writing when we started to write with little thought of anything else. To be fair, though, in our writing infancy, that’s really all we need to do – just write.
So we write and practice at being grownup writers, and we write some more. We don’t worry too much about the needs and concerns of our potential readers or editors. We just write and hope they will love every jot and dot.
Before we know it, we’ve started toddling along, trying to gain our balance in the big, sometimes overwhelming world of publishing. Then a rejection slip trips us up, or we feel shocked that no one picks us up right away as the next great poet, novelist, or nonfiction sage. Like, who do they think they are?
Most of us whine awhile. Some of us decide to do things ourselves, and some of us keep on trying. Then, with or without an occasional good cry, something starts to happens.
Sometime somewhere for some – no, for most of us – a creative spurt with new growth occurs. Suddenly we start to take ourselves and our work seriously, enthusiastically, even studiously. We start to read as if we have just discovered reading. We start to study works in our genre.
We study journals, magazines, and books to see what we like and why.
We study guidelines produced by publishers we like.
We study markets to see what’s hot or where there’s a gap our writing can fill.
We study terminology, techniques, and tools of our trade.
We study words – how they sound together or how their connotations add layers of interest, mystery, and meaning.
We study our first drafts and read them aloud to hear if anything sounds off in sound or sense, and if so, we fix whatever needs fixing and go on.
We study ourselves to find out what we’re especially interested in writing about and to whom we most want to speak.
We study our potential readers – from the titles and topics that draw them to the ads that intentionally target their specific priorities, interests, and needs.
And we read.
We read books, journals, e-zines, anthologies, and information on a variety of reliable Internet sites.
We read our poems, novels, children’s stories, and how-to books out loud, and we read aloud each revision.
We read the publishing industry by what’s up or down or undecided.
We read editorial responses as personal words of encouragement as evidenced by even the tiniest personal note.
We read our readers, whom we care about and have gotten to know as friends.
We read ourselves, honestly but matter-of-factly, as the writer or poet we are gradually becoming – the mature writer, the mature poet whose maturing work we just love to read.
(c) 2010, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved.