It has long been a source of frustration to me that writers sometimes act as if writing is a pastime, not a profession.
You know the stereotype. The author casually rises about ten, saunters off for a leisurely breakfast over the morning paper, then spends half an hour or so at the typewriter before the muse departs. Afternoons involve a relaxed hour or four sipping pina coladas by the pool, ignoring the impetuous jangling of the phone as their publisher tries to find out where the manuscript has gone. Life is so full of angst! Don’t bother me with details of….business…
It was highlighted by the contract I had to sign when I appeared in the 2007 Auckland Writers and Readers festival – in which I had to guarantee I’d be in the Green Room ahead of my speaking time and not asleep in my hotel room.
I raised that with the organisers. Bit of an indictment about my assumed conduct – why was it in the contract? Turned out that they’d been caught before with authors who had to be roused from their hotel. I explained that I don’t work that way – commitment means commitment.
The fact that ‘art’ is an emotional exercise doesn’t reduce or remove the need for absolute professionalism. Authors who work professionally get a repute with publishers for it – and publishing is a business. Professionalism helps them meet their bottom line, and they know it.
For me, professionalism involves four key principles:
1. Abstraction – removal from the emotional involvement.
2. Reliability – fulfilling commitments, on time and to specification, without fail. This also means evaluating a commitment before agreeing to it, and being confident enough to decline to accept if it’s going to be un-realisable.
3. Integrity – sticking to agreements, doing what you have agreed, without fail. Acknowledging your own mistakes – and figuring out how not to repeat them.
4. Confidence – not letting others’ success threaten you. And having the guts to approach others in the first instance if you have a problem with them.
These apply to any activity, as far as I am concerned – writing is no different. Professionalism pays up-front dividends. And hidden dividends, in the feel-good factor, in the way that your repute precedes you.
The nature of that repute? ‘My word is my bond’. The end.
It’s a good principle. Your thoughts?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014
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