Monday, June 28, 2010

Guest author Donna Hill: Becoming a Writer

Donna Hill has more than fifty published titles to her credit. Three of her novels have been adapted for television, and her work has appeared on several bestseller lists. Her awards include The Career Achievement Award, the Trailblazer Award, The Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award, and The Gold Pen Award, among others. Donna Hill Promotions provides publicity and marketing services for authors. Donna is also a writing instructor at The Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center in New York and the Elders Writing Program sponsored by Medgar Evers College through Poets & Writers.

Becoming a Writer

It always amazes me how so many folks think that the writing life is glamorous, full of excitement and that we all make boatloads of money! In the ideal world it would be, but as with any profession—and I emphasize profession—it takes work, patience and passion.

Crafting a story is much like the process of birth. The idea is the seed that over time grows and comes to life. We have great expectations for it, we long to see the final product. We eat well, treat ourselves well, people treat you with a sense of tenderness and awe that you could do this amazing thing called giving birth—crafting a novel. And when we present our creation to the world we want everyone to love it as much as we do. Some will. Some will pretend that they do. While others will flat out dislike it.

Giving birth is a hard, often painful experience that could take hours or days. As with writing, the process is often arduous. Writers spend hours, days sometimes years putting a story together. True craftsman, read constantly to feed and nourish themselves. They study, they write, they re-write. They want the final product to be as perfect as possible. A true craftsman does not do it for the love of money but for the love of the art.

Most writers are not the exceptions that land mega deals that set them up for life. They make a modest living, often writing for years without any real recognition. But still they write. They write because they must. The passion, the vision that swirls inside them propels them to put those words on a page . . . after page after page.

I say all of this because writing should not be a profession that is ventured into lightly. It should be entered into with the same level of skill, and experience as any other profession. It should be worked at and refined each and every time the writer sets pen to paper or fingers to keys.

Yet, no matter how many hours it takes, how much reading or studying or revising I have to do, writing, for me, is the greatest profession in the world. It has opened up doorways for me that I would have never entered any other way. I have created worlds and experiences on paper that have changed people’s hearts and minds. That’s a powerful thing.

And because of that I understand that I have a responsibility to my readers to give them the best of me each and every time. Sometimes I will fall short, but I try to use those shortcomings as a teaching tool for the next book.

So for those of you who are contemplating “becoming a writer,” be sure to do it for the right reasons. Enter the profession with passion and professionalism, nourish your mind and your spirit with the words of others; take pride in every word, every comma, and every period.

What you put on the page will remain long after you are gone. It is your legacy. Let it reflect the very best that you have to offer.


Farrah Rochon said...

Welcome to Novel Space, Donna! What a fabulous honor to have you here!

I found myself nodding my head at every single point you made. So many people don't realize just how hard this writing business is. I've gotten the "you don't have a 'real' job, you just sit at home and write all day" statement from several people, and it truly burns me. Or the "why haven't you bought your mom and dad a new house?" question. That one makes me laugh.

If you write for any reason other than it's something you love, you're going to be disappointed.

Liane Spicer said...

Donna, welcome to Novel Spaces! I'll echo Farrah - it is indeed a great honour to have you here.

The (mis)perceptions about writers never fail to amaze me, although I'm sure I used to harbour a few myself. I too laugh at the ones about money, especially, and try to keep my sense of humour when the Oprah questions pop up as they invariably do. As for the idea that writing is easy and anyone could do it if they just had the time... Grr.

KeVin K. said...

Welcome to Novel Spaces, Donna. Glad to have you among us.

Though I can't speak authoritatively on the accuracy of the giving birth metaphor for writing, but I agree wholeheartedly with your take on the writer's obligation to the reader and the nature of a writer's legacy.
A very good, useful essay.
Thank you.