Pros and Cons
For several years, it’s been a goal of mine to fly across the country in July for San Diego Comic-Con. I hear about various cons all the time, and I’ve started making it a priority to go to them for a number of reasons. Aside from the obvious plus of seeing someone like Joss Whedon speak or being surrounded by geekdom in many of its exciting incarnations, conventions like that are a chance to let your imagination go to the playground and start building spaceships.
This past weekend, I had a disconcerting realisation whilst sitting in on some of the panels. That realisation was that I had answers for many of the posed questions, and the second half of it was that I wanted to be up there. The whole weekend sort of flitted through my mind on a couple different levels. One was as a participant listening and learning, satellites swiveling. The other was as a professional who wants her career to include conventions from a programming perspective.
I mean, of course I’ve watched Talking Dead with Chris Hardwick and drooled over the dream of one day sitting across from him and discussing one of my favourite shows. Who hasn’t? But before this weekend, I hadn’t quite realised how much I think I would enjoy the other aspects of a writing career. Conventions and conferences and all sorts of recreational silliness can go with it, and oddly, the idea appeals to me even with my Introvert Hat firmly pulled down over my eyes.
Regardless of one’s level of financial success (a few panelists this weekend jokingly discussed being still called a “new writer” with 5-8 books published by major publishers), the people on panels chatting to us and each other were there because they are professionals. Some still had day jobs, some had many jobs, but they all write for at least part of their income, and they get paid pro rates for what they do.
If there’s anything I feel will signify that I’ve wiggled my way into my career of choice, it’s invitations to sit on panels and come to cons as a pro. It won’t be a giant cheque with heaps of zeroes (that, I think, would be more surreal than anything — though welcome). It will be the knowledge that I’ve gone from “aspirant” (you should all know my thoughts on the word “aspire” by now, and if you don’t, go see Yoda and he’ll tell you what to do with your “try”) to professional.
I think this weekend accomplished a couple things I didn’t quite expect. One was that it shifted my thoughts on my personal relationship with the YA age-group/genre, and the other was that it both clarified and solidified certain career goals that I have. Being a professional writer is one of those very mutable career paths. It doesn’t adhere to a specific road, and there are as many roads into it as there are roads leading to Rome.
Becoming a professional writer has also shifted in definition from the eras of Hemingway and Sylvia Plath and H.P. Lovecraft. Writing itself is still a lonely gig, but the professionalism of it has been extended with the growth of social media and our beloved interwebz. I met a number of people this week with whom I will now keep up with via technology. I had a little conversation with John Scalzi about my online presence and because of that and a different conversation with an agent a few weeks ago, I came away feeling like I’m doing something right.
The point of all this meandering today is that one of the pros of going to a con like Capclave is seeing your own career path laid out in a myriad of ways. For me, it both tempered and encouraged my hopes, and it both renewed and revitalised my desire to build my career. For anyone who has had to actively participate in the planning of his or her own career, that ought to feel a bit familiar.
After all of this writing-specific blah-bitty-blah, the end result is something applicable to any career path, so I’ll line it out in the three main points bouncing off the inside of my skull:
1. Sometimes it’s not what, but who you know.
2. Overnight successes usually conceal years of toil behind the curtain.
3. Ultimately, your success depends on you.
Moving forward from Capclave, into NaNoWriMo and beyond, I have a couple goals to add to my list.
Gain membership into SFWA, which requires:
-1-3 short stories published in pro markets
-OR one novel published by an advance-paying, royalty-paying publisher
Participate in WSFA (Washington Science Fiction Association)
Someday sit on a panel
And, of course, my always-goal: Book On Shelf.
My question for you, gentle viewers, is two-fold. What is your desired career? Even if you already have one, you still might want another. Secondly, how did you get there and what moments helped crystalise those goals?
Also, make sure you check out and enter the Costumed Curses Flash Fiction contest before 27 October at 2359! Click the image for details!
- Ketchup, Carcassonne, and Cornbread (emmiemears.com)
- In Which Emmie Has An Adventure (emmiemears.com)