Playing the professional writer

(Crossposted from Silk And Shadows)

Currently working on: More freakin’ revisions!!!
Mood: Dangerous

This week’s topic here at Silk And Shadows is ”Working with editors and agents.” I’m technically a professional writer now and should be qualified to discuss that topic, but even typing the headline makes me laugh. And it’s a nervous laugh.

Because I still don’t feel very professional, and I dread the day my editor and agent realize I’m a fake.  (The even more terrifying truth, of course, is that they already know; but we’re all politely withholding that news from me for the time being.)

I have a journalism background and worked on newspapers for years, so I thought I’d be relatively prepared for the business side of writing.  After all, reporters have to churn out daily copy, consider column inches a necessary evil, become working experts in many fields, meet deadlines and dropdeadlines and deadasadoornaillines — all vital skills for a professional writer.

But I also worked as a telephone psychic for a little while, and I think what I learned there is more applicable to being a professional writer than being a professional writer was.

What I learned as a telephone psychic that might help anyone trying to fake it until they make it:

tarot51. Being a waitress is important too.

I never was actually a waitress, but working as a telephone psychic made me think I should’ve tried being a waitress.  Real waitresses, of course, are snickering at me right now, because they know anybody who sits at a phone all day, taking one call at a time, could never manage a six-top, three two-tops, a grease fire, and the kitchen manager’s mental breakdown, all before 9:30 am. 

Being a psychic dreaming of being a waitress taught me that being a writer dreaming of being a… well, a bestselling writer is kind of pointless.  You do the thing you are doing, and you find the beauty, the art, the Zen of what you are doing.  Out of that comes a certain grace that will carry you through the rough patches.

Also, be polite and positive to everyone if you want a tip.  And get them their fries while they’re still hot.

2. Believe in yourself. (Or at least let others believe in  you.)

I have no idea why I decided to apply to be a telephone psychic.  I’d read Tarot cards for myself and a few close friends, but that hardly seemed like a career path.  (Hmm, kinda like writing stories for myself, yes?)  But I went to an informational meeting, and the psychic in charge picked out me and a man who totally looked the part (slender, bald, intense pale eyes) as having excellent potential.

Woohoo, she thought I had potential!  (Hmm, kinda like that high school English teacher who liked my stories, yes?)  So I bought a scented candle, shuffled my deck, and started taking calls even though I’d never seen a dead person or found a lost dog.  But I pick up a  lot of strays, which counts, I think. 

If the clothes make the man, then the scented candle makes the psychic, maybe.  Or at least that’s the way it worked for me.

3. Of course you’re a fake. So what?

I mean, how many people are truly psychic?  And how many are playing one on TV?  Whenever I took calls, I always explained that I believe the power to fully understand the energy at work in your destiny (much less change it) didn’t lie with me, or with my Tarot cards for that matter. Only the caller had that ability. Which, honestly, didn’t make me much of a psychic. More a conduit.

And that’s what I’m doing now, as a storyteller. I get the words down, so that technically makes me the writer, but the story…  Sometimes the best I can hope for is to take what’s given to me, say please and thank you, and scribble faster.

Have you ever had to “walk the walk” when your knees were shaking?  How’d you pull it off?  Did you have a (ahem) friend with a fake ID?  How did she play the part?  Inquiring good girls want to know.

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One thought on “Playing the professional writer

  1. Pingback: a day in a writer’s life « Terri Patrick’s Blog

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