On Friday, I’m hitting theWillamette Writers Conference. Three days of classes, networking and writing geekery. It’s gonna be fun. In preparation for this event, I took a class from Cynthia Whitcomb about pitching story ideas to editors and agents.
At the class, I was again struck by the value of professionalism — in two ways.
Every time I work with a professional in any industry, I notice they do something obvious that I never would have thought of. That something saves them time and money, and helps them get paid. It’s fair to say I’ve spent the ten years since realizing this watching pros carefully to accumulate a repertoire of those tricks.
I am a professional writer, but not a professional pitcher. At the workshop, I learned a handful of trade terms and an efficient presentation format that would never have occurred to me. I also found out that it’s totally cool to essentially buy a lottery ticket by pitching my novel to Hollywood.
Never would have thought of these things. I’m a better professional for learning them. Seriously, people, go to classes and conferences.
LOW BARRIER FOR ENTRY
Here’s the other thing I learned at the class. I’d known it before, and talk about it occasionally, but it was really underscored for me during those hours. Apologies to my classmates (and if I gave you by card there, I’m not talking about you) — but the competition is really sad.
I was amazed by the number of people who showed up unready to learn, dressed inappropriately for the task, unprepared for what the class blurb said we were going to to. We even had one student show up ready to pitch a product other than a book or screenplay.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure they’re fantastic people and very good at their day jobs — but unless they start treating their writing like a career, they’re going to stay in those day jobs for a very long time.
As writers, those of us who act like professionals have an enormous advantage over the rest of the pack. Show up on time. Turn in on deadline (or communicate well when you can’t). Dress well. Accept feedback. Don’t be rude.
For me, the class was a perfect one-two punch to get me psyched for the days ahead. On one hand, I learned skills and tricks that prepared me for my task. On the other, I got a reassuring ego boost by seeing how my competition treats this particular game.
How about all of you? What have continuing education, workshops and conferences taught you about what you do? Comment below. I’d love to hear what you have to say.