Last Monday I sat at my computer, fingers poised over the keyboard, ready to take notes on the Writer’s Victoria webinar ‘How to write about your work’ hosted by Claire Capel-Stanley. Normally, this is the sort of course I would shy away from, telling myself that its only for well-established, published writers. Why would I need to write about my own work? Surely my small list of accomplishments will look insignificant and not worth sharing?
Well as it turns out, there are plenty of reasons to write about your own work, and it can really help you to progress your career as a writer. So, tell that Imposter Syndrome to get lost and start writing now!
Lay claim to yourself as a writer – write a bio
Have you ever been asked to write a bio to accompany your work, only to find yourself staring at a blinking cursor with no idea what to say? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. Talking to fellow writers who participated in this webinar, we identified a few reasons why people don’t like writing about themselves or their work. Fear of being judged may prod at your subconscious, or perhaps there is a worry that you haven’t been published professionally, therefore you will not be taken seriously as a writer.
Even if you’ve not published anything, or if you’ve been published on online platforms like a personal blog, you can still lay claim to yourself as a writer. Stay away from apologetic language that says you’ve ‘only been published in one journal’, or you’re ‘just starting out’. If you’re concerned about your emerging status, simply state what type of writing you do. This can also help you to get in contact with communities of writers who share the same interests. Don’t feel like you have to take the one size fits all approach with your bio either. You can tailor it for different interests. The bio you write for your blog may be completely different to the one you submit if you’re part of a writer’s festival. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will get with writing about your work.
Social Media – Choose productivity over procrastination
When you make a post on Twitter or Facebook, you can feed it in to your general writing practice. I know it sounds a bit strange to consider this as work, but stay with me. Of course you aren’t contributing to your writing if you spend your time commenting on a friend’s status or liking all 126 photos of the album ‘Cats on Holidays’ posted by your sister, however, you can use social media platforms to build a space to talk about your work while creating an online presence for yourself as a writer.
Claire mentioned in the webinar that a lot of writers believed that if they were to ‘make it big’, perhaps by having their novel picked up by a publishing house for instance, then they felt like they would have the time and permission to work on their social media presence. Why delay it? It is something you can work on now. You can connect with publishers, likeminded writers and literary agents through these platforms. Just remember the golden rules of remaining professional and polite in your conduct if you are using social media to promote yourself as a writer. While it may be entertaining to see you give someone the smackdown of a lifetime for criticising a short story you wrote, it doesn’t send a good message regarding your professionalism or ability to take criticism. Use your journal to record the rants your fingers are just itching to type. It may even give you a bit of a laugh when you read over it later.
One final point about using social media to write about your work is to keep an eye on that clock. Don’t let it interfere with a substantial amount of precious time that you have set aside for writing.
Humility vs. Hubris – How to find that balance
It’s a mantra for writers – read, read, read! To find out how to strike the right balance between humility and hubris when you’re writing about your work, look at what other authors are doing. Pay attention to what writers have said about themselves and their work in bios (short story anthologies are particularly helpful to find a heap of bios in one place). Pay close attention to your language when you are writing about your work, and make sure you aren’t using apologetic language or putting yourself down. Remember that Imposter Syndrome I mentioned at the start of this piece? It’s a pesky feeling that hangs around, whispering to you that you aren’t very good at your writing, and it’s only a matter of time before everyone else finds out.
This feeling is what makes you say you’re ‘just trying to write a novel’ or that you’re ‘not really sure if you’ve got it right’. As Claire said in this webinar, it’s fine if you realise there’s room for improvement, it doesn’t mean you’re not a writer! Be confident in saying that you are a writer, because even the most accomplished professional author has room for improvement. If you’re writing about your work when applying for a grant or a residency, you aren’t going to be accepted because the judges feel pity for you, just like you won’t be accepted if all you say about your writing is ‘Buy my book!’. Keep writing about your work to find that balance of confidence. Know what makes your work unique and know how to sell it, which Claire recommended doing by going to a bookshop and picturing where your work would sit on their shelves. This will help you to identify where you sit in the writing market.
Now, go and make a cup of tea or coffee (or find yourself a glass of wine – I won’t judge!) and start writing, whether it be a Twitter post about your progress or a chapter of the novel you’re working on. Own your work, write about it and find communities that will help you to improve on it.
Ash Leonard is a writer and editor. She has been published in Imagine Journal, two anthologies produced by Ballarat Writers and has worked as an editor for Verandah Literary Journal. Courtesy of her daughter’s love for it, she can also almost perfectly recite ‘Where is the green sheep?’ by Mem Fox.
You can follow her at @ashy_9340 on Instagram.