Writer overboard, writer overboard! Which scalawag turned him into a fish? It wasn’t anyone in the crew, you say? Then who the devil thought the poor lad made a better anchor than a sailor? Ah, the compass points to the three biggest obstacles of writing income, also known as the three devils of writing. They are the most terrifying monsters to haunt the seven seas of writing and stop many a talented writer from earning the income he deserves. Argh! Ol’ Captain Matt Gallus knows them all too well. The three devils of writing include:
- The Criticism Devil
- The Grammar Devil
- The Discipline Devil
THE CRITICISM DEVIL
Back when I was just starting out as a writer, I had the worst criticism devil on me back. Then one day, I had a client tell me, “Cut off your right hand and write no more!” so I shows him the hook on me right hand and replied, “Joke’s on you – I’m left handed!” Then, I poured us both some rum and never struggled with the criticism devil again. It’s a part of the trade that every writer must learn, and you can’t go around letting your clients dictate to you how much you earn. There are two types of criticism:
- Cannon Fire Criticism
- Compass Criticism
Cannon fire criticism is exactly as it sounds. It’s intended to sink your ship, but the smart sailor knows to maneuver around it. When nothing useful is offered as criticism, consider the source and move on. On the other hand, compass criticism is a mighty fine tool for every writer who wishes to improve. If you’re dealing with compass criticism, set your sails for the harbor that has been pointed out. No good writer would be worth his salt without a little good compass criticism because that is what makes you better at the trade.
THE GRAMMAR DEVIL
Now we have the grammar devil: Many a writer fears the grammar devil. I recall the days of having to be dragged by the ankles, kicking and screaming to the old grammar schoolhouse to learn about commas and passive and active sentences. What scares many a fine writer is the comma, also known as the jumping fish. I say put him in your boat and eat him. Argh! I’ll show you how!
The first problem many writers encounter with the grammar devil is they already see it as a boring subject. You already have yourselves a rotten fish if you see it as boring. It’s hard to learn a subject that way. True knowledge first begins with a love for the subject. You have to look at learning grammar as mastering the special effects of writing. Want to create a specific effect when you write? Learning grammar will teach you how. For example, if you want to learn the comma, master the individual rules one by one. It takes time, but it’s worth it. Commas are very important, and poor usage will send you to the rocks faster than you can blink with the clients. There’s an old joke going around on the seven seas of Google:
Commas…they’re the distinct difference between a cannibalistic suggestion of:
Time to eat Grandma!
And a direct notification that the meal has been cooked, and you want grandma to come have supper:
Time to eat, Grandma!
Now you have learned the first and most important rule of the jumping fish. Always place a comma before a name when you are addressing someone directly. Proper comma usage saves lives. I’ll have no cannibalism aboard my ship. Argh!
THE DISCIPLINE DEVIL
Finally, we have the discipline devil. When you’re a writer, it is very important to hit your deadlines. Otherwise, your lovely client may turn pirate and feed you to the sharks. When you have good discipline, you can earn triple what you’d earn with poor discipline. You can write twice as many articles and send out just as many pitches. That’s going to have a dramatic impact on your writing income. Many a talented writer struggles with the discipline devil. For example, we have George RR Martin, one of finest writers on the seven seas of writing, but he has one fatal flaw: discipline. Twenty long years of writing a single series, the Game of Thrones, and it can hurt the most talented of writers when it takes years before you see the next book. Twenty long, indecisive years and winter is still coming in George RR Martin’s world. Argh!
How do you beat the discipline devil? Part of the issue with discipline is consistency. We have many a fine writer that can stay disciplined in the short term, but what separates the best from the crowd is they stay consistent. If you can stay persistent and consistent at writing, I guarantee you will not just toss the discipline devil off your back, you will increase your monthly income. There are differing degrees of mastery to each of the three devils, but as you master them, you will notice that you gave yourself a raise. The decision to give yourself a pay raise: Another one of the beautiful things about sailing your own ship, rather than working under a captain.
Matt Gallus is a professional freelance writer with more than four years of experience in the writing industry. He runs a blog about self education at http://diehardoptimist.com/ and enjoys juggling. He is currently a 5-ball juggler. As a goal-oriented individual, however, he strives to one day reach 10-ball juggling through the power of perseverance and learning. That’s the core of his life philosophy. Speaking of philosophy, he loves to study the philosophy of Stoicism, and he likes to learn languages (currently learning Spanish) and is a voracious reader of fiction. His fiction favorites include: the Game of Thrones series, Lord of the Rings, the Farseer Trilogy and Sherlock Holmes. Some of his other hobbies include humor, biking, playing the violin past midnight (to his neighbors’ dismay) and watching documentaries on Youtube. His greatest role models in life include Leonardo da Vinci and Michael J. Gelb – writer of How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci – a talented writer with an absolutely infectious passion for life.
Quiz: Can you survive National Punctuation Day? (dailydot.com)
Grammar’s difficult dilemmas – repetition and redundancy (dailytrojan.com)