Building Wings: Accepting the Writer's Life

Building Wings: Accepting the Writer's Life, Guest post by Cliff Protzman

The only constant we face in life is change.

We begin life as toddlers moving on to elementary school, middle school, and high school. Then comes secondary education, careers, relationships, possibly marriage and parenthood. At each juncture, we are presented with new opportunities and challenges. Our life is upended and rebuilt. Yet we move forward with trepidation and determination, because that is what expected. As unsettling as these transitions may be, they are our comfort zone. However, what about our passion?

Building Wings: Accepting the Writer's Life, Guest post by Cliff Protzman
A recent commenter on my blog shared a quote from Ray Bradbury, the author of Fahrenheit 451, about creating the passionate life. "If you have an impulse to try something, do it! Don’t think about things. Live your life. Explode! Do what you love and love what you do. That’s the rule. And the other thing I say to people is, go to the edge of the cliff, jump off and build your wings on the way down. Don’t build your wings up on the top of the cliff. Jump off and build them on the way down. That’s the way to live.”

Can change get any scarier than that? Bradbury said wings and not a parachute. He intends us to fly, not land.

I tried to build my wings at the top, the prudent way to write I thought. Building wings would be the easy part, actually jumping would be difficult. 

Writing a novel could be accomplished within my comfort zone. Perched in front of a keyboard, I began typing away, in the solitude of my home. The resulting manuscript evaluations were disappointing at best.

Bradbury was right. The wings I had built were inadequate. I jumped off and started new wings. I joined a writing group. We shared our work, inviting comments and suggestions. I read a short story that I planned to enter in a contest. The group ripped it apart. Instead of retreating, I adopted their suggestions, submitted it and was accepted for publication.

I recommend a group representing a variety of genres in order to see how techniques may work in your writing. Have thick skin, not all suggestions are useful. At least be aware of them.

Attend writing conferences. Interact with other writers and build a network. The classes will be helpful and what you learn at happy hour equally as valuable.

Publishing Dead Air was my next challenge. Should I pursue traditional or self-publishing? There I was at the top of that cliff again looking down. My writing wings were no longer adequate. I chose self-publishing. I leaped and began to build a new set of wings. The details of formatting text and designing a front and back cover were foreign to me. Rely on the network you have built. Find out what works and what doesn’t. Authors as a group are extremely supportive and willing to help.

Now the book was out. It was nice to look at, but how was I going to sell it. There I was again on that ledge, shedding the wings that had got me this far. On my way down, I learned how to use social media, work with Amazon, and traditional bookstores. There are numerous sources that can explain the process of marketing. Again, rely on your network for guidance. There may be some costs involved. Look at it as tuition for that book marketing degree.
Each step required a new set of wings. I am again on the cliff, working on my second book. Bradbury was right. What he didn’t say was that we have to continually rebuild our wings.

Building Wings: Accepting the Writer's Life, Guest post by Cliff Protzman
Cliff was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. Cliff's family relocated to Northeast Ohio when he was in high school. Immediately after graduation he returned to his hometown to attend the University of Pittsburgh. Cliff planned to major in journalism and write the great American novel. Instead, he switched to Business Administration and began a 30-year career in accounting and finance.
Cliff rekindled his passion for writing acquired as a reporter for his school newspaper. He published his first novel, DEAD AIR: a Glenn Beckert Mystery in September 2017. Cliff also writes short stories. He was a winner in the Unfinished Chapters anthology in 2015. Cliff is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Pennwriters.

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