Writers benefit from joining groups and communities, but the experience can be rough when the reality fails to live up to expectations. Social interaction improves the writing experience by cutting down the firm association of writing with solitude, but many writers join groups with a hope for some creative credibility as well. Creatives of any field crave support and reassurance that they have talent, their work is worthwhile, and that the investment will pay off.
Credibility develops over time and with effort, though young writers with high aspirations sometimes have a problem with this communication skill. Gaining respect is, definitely, a skill couched in effective communication.
Credibility: the quality of being believed or accepted as true, real, or honest (www.merriam-webster.com)
Respect: a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way (www.merriam-webster.com)
Note that, in these two terms and their definitions, being credible or respected does not require actually being “true, real, or honest”, or even “important, serious, etc.” Opinions, like whether or not an author sounds credible or earns respect, form based on impressions left by the writer, their work, or opinions shared by fellow readers.
Below, in the resources list of the post, are links to articles about establishing writer credibility. Most of these are written for non-fiction writers and journalists, but many of them are completely applicable to all types of writing. This is because credibility relies on the same factors, no matter what gets written.
Do Good Work
The majority of advice for developing credibility and respect in any field lies in this perfectly simple, terribly difficult requirement. There is, however, much more to doing good work than relying on talent alone.
Doing good work means developing skills necessary to continue and improve. Take classes, practice new techniques, observe and connect to those who are doing better work, and keep up production. Even if what comes out of the pen isn’t “good”, that phrase still counts: Do Work.
Obviously what constitutes good work varies depending on the project, but these points are applicable to all:
- Don’t waste readers’ time or money
- Deliver on promises
- Maintain consistency
- Know the rules (grammar, structure, citations, etc.) and ask about unfamiliar ones
- Publish only the best work
- Use resources available
There’s more for each genre, and they vary depending on the author of the list. Whatever rules join the list or disappear, the biggest force in building credibility and demanding respect is that one must first do good work.
Create Positive, Professional Relationships
This is the communication portion. Everyone who has ever worked, been in a relationship, been a part of a social gathering, or basically just lived in the world has sought respect and credibility from other human beings. Everyone wants to be listened to, treated well, and appreciated for what they have to offer.
In terms of writing and publishing, image is key. This may sound unfair, but few readers or publishers pick up a book for its premise, blurb, or summary. Marketing stands as the biggest expense for book production for good reason; a book relies on relationships to be a success.
Publishers have a relationship with bookstores which has already come to include respect and credibility. Bookstores have a relationship with readers, and readers have relationships with one another. Each of these connections is a path for a particular book to gain exposure and, at each stage, gain positive marks toward credibility.
As a writer, the path is a bit different. Returning to the writing group scenario at the start of the post, creating positive, professional relationships with other writers is key to effective networking. One useful way to think about this process is to acknowledge these individuals as coworkers. By definition, these are coworkers, potential mentors, and clients (hopefully). Everyone involved in a project contributes something to the work, even a simple comment on a single scene, so foster these relationships.
Under the idea of writing friends as coworkers, this post has some great general advice for earning respect in such an environment:
- Have a positive attitude
- Be reliable
- Acknowledge and help others
- Avoid drama
Essentially, don’t be a jerk. Be as good a person as possible, treating those writers with respect first. Not everyone will follow this, and there will always be a day where being respectful is exceptionally difficult. If manners fail on those days, own the mistake, take responsibility, and offer a quick, sincere apology. Damage is inevitable, but bridges in networking are better off mended than burned.
Here’s something to consider: Complete and utter frauds, damaging cons, and vicious manipulative tricks rely on these same principles for success. These are powerful tools. Combine them with consistently good work and this force will demand respect all on its own, no whining or begging included. Quality work speaks for itself, but good behavior is just as forceful.