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Essential Ingredients
By Bev Walton-Porter
August, 2007, 15:00

Greetings and welcome to my first INscribe column for Inkwell Newswatch (IN). My name is Bev Walton-Porter and I've been a professional writer for over a decade. In this column, I will explore what it means to walk the path of the modern-day scribe. I'll discuss what it's like to be a 21st-century writer and what it takes to get your words published and paid for!
What are some ingredients that make up a successful writer, you ask? While there are many, here are three basic ones to consider:

1. Self-confidence
Many times, this first ingredient is the toughest to grow in a writer. Why? Because all of our lives we are told to stay out of the spotlight, not to brag about anything  we do, not to like anything we do, and to remain humble and level-headed. Life, we are told, is for responsible adults who keep their heads on straight. Life is not meant for dreamers, for dreaming is the realm of children and, hence, is an immature trait. Overconfidence is the realm of children, too.
Note this: Aren't most children are very overconfident and sure of what they can do? Most are. Why? Because at that age, they have a healthy, unbridled sense of self, and the cruel world hasn't beaten it out of them. Children still believe great things are possible. It's only when we adults tell them to grow up, become responsible and get their heads out of the clouds that their confidence begins to wane as the years pass.
Believe that when you pick up a pen and pencil and put it to paper, or when you compose an article on your computer, that you are accomplishing a sacred, worthwhile deed that, of the people you know, 90% hasn't done. What's more, how can you not feel an inherent sense of self-confidence with stepping out onto that limb upon which most people never even dare to tread?
The prime ingredient of self-confidence is one that you must rediscover and rekindle, first and foremost. It is the foundation upon which all else will be built in your marketing and publicity campaigns as a writer.
2. Courage
Courage is the second hallmark of the successful writer. You must find it within yourself to occasionally take risks and steps that most people wouldn't dare attempt. Sometimes if you don't ask, you won't even know an opportunity is there.
For example, how many of you have seen a sleek, clean website and wondered if they use writers, only to find (much to your chagrin) that there are no guidelines to be found, nor is there an indication that the site uses anything but staff writers. So you surf away, disappointed because you know your work would fit in that style or voice for that particular site.
The successful writer, and the one who has courage, will find a name and address (email, preferably), and write an introductory letter to that contact, as well as attach a bio or writer's resume. Very bold, you say? Presumptuous, you say? Yes, that may very well seem so. However, I have been aware of real-life situations such as this where the site editor or manager will write back and say, "You know, we are looking for freelancers and . . . ." It does happen.
The worst that can happen is that you either get no response at all, or you receive a "thank you, but no thank you" response. If you do, so what? Will you be that much worse off than you would have been if you'd never even tried to contact the site and inquire about writing gigs? No guts, no glory. It takes a bunch of guts to write for publication, and you won't get the glory of seeing your name in print unless you grow some of those aforementioned guts! Now isn't the time to be shy.

3. Knowledge
Let's face it: You can't succeed at any level or undertaking until you have the proper knowledge to do so. This means knowledge of yourself and knowledge of your working environment. Successful writers, no matter how published they become or how expert they supposedly are, never stop defining and redefining their pool of knowledge. Freelancing is not the same as it was five or ten years ago, and in ten more years, there will be more changes.
First and foremost, you must know who you are and what are your unique traits and abilities. Take a personal inventory of who you are as a person and as a writer. To understand your strengths and weaknesses as a freelancer, you'll need to lay them out on paper and view them as objectively as you can.
Do you have a love of music, bands, and rock history? Write that down. Why? Because you may want to work on getting hooked up with music magazines or local publications that follow local bands and singers. Likewise, if you're a gourmand who knows fancy dishes like no other, you may want to work on writing restaurant reviews or writing for food 'zines.
Once you know what your natural affinities are, then you'll be that much more ahead of those who flounder around, never understanding that you must have knowledge of yourself as a person and as a writer, in order to target the most successful niches for you to work in as a writer.
Writing is a journey – a journey fraught with pleasure, pain, and (hopefully) publication. There's much ground to cover and many paths to discover. I look forward to walking beside you on the path of the scribe. Together, we'll define what it means to live and breathe the writing life, one step at a time.
Shall we begin?

Bev Walton-Porter is a multi-published author, freelance writer, and writing instructor. Her work has appeared in numerous publications since she turned full-time writer in 1997. Her latest book is Sun Signs For Writers. She lives in Colorado with her fiancé, two teenagers, and four lovely felines.       

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