The Importance of Your Writer’s Ethos (A Love Letter)
I have long held the belief that the practice of writing involves two tracks: the writer’s craft and the writer’s ethos, or mindset. And, honestly? In many ways, the ethos is more important.
Here’s a definition of ethos for you: the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group, or institution. (Merriam Webster Online Dictionary)
So, think about it. What are your distinguishing characteristics as a writer? Are you cranky and negative? Gloomy about the state of the publishing world? Glum about your odds of success as a writer? Do you shun the company of other writers, and knock their work? Do you work when the muse strikes you, and oh well if that is just once in a blue moon?
Or, are you dedicated to your craft, working every day or as close to it as possible? Cheerful (most of the time) about your writing, because you are aware of how lucky you are to be one who writes? Do you network with other writers, and do your best to support them as much as you can? Are you open to new ideas, to learning?
Be honest—maybe you are a little of each. Most of us are. But I submit that those writers who fall more into the latter category will find more success in the end. Yes, it is cool to be cynical and sophisticated, especially in our current social media climate, but give me enthusiastic and positive any day—even if that enthusiasm edges toward naivete.
Because the writer with the enthusiastic, positive ethos is the one who will get their butt in the chair every week. The writer with the enthusiastic ethos is the one who will keep going when she gets discouraged, knowing that every writer faces fear and resistance and rejection. The writer with the enthusiastic ethos is the one who keeps honing his craft. The writer with the enthusiastic ethos is the one who is willing to learn something new—marketing? Publishing? Master a new genre? Social media? The enthusiastic writer may not be the most talented, but she will keep at it when others with talent in droves give up.
The writer with the positive, enthusiastic ethos is in it for the long haul. And that is what this business takes. Sure, there are flashes in the pan, but they tend to burn out quickly and are never heard from again.
This kind of writer—I’m certain you are one of them—is the one who will ultimately snag that agent, finish that memoir, get that novel published. And that is why honing your writer’s ethos is as important as honing your craft.
Here is your prompt of the week:
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Virtual New Year Retreat—There’s still time to sign up! I’ll be co-hosting this two-hour retreat with the wonderful Patty Bechtold. It’s free, and you can find more about it here.
France 2019—Would you like to study writing in the south of France with me? You can! Find all the details here. There’s a discount if you commit before the end of the year, so check it out now.
And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links. Lately we’ve discussed the different types of editing, memoir writing, and more.