After having a (non-writing related) interview for a job recently, I reflected on how much I hate the process. The questions and such don’t bother me; it’s an interview after all. What gets me is the part where you have to sell yourself. It always seems so false, even if it’s something you really want, though I like to hope that genuine enthusiasm does come through. You know you’re just telling the interviewer(s) what everyone else has already said. Sometimes it just feels like going through the motions and I wondered if the best way to test people would be to actually have them work in the job for a day to see how they cope. Lots of complications with that of course but it would be more preferable than the stilted interview performance.
Then I got to thinking (as I’m wont to do and really shouldn’t before I’ve had my coffee), that’s exactly what you have to do when you’re writing, or making any kind of sell-able art. You have to put yourself out there and sell yourself, make it seem like you’re the only one in the world who can do what you do, that they (agents, publishers, the general public) would be crazy to even consider going with someone else.
There is a world of difference between trying to sell yourself for something you really want more than anything, and for something that’s just going to help you get by until you get what you really want. The trick then is not to come off as desperate. Remaining professional no matter what the situation is the important thing.
It’s funny to think of a creative career as being like a business but, even more than in other professions, you’re selling yourself, not just your skill set. There’s a lot more at stake because art is so personal, there’s so much of yourself in whatever you’re writing. How do you sell yourself then? Be professional, reliable, consistent and motivated. All the same stuff that gets thrown around in interviews. The difference with writing is you can prove it. Write. Make art. Show don’t tell. In an interview, you have a list of qualifications and work history and you have to explain why this makes you suitable for the role. With writing, you can show them what you’re capable of.
If you work hard to make your writing the best it can be, then the amount of selling you have to do will be minimal and you can cut out all the false-sounding buzz words. That’s the idea anyway and that’s what we’re working towards. Getting to the point where our work can speak for itself.