Top Ten Ways to Know You're Dealing with a Dabbler
We've all met them. Anywhere you're introduced (sometimes unwillingly) as an author, eyes light up and mouths flap open, saying, "I've always wanted to write a book, too!" As the hopeful regale you with their grand plans, you subtly tune out within seconds, for you know in your heart that this is just another dabbler, a daydreamer who'll never put in the time and energy it takes.
How can you tell?
1. The Dabbler's going to do it someday. The Real Deal is working on it now.
2. The Dabbler's waiting for life to get less hectic. For the kiddos to get older, the sick parents to get well, the earth's orbit to grind to a complete stop (so distracting!). The Real Deal writes over, around, and through life's disruptions because they never end.
3. The Dabbler's attending workshops, networking with writers, and reading craft books to lay the groundwork for her dream. The Real Deal is actually writing, with or without doing the foregoing as well.
4. The Dabbler expends far more creativity embroidering her excuses than her plots.
5. The Dabbler frequently (and loudly) decries "that trash" that's getting published nowadays (by sell-outs). He knows he could do better -- and isn't shy about saying so. The Real Deal knows that writing anything commercial is much harder than it looks.
6. The Dabbler refuses to risk criticism/rejection by submitting work to critique groups, first-chapter contests, agents, or editors. The Real Deal knows she'll have to take her lumps, often for years.
7. If the Dabbler does risk and receive any sort of criticism/rejection, he rages against the a. stupidity, b. unfairness, c. potential jealousy of the party involved. The Real Deal feels the sting but realizes it's a subjective business and moves on.
8. The Dabbler is a true "artiste" and New York is just too blind or threatened to recognize her work. This often results in years-long bouts of writer's block requiring expensive therapy. The Real Deal digs in and works that much harder, always believing that the next project with be "the one."
9. The Dabbler is sure that the purchase of expensive equipment/software or travel to distant and costly workshops is "the" secret to success. The Real Deal will write on toilet paper if he has to.
10. The Dabbler's looking for a shortcut -- a favor from the established writer that fills said writer with the urge to run like hell. The Real Deal, on the other hand, knows there *are* no shortcuts and puts in enough sweat equity (without trumpeting it) that established writers feel moved to offer whatever assistance they can.
The good news is that a lot of us start off as dabblers. Heaven knows I did. I started to change when I stopped treating my goal of becoming an author as a daydream and began to treat it like a job.
So what about the rest of you? What took you from Dabbler to Real Deal -- or are you still working on the change? And if you're published, how to you respond to the Demanding Dabblers you meet everywhere? Have any good tips for extricating yourself without resorting to assault?