When I joined RWA I did it because I decided not just to write. I decided to be a professional writer. To write for a living. To be published. Joining a professional group and accessing the resources and minds available was a big decision for me. Originally I had decided to wait to join until I finished a complete full length manuscript. But it became apparent to me that that would be taking a long, long, long time. So I gave up, gave in and got involved.
And I’m incredibly grateful I did. Not only did I finish my manuscript, but I became a writer. I had been a dabbler, a hobbyist, a flirt. But I wasn’t a writer until I not only finished my manuscript, but started another, and another. I wasn’t a writer until I missed writing on the days I didn’t do it and felt frustrated by life’s daily grind stealing time from my “real” life.
Becoming a writer was a slow process. First the decision to write, then the decision to join RWA, then the decision that I was going to go PRO. What is PRO? It is a special section of RWA devoted to the serious wanna-be published writers. Those who have completed a manuscript of 70,000 words or more and submitted it to an agent or editor. And have been rejected.
Why do you want to join a group of rejects? It’s not the snazzy pin they send you, although that is a desirable commodity. It’s not the group you want to join. You want to join the published writers. But on the game board of writing it is a significant step. One many of your fellow scribblers will never get to. Joining PRO means you not only completed something, but you took the huge step of sending it out, got rejected, and now you’re telling the world. Hey world, I got rejected!
In the War of Art by Steven Pressfield he has an entire section devoted to this exact exercise. He even subtitles it “Turning Pro”. In this section he tells about overcoming resistance. For a writer this means setting daily times to write, and sticking to them. Finishing projects and sending them in. Courting rejection over and over and over again, until you get used to it. It is the process of becoming a professional at overcoming resistance.
Steven Presfield could have been writing about achieving PRO status in RWA, but he wasn’t. It seems like a huge coincidence that what it takes to go PRO in RWA mirrors Steven’s process, but it’s not. To become a professional in any career you need to court rejection. More than that, you need to feed off of it. Rejections need to become the grist for your creative mill. Why? Because rejections give you new direction.
When you are rejected in RWA you now have a new place to go, you can join PRO. The loops, the retreat, the special articles in the magazine. All these are rewards you have for being a risk-taker. But you don’t get them unless you apply. Applying to PRO means you are going to stick around. That is the key. Taking the lemon and building a lemonade stand, and if that doesn’t work taking the lemonade stand apart and building something else. True entrpeneurs don’t stop with their first failure, or their second, or even their third. They struggle and strive until they succeed.
Being a professional means sitting down and getting to work, even on those days when you don’t feel like it. Being a professional means taking risks and getting rejected. But most of all, being a professional means combining the two. Taking your rejections and making them into your next piece of art. Learning from your critics. That’s why PRO is such a wonderful opportunity for me. It gives me the opportunity to say I failed. I failed and not only am I am going to use it as a ladder to success, I am going to celebrate.