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by Cynthia Ruchti

The television talk show guest expert blessed the production crew interns with fashion makeovers. Her key piece of advice? “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”

The advice came zinging through the television screen just as I put my fingers to the keyboard to write this blog post about “Turning Pro” as a writer. No matter where we are on our writing journey-whether we’re studying to be authors, interning, newly published, or multi-published-taking a look at what it means to turn pro, to figuratively dress for the job we want, not the one we have can help us move forward and increase not only our chances but our satisfaction quotient. We’re happiest as writers when we know we’re making progress.

Editors and agents tell us that the writer who acts professionally draws positive attention in the writing arena. How can we turn pro even before we’re published, before we’re a recognized entity in the writing world, before our books start showing up on the bestseller lists or the awards announcements? And how do we remain professional after those pinnacles?

When an athlete turns pro, some things change radically.

Practice: Pros don’t get to skip practice. Their contract obligates them to even more intense practice than they might have been accustomed to as an amateur athlete. The best athletes work out in the off season, when no games or matches or tournaments are scheduled. They treat off season as another phase of the job that it is. And that makes them ready when the games begin. Writers who turn pro do the same, viewing their training and ongoing education with a similar dedication.

Time Use: Pros don’t compete only if they have nothing else on their schedules. “You’re pitching in the World Series game on Tuesday.” “Sorry, I have plans. Really important ones.” Not gonna happen. Pros get up in the morning with an agenda related to their job responsibilities. The best pros live balanced lives (“What will it profit a person if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul?” Matthew 16:26) but work is work. Because most writers work from home, the temptation to put off writing until everything else in life is caught up-laundry, cleaning out the fridge, dead-heading the roses, taking an old toothbrush to the grooves in the switch plates-is strong. Writers turning pro-those who dress for the job they want, not the job they have-show up for work even if there are fingerprints on the shower door. They schedule lunch out with friends as if they worked in an office or factory, without guilt when they have to say, “Can’t on Wednesday. How about Thursday? I have a meeting (with my computer) at one on Monday. Can we do lunch at eleven instead?” That’s how a medical assistant would do it. That’s how a lawyer would handle a lunch date. That’s how any professional works other activities into the schedule.

Relationships: Pros act professionally in relationships. The best athletes realize that the coach they badmouth today may be the one they want to hire them next year. The news reporter they dismiss today is the one who decides which stories hit the air a few months from now. The words they spoke in private (or texted) are tomorrow’s headlines. The pros who succeed in all arenas-on the field, at home, in their communities-are the ones who are intentional about building and maintaining healthy relationships both in front of the cameras and behind closed doors. As dedicated as they are to their profession, they don’t neglect or mishandle personal and professional relationships. In the world of writing Christian fiction, stories that offer hope, what happens to the writer who disconnects from the Hope-giver?

Check out tomorrow’s blog post for Part 2 on the subject of Turning Pro.

Cynthia Ruchti is the author of the 2011 Carol Award finalist They Almost Always Come Home (Abingdon Press), “The Hearts Harbor” in the award-winning A Door County Christmas novella collection (Barbour Publishing), His Grace is Sufficient…Decaf is Not devotional collection (Summerside Press), the spring 2012 release “Maybe Us” in Cedar Creek Seasons novella collection (Barbour Publishing), and 2013’s When the Morning Glory Blooms (Abingdon Press). Grateful for ACFW’s influence in her writing career, Cynthia served as president of ACFW in 2009-2010 and now serves as its Professional Relations Liaison.

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