I want to offer a few words here on professionalism in writing and writing-related relationships, mainly in regard to commitments. Christian writers, especially, need to do this better than the average person, because we say relationships come first for us. We may think, “This is small time. It doesn’t really matter,” or “This person will forget my actions in time.” Every word we commit to matters, and people don’t forget the way we conduct ourselves.
That said, here are my top recommendations on professional conduct as a writer, whether you are a novice or someone with years of experience:
- If you want to be a published writer, every relationship you have in the writing world matters. You never know who you’ll need as a reference, endorser, reviewer, etc. in the future. No one you write for or with is unimportant.
- Keep your commitments. Don’t leave people in the lurch in the name of spiritual angst, stress, or anything less than a true emergency. And even then, don’t abandon your commitment—ask for an extension. If you need to put your feet to the fire to let your yes be yes and meet a deadline you agreed to, do it—and then don’t take on additional commitments if that is what you need to do.
- Keep track of your commitments. Don’t be constantly tardy or find yourself repeatedly saying, “I’m so sorry, I forgot.” Don’t expect hand-holding (and bless mightily the people who remind you of your commitments). Get a planner or an app to help you if you need it. Take your writing seriously and treat it as such, as though it’s your job.
- Don’t take a “sabbatical” from a commitment unless you are sure you will return. Sabbaticals end. Take the high road, even if it feels scary, and say, “I need a break, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to come back.” And then be okay with it if there’s no opportunity to come back to.
- If you need to leave a writing arrangement, fulfill all your existing commitments first. Give ample notice that you’re leaving, just as you would a full-time paying job.
- Don’t expect kind words of appreciation delivered with an “I’m about to break my commitment to you” email/text to make up for bailing on someone. Your actions will make those words null.
- Writing you are being paid for with a byline matters as much as writing you are getting paid for with dollars, as far as relationships go. Treat even the lowliest blogger you’re guest-posting for like she’s Penguin Random House. You never know—she could be the next Jen Hatmaker.
This is not to say that life won’t happen, that you won’t make mistakes. In such times, the best thing you can do is admit responsibility and do what you can to make amends. But on the whole, honor your commitments. Show up. When you need to exit, exit with integrity. Don’t leave a flaming bridge in your wake. You might need to get back across that river someday.