“If you want to be a star, you better behave like one.”
That’s the tagline for the film Velvet Goldmine. I’ve had a poster for it hanging over my desk since I got into the Screen Actors Guild a decade ago. In the context of the film, it’s a cautionary tale about being a diva and getting in over your head; in the context of my life, it’s been about ambition and learning how to succeed.
Wanting to tell stories for a living can often feel impossible, but the things I’ve learnt about celebrity and success from watching movies, and being in them, are the same things that have helped me succeed as a writer.
So how do stars behave?
First, they work hard. While stars don’t always need to be the first on set and the last to leave, they often choose to be. This leadership extends to the “hurry up and wait” that often transpires between takes, with many actors never choosing to take a seat, knowing their energy and enthusiasm can help the rest of the cast and crew survive what are commonly fourteen hour days.
Next, stars always say thank you. Not just for praise, but for criticism, analysis, hard work, and the time investment of others.
Third, stars offer others a hand up whenever they can, knowing that their praise, clout, mentorship, and kind words can help others persevere towards success in a challenging industry.
What does a writer’s version of star behavior look like?
First, put in the hours. Get up early or go to sleep late. Write on your lunch break. When the words aren’t coming, scribble down notes about why you’re stuck. Remember the work isn’t just the words, but also polishing them, providing manuscripts that are as clean as possible to first readers, editors, and publishers. Marketing, too, presents an opportunity to lead with the knowledge that a writer’s work is never done and never truly done alone.
Second, always say thank you. Your friends and first readers may love your work, but they are also being exposed to your raw ideas. Be grateful for enthusiasm and criticism that helps you refine your story. Thank the publisher who reminds you of deadlines and the editor who saves you from your bad habits regarding commas. And, while sometimes it’s hard, try to have gratitude for everyone who takes time to read your books even if they don’t offer you a contract or a five-star review.
Finally, be interested in writers around you. Offer encouragement, advice, and time when you can. Remember all the days a kind word helped you to keep going. It’s often also a boon to personal confidence to know you can help others succeed as opposed to fearing them as the competition. You can help cement your own success by sharing it with others.
While wild success often comes from a combination of luck and hard work, you can always behave like a star.
Even if you’re not one. Yet.♥
Racheline’s first novel (co-written with Erin McRae), STARLING, is an M/M romance set in Hollywood. It will be published by Torquere Press on September 10, 2014.