Today’s column is for all of the writers and aspiring writers out there, those who might need a little encouragement around the holidays and new year.
Have you ever seen DR. NO, the very first James Bond movie? It’s a good movie, as the old Sean Connery Bond flicks go. But what is most remarkable about the movie, to me, is this.
After the opening sequence in which a British operative in Jamaica is assassinated, the film cuts to London, to an exclusive gaming club called Les Ambassadeurs (it still exists). A man enters the club. At the door, the maitre d’ stops and asks if he is a member. The man pulls out his card and hands it over, saying he is looking for James Bond.
If you were watching this movie upon its release in 1962, this would be the first time in cinematic history you would have ever heard that name.
The film cuts to a woman in a red evening gown playing a card game called “chemin-de-fer” (a version of baccarat), and she is losing against the player dealing the cards. When she calls for more chips from the bank, the voice of the unseen dealer finally speaks to her.
“I admire your courage, Miss…”
“Trench, Sylvia Trench. And I admire your luck, Mr. …”
“Bond, James Bond.”
And then, for the first time, we see his face. And we hear the low, thrumming guitar score that for the past 55 years we’ve come to associate with James Bond.
But remember: In 1962, you’d never heard that song before. You’d never heard him introduce himself before. You didn’t know who he was.
But it doesn’t matter. When you watch Dr. No today, you wouldn’t know if it were the first Bond movie or the 10th. It feels like he’s always been James Bond, that James Bond has always existed. That he’s always been wooing the Sylvia Trenches of the world at 3 a.m. at exclusive casinos in Mayfair, that he’s always been sent dashing off to confront SPECTRE in Jamaica.
God. He’s so Bond in Dr. No it’s nearly unbearable. Because he says his name in such a way, in such a tux, in such a place that he expects you, his audience, to know who he is.
He magically appears fully formed, like Athena springing from the head of Zeus. At least at the beginning of the Bond franchise, there was no birth of Bond, no origin story.
What does Dr. No have to do with your writing career?
I coach new writers a lot. They are often transitioning from other careers. I get asked questions like, “I don’t have a lot of clips or publications—what would I put on a website?” Or, “How do I write my Twitter profile, when I’m basically a nobody?”
You need to take a page from James Bond in Dr. No.
You are right now, starting today, a public figure. You are, starting today, a writer. You need to simply decide that writing is what you are, it is why you are, and then make sure that every public document you put out there reflects that decision.
How do you make this happen?
First, you’d be surprised how much writing you’ve actually done. If you are a person who loves writing, you probably have written more than you think. What “counts” as writing is a bigger net than you think. What kinds of writing did you do for work? Grants? Proposals? Analyses? Those count. Put a bullet point on your website about your experience with grant writing or professional writing.
Second, when you create your author website, take into account all of the things that you are. Don’t limit yourself to just one narrow band of interest. You will have plenty to put on your website. But the most important thing is to launch your website as though it were a website that had always been there, professional in appearance, representing you, the professional. Bond, James Bond. Dot com.
The same goes for your Twitter Profile, and your Facebook writer (or author) page. Yes, you need that too. You are going to burst onto the public scene like Athena. You will not apologize. You will not be “beta” or “just figuring this thing out.” You will be a pro from the get-go. Or, at least you will fake like you are until you are.
What’s the difference, in the end.
If James Bond is sexy, then we can be, too.
(An earlier version of this column first appeared on Underground Book Reviews.)
Katie is a novelist, freelance journalist, and erstwhile law professor in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is the author of the Hollywood Lights Series, which includes ENTANGLEMENT (2015), LOVE AND ENTROPY (2015), CHASING CHAOS (2016), HOW TO STAY (2017), and the forthcoming FALLOUT GIRL (2018) all from Blue Crow Books. With Raven Books, she is the author of LIFE OF THE MIND INTERRUPTED: Essays on Mental Health and Disability in Higher Education (2017).
As a journalist, Katie contributes to QUARTZ, THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, THE (late, lamented) TOAST, DAME MAGAZINE and other national venues. She earned her master’s degree in creative writing from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, where she attended on a fellowship. Katie has published many books on writing, including HOW WRITING WORKS with Oxford University Press. A professor of writing for more than a decade, she now teaches creative writing and works as a writing coach and developmental editor.