Wednesday, March 4, 2015

21 Surefire Ways to Sink Your Writing Career

Volumes--some of them long and tedious, others funny or serious, but always helpful--have been written on how to make it in this world as a writer. I don't doubt there are successful authors out there whose sole output has been writing books about writing books, while never actually writing a book about anything else. Yes, I know. Confusing. But if a writer wants to become a published author, there's no dearth of books telling him or her just how to do it.

However, I think there's just as much to be learned about getting our work published and available to readers by knowing how to drown your desire to write, destroy your ego, and demolish your career (along with your chances of being published). After all, if you know the pitfalls, you can avoid them. At least that's the plan. So with tongue in cheek, I present the following points gleaned from personal experience (not mine, of course), so you can take heart in knowing they've 1.) actually happened, 2.) might actually happen, or 3.) wouldn't in a million years actually happen, but help round out the list. Here goes:

1.  Decide right off the bat not to take the advice of anyone who isn't Stephen King, John Grisham, or fill-in-the-name-of-your-favorite-author. So what if they've been at this for thirty years and had many books published after years of rejection? That's their experience; yours will most certainly be different (and more positive).
Speaking of Stephen King--he has bats on his iron fence in Maine!
How cool is that? He must not have been home that day or he
would no doubt have come out to greet me. 
2.  Tell everyone you know--the ones still listening to you, at least--that you know what your readers (a.k.a. your mother, grandmother, aunt, and closest friend) want more than editors, publishers, agents, or anyone else remotely engaged in the writing process. Their advice is to other writers. Not you. You're the exception.

3.  Write, write, and write some more, but never, ever submit that work to anyone because you're perpetually in the editing (read: stalling) stage. There will be time for submitting once you're finished making it even more perfect than it already is.

4.  Don't read. Don't follow the advice of writing professionals everywhere that writers are readers. You don't have time to read--you're too busy writing! You don't have to read the work of others (published others, I might add) to learn from their techniques because you're busy gaining experience by writing, not by taking the time to note what worked or didn't work for others.

5.  Don't learn the spelling, grammar and/or punctuation rules. If, by chance, you happen to hear about them, whatever you do, don't follow them. Ever.

6.  Don't break those rules occasionally. Once you learned them (if you have, that is), don't stretch your creative muscles enough to break one once in a while.

7.  Play copious games of FreeCell. It's good for the brain cells. Tell people who catch you that you're resting your thoughts and your subconscious is actually writing like crazy, while you hit "play again" over and over and over...

8.  Write down story ideas, file them away, but never, ever use them.

9.  Lose those story ideas over the years and when you want them, they're gone forever because you thought they were so intellectually stimulating and ... well, so just plain genius, that you'd never, ever forget them. But you did.

10. Use ever as often as possible.

11.  Buy a new computer. Learn how to use it. Make sure it has FreeCell loaded on it and thoroughly test it to be sure your subconscious will have something to do.

12.  Don't write anything while you're waiting to hear from an editor on a previous submission (provided you've edited that work until it's perfect enough to submit). Just wait. And wait. Don't start anything new because any minute now you're going to be up to your ears in edits from the editor assigned to you at Very Special Publishing House that enthusiastically and gratefully accepted your manuscript. No sense confusing your subconscious.

13. Get organized. Often. Re-organize your desk/office/filing system/FreeCell scores as many times as necessary to avoid writing. Your subconscious is doing all that behind-the-scenes work anyway. You might as well get ready for the flood of acceptance letters or emails you'll be getting any day now by rearranging files, dusting your desk, or changing the light bulb in that Hemingway-style lamp you spent three weeks looking for on your new computer.

14. Join a writing group, secretly thinking you know more than anyone else will. But you join anyway since your expertise will be sorely needed by others. Find excuses why you can't bring any of your work to be critiqued. When they keep asking, find an excuse why you can no longer attend.

15. Find another writing group and start all over again.

16. Look around you and see other members of your writing group (assuming you've stayed in one) being published. Listen as they share their successes or congratulate one another on completed manuscripts or for actually submitting something. Watch them console those who have taken the plunge and been rejected. Feel superior because you have no rejection stories to share--or acceptance stories, for that matter. Feel out of place because deep down you know you're an impostor.

17. Finally see the light and then use it to flog yourself repeatedly for being that impostor you recognized at the last writing group meeting.

18. Give up. Swear you'll never write again. It's too hard. Besides, no one wants to read your work. You're not talented/skilled/creative/funny/serious/
inspirational enough, anyway. There are millions of books out there--maybe billions. Who needs yours?

19. Forget that the only person who can write that book roaming around in your head is you. Yes, there are billions of books out there, but do any of them have your name on the cover? Do any of them have your uniqueness imprinted upon them? Are any of them steeped in your life experiences, your sense of humor or pathos or inspiration or terror or mystery or romance? Are any of them the culmination of all the hard work you've put into your career; the introspection, the doubts, hopes, ideas, or failures you've experienced? Are any of them written by you?

20. Refuse to learn from any of the above. Accept that what you love doing more than anything else in this world isn't what you've been put on this earth to do after all. Give up on yourself, your career, and on God's desire for your life.

21. Hate yourself forever.

If, on the other, you decide to give it another shot and become the author you're supposed to be, avoid all of the above. Like the plague. (Oh, and don't use clich├ęs.) Write, edit, study, read, join, submit, get rejected again and again. Pay your dues. Then write, edit, study, read, join, submit some more. Get accepted. Become a published author. Do it all over again.

And finally, celebrate your decision to join the ranks of writers all across the world and through the ages who have the same feelings of inadequacy and fear and hopefulness and desire and yes, sometimes even success that you do.

So go ahead, treat yourself. Play a game of FreeCell.

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