Why Writing is Like Eating (A Love Letter)

If you’ve been reading my work for any length of time, you know that I’m a big believer in doing things your own way.  In whatever way works for you.  How you want to do it. As long as you do it, the process is yours to decide. Right?  Ask any of my family and friends, and they’ll tell you I’m independent to a fault.  It’s that “to a fault” part that I want to talk about today.

Because sometimes being independent becomes the cause in and of itself, for no other reason than stubbornness. And this harms me.  Often, for instance, I won’t read a bestseller because everyone else is reading it, and I want to be independent. Then I read the book and love it. Or I’ll resist buying a Mac because I don’t want to be part of the cult of Apple worshippers. Then I buy one and love it.

I see this manifest in other writers, my students and clients, all the time. After all, we creative types tend toward the fringes of society, the edges where the independents reside.  And so we don’t like it when people tell us we have to do something. Like revise our first draft, written in glorious wild independence without thought of grammar or structure or rules. Or work on our writer platforms.  Who, me, stoop to marketing? Uh-uh.  I’m too busy writing with fierce abandon.

A friend of mine took her book proposal to a conference to pitch it. The multiple agents she met with told her it was one of the best proposals they’d ever seen—but to contact them in a year when she’d developed some kind of platform. Because she had nada—not even a website—because she’d been too busy writing. And being independent.  But publishers wouldn’t even look at her work without some kind of social media presence.  Despite how good the proposal was.

I tell variations on this to my people all the time—how they need to establish a platform, build a list, write a blog, do social media.  Market themselves.  And they ignore me.  “I’m too busy writing,” they tell me.   Or, “I’ll do it when I get a contract.” (Reread the previous paragraph please.) Or, “I don’t know how.”

Well, learn it.  There’s a million tutorials out there, many of them free. Because unless you are Stephen King or Danielle Steele, you’re going to have to do some marketing.  And it is not just for the indies out there.  Major publishers expect you to do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to marketing.

But this is not a love letter about marketing. It is about doing those things you don’t want to do, even though you are a fiercely independent wild creative type. Like me.  And here comes the part where I compare your writing career to eating.  When it comes to food, we have to face the fact that we cannot eat everything (like sweets and junk food) we want all the time and maintain any kind of health.

I really am sorry to tell you this. I wish I could eat French fries and cheeseburgers followed by a tubful of macarons every night but, um, no. Maybe you’ve been blessed with an amazing metabolism that allows you to do this, but I am not.  Same goes for writing.  I’m not Danielle Steele so I have to do my own marketing. And yeah, I have to revise those wild and crazy first drafts, too. (At the rate she pumps out books I’m pretty sure she has somebody to do that for you.)

So here’s what I hope you take away from this rant love letter.  In everyone’s writing career, you’re going to have to do some things that are not quite as much fun as writing.  But who says you can’t make them fun?  Like the old saying, eat dessert first.  Writing is my dessert, and marketing is all the rest of it—like vegetables and protein.  But here’s the deal: I’ve grown to love vegetables as much or more as I love dessert.  Maybe you learn to love the parts of your writing career you now hate, too.

Please do hit leave a comment and tell me what you love—and hate—about your writing.

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