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.

Five on Friday: Happy Easter

So, yeah, Happy Easter, if you celebrate. (And as I mentioned in my last post, even the non-religious types among us can surely celebrate Easter as the coming of spring.  AmIright?)  It’s a busy weekend for many and here’s what’s going on around here:easter_candy_chocolat_242057_l

What I’m fussing about: Apostrophes, freaking apostrophes. The overuse of them is a pox upon the land. I’ve written about this before, but apparently I need to write about it every day for forever to stop this scourge. A story: Wednesday night is pie night at Shari’s, which for those of you who do not live in the Pacific Northwest is a restaurant sort of like Denny’s, only better. Not the least because every Wednesday night they offer a free slice of pie with every entree. Num. So my sister and her husband invited me and my husband to go with them to pie night, and we said yes, because, pie night.  (And because usually my Wednesday nights are taken up with my writing group or knitting, both of which were canceled due to Spring Break.)

We were not disappointed, especially because we had the most entertaining waitress of all time. Ronda did a “Ta-da!” with every armload of food she brought to every table and engaged in hysterical waitress-ly banter.  So it was all good.  Except for the blackboard by the front desk which announced specials and MISUSED APOSTROPHES. I was in such a state of shock to see this happen again (I had just read a blogger who should have known better do the same thing) that I forgot the particulars but it doesn’t matter.

Here’s the deal: an apostrophe denotes possession. So: my sister’s pie. My cat’s food. Etc.  But when you have a regular, good old-fashioned plural, as in when you want to describe a group of objects or more than one thing, YOU DO NOT NEED AN APOSTROPHE.  It is actually easier not to use an apostrophe so I can’t figure out why people persist in adding them in.

Okay, I’m breathing again. We shall carry on.

What I’m fussing about #2: Unnecessary changes.  Okay, so this necessitates another story. Last night, a group of us, eight to be exact, partook of Portland Restaurant Month.  That might not be its exact name, but the gist of it is that a number of restaurants offer three-course meals (fixed menu) for the price of $29.  One of the spots offering this deal happens to be right up the street from us, and it also happens to serve prime rib. Not only that, it is wonderfully old school, with fake red leather booths in the bar, fabulous cocktails, and the prime rib served from a trundling silver cart and carved right at your table.

Recently, Clyde’s was sold to one of the many hip and upcoming restaurateurs that dot this city, who promised to keep all the old-school elements of the place intact.  Except he didn’t. Because, no trundling old cart to serve meat from.  Every piece of prime rib cooked exactly the same, no matter how it was ordered. And, you used to be able to get a container of their delicious salad dressing to take home for a small fee. But, you guessed it, no more.  Sigh.  It was fun anyway, with one of our party celebrating the fact that he had just quit his job because his small Etsy business has taken off. (If I knew the link, I’d post it, but I don’t, alas.)

Surely there is a lesson for writers in all this. Don’t fix what isn’t broken? (Except it probably was, a little bit.) I dunno. You tell me.

Lieutenant, draped on my arm as I write.
Lieutenant, draped on my arm as I write.

What I’m reading: Starlight on Willow Lake, by Susan Wiggs. This is, and I quote her website, “a stunning tale of the delicate ties that bind a family together….and the secrets that tear them apart.”  I’m fascinated with novels that form parts of series, and this one is just that, another title in the Lakeshore Chronicles.  The plot follows a conventional women’s fiction arc, but the author throws in some good surprised. It’s a quick and satisfying read.

Who is helping me: My cat, Lieutenant, as always. He climbs up onto my desk and drapes himself over my arm, then snuggles as close to me as he possibly can. Within minutes my arm is aching with his dead weight on top of it as I try to write.

Why I’m writing such a long post today: Because I have one scene to write to finish the rough draft of my novel. So, of course, it is imperative to write a blog post of great length instead.

That’s it for me. I guess I better go finish that damn novel. What’s up for you these days?

Photos: The candy bunny is by Zela, and the cat photo is by me.  It may or may not appear upside down, because WordPress does this funny thing where on the backend the photo shows as upside down or backwards but when I preview it, it is right side up.