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Gratitude, Schmatitude: Writers, Let’s Complain Instead

turkey_gobble_dinner_268746_lToday is Thanksgiving day in the United States.  For those of you living in other parts of the world, our Thanksgiving is a day to feast and be grateful (never mind that it is slowly getting co-opted by big box stores trying to sell Christmas stuff early).  It began waaaay back in the day, when the first settlers of our fair land, the Pilgrims, made it through their first winter and subsequent harvest season and threw a feast to celebrate.  They even included the locals, Native Americans without whose help they wouldn’t have survived.  (Fat lot of good it did them in the long run.)

As mentioned, gratitude and gratefulness are cornerstones of this day.  And to that I say–bah humbug!  No wait, that’s the wrong holiday.   To that I say–uh uh, no way.  Because, c’mon, we writers have a lot to complain about.  Such as:

  1. Writing is hard.  It just is.  It takes a lot of energy to throw words at the page, make them sound pretty, and have them make sense.  And never mind that you also have to come up with a great story.
  2. The publishing industry sucks.  They pay all their money to a few star authors and ignore the rest of us.  It is slow and dinosaur-like and in general the worst business model ever in the history of the world.
  3. Even when you get published, your book won’t sell.  Because, like, all those stupid self-publishers are out there gumming up the works with their crap.  Our brilliant tomes don’t stand a chance.
  4. There are all kinds of scams preying on writers.  Yeah, its just too much effort to figure out who gives good advice and who doesn’t.  Easier to become an actuary.
  5. Sitting is bad for you.  And lord knows, one must sit for hours at a time to write.
  6. You have to learn grammar! Enough said.
  7. And you probably have to read poetry to be a real writer.  One word: ugh.

Oh, I could go on and on–I’ve not even touched on writer’s block for instance–but I’ll leave it to you to add some complaints to your list.  And today, at the Thanksgiving table, be sure to sigh loudly and mention all these complaints when the topic of gratitude comes up.   I’m certain your assembled guest will be delighted.  And if not, pour yourself another glass of wine and mutter about how misunderstood writers are.

But wait.  What about that moment when you sit up in bed in the middle of the night because you’ve just gotten the idea that pulls the whole book together?  Or the time when you write the most beautiful, heartbreaking sentence known to man? That feeling you get when you’ve completed a writing session and you are in love with everything in the whole world? What about all that?

Yeah, its all that stuff that keeps me writing.  Plus the fact that in however many years I’ve been doing this, writing is the one thing that has never gotten boring to me.  Ever.  And those of you who’ve been reading my blog and newsletter for awhile know that I’m a big fan of a lot of woo-woo stuff like gratitude and that this is written with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek.

Because I am so grateful to be a writer I can’t imagine doing anything else.  I love every aspect of it, even all the things I listed above, and I detest the kinds of writers who think its cool to complain so much.  So today, on Thanksgiving, let’s all give our deepest, most humble thanks for this wonderful work that we get to do.  For the stories we get to tell, the fun we get to have every single time we sit down at our desks.

And the truth of the matter is that I’m actually complaint-adverse.  Or at least I try to be. There’s nothing that turns me off faster than listening to someone bitch and moan.  Especially if it is about writing!  So let’s all celebrate the true meaning of Thanksgiving (it is NOT just the day to be endured before Black Friday) and be grateful.

Photo by kindhelper.

4

You’re a Creative Person, Right?

Crayons-crayola-artsupplies-867610-hCreative vs. Non-Creative People

In which I attempt to answer the question, is there such a thing as a non-creative person?

Years ago, when I was a fledgling writer still getting used to becoming enraptured in the throes of the creative process, I developed a theory:

The world was divided into creative and non-creative people.

Creative people understood when I said I was in the middle of a chapter and couldn't go to a movie with them (or more likely, watch their child–since I wrote at home, I was that Mom who everyone dumped their kids on).

Non-creative people didn't.

Creative people got it when I talked about getting up early to write.  Non-creative people just kvetched about hitting the snooze button.

And just like morning people and night owls will never agree on the best schedule for the day, so, too, creative and non-creative people will never see eye to eye.

That is what I used to think.

But then I got schooled.

Schooled in the idea that all of us, every single one, is a creative being.  Moreover, our purpose in life, the reason we were put here, is to be creative.  Creativity for me means writing (okay, and knitting, too).  But for you it might mean gardening. Or sewing. Or lawn mowing.  Or playing the ukulele.  Or building furniture. I remember once, years ago, having gum surgery and realizing that for my dentist, working on teeth was a creative process.

Creativity is that thing that you do and you don't know time has passed.  It is that thing you do when you are totally present without having to bring yourself back to the moment a million times because you are jus there–totally wrapped up in it. It is that thing you do that makes you feel most alive–and afterwards in love with all the world.

And all of us have that creative spark within us.  And if we heed it, we'll be happier people.  And thus, so will the rest of the world.

I know I'm happier–by five thousand country miles–when I'm honoring that creative spark within. When I'm making the time, and using the energy, to write, to knit, to garden.  Because the truth is, creativity does take energy.  It is harder to sit at your computer and throw words at the page than it is to surf the internet and read news and celebrity stories because when you're being creative, your brain has to work.  It is harder to pick up the knitting rather than just stare at the TV (I speak for myself here) because your fingers have to move.

Creative work requires energy, for sure.  But the good news is that after you've expended that energy you'll feel better than you could ever imagine.  You'll be exhilarated–and maybe exhausted at the same time.  But it will be a good exhaustion, the kind that comes when you've put everything you've got in that moment out on the page, or the canvas, or the garden bed, or into the strings of your guitar, or however you best like to express yourself.

And I suspect that those among us who claim to be not creative have simply not expended the time or energy to figure out where their creativity lies within.  And if they did, they'd experience the absolute joy of letting it flow out.

So, yeah, don't tell me that you're not creative–because I know you are.  I'm likely preaching to the choir here, but all of us can stand a reminder of this now and then, don't you think?

Did you ever have a time when you thought you weren't creative? Leave a comment and let's discuss.

Photo by laffy4K.

12

A Guide to the Care and Tending of Writers, Part Two

So, this week & last, we are on the topic of self care for writers.  I know, wahk (that's the sound of a Buddha_buddhism_religion_581602_hbuzzer). But this is an important subject for you to pay attention to, so that you don't burn out.  So listen up. But first, go read Part One. Because in that ditty, I wrote about how you can tell you're in overwhelm and need to take a break.

But, really?  You need to give yourself a break every day.  You're putting crazy energy out into the world as you write.  Be aware of that and cultivate some time to yourself to get some of that energy back.  And–if you are like me, at first you will have to force yourself to do this. If you're like me, you'll resist.  You'll sit at the computer, certain that the words will come at any minute, sure that the fog of indecision will lift.  But it won't.  

You need to take a freaking break already!

And the one thing I've learned over years of doing this is that if you do these things, create, gasp, a routine of them, your writing will flourish.  So here are some suggestions for incorporating self-care into your life:

1.  Stretch.  I'm working on getting up from the computer every 20 (okay, it is usually more like 40) minutes and doing a couple of simple stretches.  This makes an enormous difference in how I feel at the end of the day.

2.  Artist's Date.  Julia Cameron advocates this in her book, The Artist's Way.  It is something you do alone, and can be as simple as taking your journal to the coffee shop.  Or going to an art gallery. Whatever makes you happy and fills the well. I'm lousy at doing this.  Really lousy.  But when I do, it is mind expanding.

3. Color.  Like in a coloring book, the way you did as a kid.  I'm not kidding, it is really relaxing. There's a whole series of Mandala coloring books you can get if that makes you feel more adult.  Or scribble shapes on a pad of paper and color in the blanks.  Here is a really cool link I found where you can print separate pages out.

4.  Read.  As I've mentioned a time or two before, if you're a writer, you need to read.  Words in, words out.  If I'm putting a lot of words out on the page, I need to pull a lot of them in as well.  And, it is relaxing.

5. Walk.  Get thyself out of the house and into the fresh air.  Carry index cards or your phone to take notes on (I highly recommend Evernote) because you will get ideas that you will want to write down.

6.  Enjoy a hobby. Cook, bake, garden (come to my house and pull some weeds if you like). Knit, crochet, sew.  I used to think that doing creative projects other than writing pulled me away from my writing–but really, it just enhances it.

7.  Get a mani-pedi.  Or just a pedi. Guys, you too.  Hit a salon that has a massage chair and you'll have a relaxing time, while your feet get spiffed up, too.

8.  Get a massage.  I've had the enormous luxury of getting a chiropractic massage weekly (thank you, health insurance) this year.  This is because my body is a bit out of whack.  The massages are helping me physically, yes, but also mentally and emotionally.  Well worth it.

9.  Sit under a tree.  When my kids were little, upon occasion we would visit the nearby park and I would let them play while I sat a picnic table and wrote or simply pondered life's issues.  Getting out into nature is soothing in a way nothing else is.

10.  Get outta town.   Okay, so I am fortunate to live in Portland, Oregon, where the ocean is an hour in one direction and the mountains an hour in the other.  But do I avail myself of these delights?  Rarely.  Don't be like me.  Take a day trip.

11.  Meditate.  Or, keep it simple and not so scary and just pause and take some huge deep breaths every so often throughout the day.

12.  Do nothing.  Closely related to #11.  Just sit and do nothing.  Or stand and do nothing.  Or lie down and do nothing.  Wait, better skip that last one, because if you're like me you'll fall asleep. Which actually isn't a bad idea–napping is good, also.  Honestly, think about it–when is the last time you let yourself really do nothing?  I know, ages ago.  Me, too.

What else?  Well, what relaxes you?  What makes you happy?  Make a list–and then indulge yourself once in awhile.  Blame it on me if you must, but do it.  

Do you build time into your day or week for self care?  What's your favorite thing to do?

4

A Guide to the Care and Tending of Writers, Part One

Let's talk about self care.  Yeah, I know, you'd rather be writing than fussing about some dumb old self care crap.  But here's the point: taking care of yourself will enable you to write more and better. Truly.

An example, taken from my own life: Boracay-beach-paradise-1561148-h

Yesterday, I completed two big projects.  Both are under wraps for the moment, and only one is related to writing, really, but it was an application that necessitated a bunch of thought and filling out.

Today, I'm in full-on fart around mode.  I have a list a mile long to complete–and I'm not doing any of it.  Instead, I'm cruising around the internet, looking at sites I've not checked in on in ages, reading stupid stories about celebrities, wasting time.  

And now, as the day begins to wane, I'm feeling a bit creaky and antsy and unsettled.  How much better it would have been if I'd just said, f$%# it, I took two huge steps yesterday, I'm going to read and knit all day.  In other words, indulge in things I truly enjoy.  Relax after the full-out effort I put in yesterday. In other words, practice self care. 

I don't know why it is so hard to force allow yourself to do this.  Because if you're like me, you'll resist.  You'll sit at the computer, certain that the words will come at any minute, sure that the fog of indecision will lift.  But it won't.  And my day today is a case in point.

(The truth of the matter is, I've had this blog post–which is going to be two parts, by the way–in the works for a couple of weeks.  And it is sheer coincidence synchronicity that my behavior today so aptly proved my own point.)

So, here's the deal: you need to take a freaking break already!

Spoken by the same woman who constantly exhorts you to write every day.  So let's go at this from a slightly different angle, with a handy-dandy list of Possible Signs You Are Burned Out and Need to Replenish:

1.  You have a hard time focusing.  You can't seem to concentrate on the words in front of your face, or you land or a website and wonder why you clicked on it. Then you click on another one and remember why you were on the first one and so you go back there, read for awhile, then head over to the second website.  While your writing file sits open and ignored.  Yeah, that.

2.  You can't connect with the story of your WIP (work in progress).  You remember vaguely that its about…a woman…who does something.  But you can't recall what in the hell it is she does, or the name of any of the other characters or why you wanted to write it in the first place.

3.  Your eyelids get heavy when you open your WIP file, and you don't feel like writing, you feel like sleeping.

4.  The People magazine website is suddenly the most interesting thing you've ever seen.  And you are compelled to read mindless puff articles about people you've never heard of before.

5.  A glass of wine is the thing that you need right now, at this moment, because it is five o'clock somewhere.  And once you take the first sip, it is all downhill from there…

The first three of this list are the most important to heed because they are the most insidious.  You won't ever realize you are doing them until you look back at the end of the day and see that you've accomplished nothing.  Nada.  But even worse, you likely won't identify the root cause of your behavior as needing self care.  No, you will beat yourself up and tell yourself what a lazy ass you are.

How do I know this? Because I do it all the time my friend told me about it.

So, start paying attention.  Take a break.  Figure out some ways that you can do self care that isn't goopy.  How, you ask?  That is the subject of part two of this post, coming right up whenever I can quit procrastinating.

What is your favorite way to waste time?

Photo by The Wandering Angel.

5

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #26

Here we are once again, at Saturday.  How does that keep happening?  Its a miracle.  And here are your prompts for the week.  Remember, for a dose of daily inspiration, check out my Tumblr blog, where I post a new prompt every day (except for the rare occasion when I forget).  Happy writing!

#177 The wind howled and the rain poured down.  She stared out at the falling water, mesmerized.  It reminded her of the time that…..

#178 It’s Martin Luther King day.  Write about freedom.  What does it mean to you? Your character? For some it is a very high value( i.e., having freedom to set your own schedule, do the work you want, etc.), others, not so much. Where do you fall on the spectrum?

#179 Write about a time when the clock ticked so slowly you thought you’d die of boredom.  Now write about a time when the minutes flew by—and you actually wanted them to slow down.

#180  That shiver of dread.  Because, when she looked out the window, she saw….

#181  Family, love it or hate it—either way, it shapes us.  Is your character (or you) part of a close-knit family, or one that could care less about each other? How did this affect him or her growing up?  How does it affect him now?

#182 She got so damn mad at herself when she wasted time that way, which was often.

#183  You're sitting in a booth in a bar, working on your laptop.  A man and a woman sit in the booth next door and you hear them argue.

"You always want to do such stupid things," she says.

"But at least I'm not a stick-in-the-mud like you," he answers back.

Write the rest of their argument.

1

Keep the Spigot Open: How to Find Your Writer’s Voice

Faucet-plumbing-outdoors-42614-lIt's eight days into the new year and many of us are looking for things.  Like ways to be different, to change.  New opportunities, new goals.  And maybe some of you out there are looking for your writer's voice.

Whenever I think about the writer's voice, I think about an old children's book called Are You My Mother?  A bird hatches while his mother is away getting food and hops off the tree and goes looking for her.  Hilarity (if you're five) ensues while the bird asks a variety of creatures if they are his mother. So, too, with our writer's voice: we wander around trying on different ones for size: here's me writing horror.  Nope, that doesn't work.  Here's me writing in first person.  Nope.  Or a thriller in multiple viewpoints.  And on and on we go.

My voice, be it here on this blog or in my novels and stories, is light and accessible.  It is often funny and always breezy.  Nobody ever accused me of being too deep–but I do like to think that there are deep truths buried in all that breeziness.  And, here's the deal: this it not done purposefully.  It is just who I am.  The words on the page are the ones that come out.  Would that I could write deep, dark psychological thrillers.  Or even serious literature! But that's not what flows from my fingers.  

And I have learned not to block it.

If you're still searching for your writer's voice, that's likely the difference between me and you.  Over many, many years of writing, I have learned to let it rip.  To keep the spigot open, so to speak. Because only writing a lot (what does Malcolm Gladwell say? 10,000 hours of work to mastery?) and often allows your natural voice to emerge.

But it is easy to say, yeah, just write a lot and you will find your voice.  So here are some other tips I've used and recommended to others throughout the years:

 1. Write all the time.  Okay, this is not an "other" tip but it is advice on my most important recommendation.  Write.  Write as much as you can.  Write all the time.  Write tons every day. Write on your WIP, write blog posts.  Write emails and letters.  Write in your journal.  Write to prompts. Just write. The more you write, the more facile you get with words and the easier they will flow onto the page. And the easier they flow, the faster you will find your voice.

2. Read.  When you're not writing, read.  Read all the time and read anything.  Books, of course, but also cereal boxes and websites and articles in the newspaper and magazines.  It doesn't matter what it is, though it is a good idea to read a ton of what it is you want to write, just read.  Inhale words. Fill yourself up with them so you've got a lot to throw back at the page.

3. Imitate.  Pick your favorite author and type the opening chapter of her novel into your computer, word for word. This sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but it is actually an amazing way to get the rhythm and flow of another person's voice into your head.  And from there you can develop your own.  Another way to approach this is to take a paragraph from a published novel and rewrite it in your own words.

4. Keep the well filled. Julia Cameron talks about taking Artist's Dates, wherein you go off by yourself to an art museum or to swing on swings in the park or to a concert–anything that will fill up your creative well.  I'll admit right here that I don't do this, though I love the idea.  But I do other things that have the same result.  I knit, for instance, and also spend hours looking at Ravelry (a social media-ish site for knitters full of patterns and luscious images).  I'm planning to explore art journaling this year.  And my favorite Christmas present (besides the Poo emoji mask) is my ukulele, which I can barely manage to tune but love dinking around with.

5. Play with imagery.  Another counter-intuitive one, because we're writers, right?  But our sub-conscious responds to images more than words and playing with pictures can be helpful to direct your writing in a new way.  Look through art books, or catalogs.  Experiment with art journaling (for a helpful video, check out this.) Go to Google Images or Everystockphoto and just put different words in the search box.  See what comes up.  When you find an image you like–write about it.

6.  Don't censor yourself.  You might be writing and think of something and hesitate to put it down.  Do it anyway.  That's why we rewrite–to go back and change those things that are too harsh, too crazy, too too.  But I'm also willing to bet you might not be quite so worried about those things that are just too much when you go back to them.  I'm willing to bet they might be keys to your true voice.

7.  Breathe.  Breathe yourself into your body and the true, authentic you.  We hear a lot about being who we really are and half the time we're not even in our bodies enough to know.  Pay attention to your breath.  Give your body the gift of full, complete inhales and full, complete exhales. You'll feel more grounded in yourself. And that will be reflected in your writing.

Those are my recommendations.  What are yours?  Do you feel you have found your voice or are you still looking for it?  Please share in the comments.

10

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #23

Hey, we made it to 2015! Woot woot!  I know its going to be a great year because New Year's day was the best first day of the year ever around here.  I got some work done on my novel rewrite in the morning, watched the Ducks annihilate the FSU Seminoles in the afternoon, and ended up having an impromptu party to boot.

But the party is over–the New Year's day party and the whole loooooong party of the holiday season. And it's time for prompts.  Oh wait, one more thing.  If you happen to live in Portland, come to my book signing next week.  It's at Rain or Shine coffeehouse on SE 60th and Division, across from Mt. Tabor and I'll be there with Tam Holland, who you might know from this post.  Another woot woot!  

Okay, prompts for real this time.  These are taken from my daily Tumblr blog, which I started on a whim last summer and has kept going all this time quite to my amazement.  Here's this week's selection:

#157 Was it the emotional turmoil of their parting? Or the overindulgence from the holidays?  Or sheer exhaustion?  Didn't matter because the end result was the same.  She took to her bed and could not be convinced to get up.

#158  The one thing she wanted more than anything was the one thing she couldn’t have.  What was it?

#159  And then she discovered the most amazing thing: that most often if she asked for what she wanted, she got it.

#160  Goodbye to all that.  What does your main character want to take with him into the new year?  What does he want to leave behind?

#161  A bright shiny new thing.  A bright shiny new year.  What will you (or your main character) do with it?

#162  And with the new year, came the cold that everyone had.  What does your character do when sick?  Carry on, gut it out, go to work, power through? Or take to her bed for days on end?

#163  Already it was old hat.  And she liked it that way.  The soothing habits of her routine enabled her to….

That's it!  That's all for now! Go write!

Oh–heehee, I forgot, one more thing–Go download my free prompt book here.  I will take you all the way through January in your writing.

 

8

Wednesday Within: The Virus of Obsessing About Stupid Things

Often sometimes I obsess about stupid things.  Like what top to buy, or if I should take a certain class, or how to totally and completely change my life.  This doesn't sound so bad, but I swear at times it clogs up my whole mind and my brain gets stuck thinking about this stupid stuff. Estock_commonswiki_278333_l

I'm convinced its a virus.

And when I think really dark thoughts about this virus, I'm convinced it was let loose by some evil overlord trying to subdue the human race by making them waste time on petty thoughts. (Should you doubt this theory, go read your Facebook news feed.  The stupidity of the things people post there is appalling.)

My theory is akin to one I've heard bandied about on women, which I actually believe: that we are sold a bill of goods about how we should look through a constant stream of adverstisements, features in magazines on beauty, and articles.  This keeps us relatively powerless because we waste time on crap like this rather than running the world, for instance.

Maybe this is a virus, too?

Or maybe none of it is.  Rather, it is just our poor tired brains running on overload all the time, what with the bombardment of information they handle.  But I sure wish I knew how to deal with it better, because while I'm obsessing about what sweater pattern to knit, another writer is turning that obsessing into a novel about knitters.  Or something.  

And I want to be that writer.

Ideas?  What do you do when your brain starts into overload obsesssion mode?  (Oh crap, please tell me I'm not the only one whose brain does this.)

Photo by Geejo.

21

The Magic Formula For Getting Tons of Writing Done

Okay, guys, Nanowrimo is on the horizon, swiftly approaching…just four more days!  I know many of you like to torture yourself with the task of writing a 50,000-word novel in a month.  And even those of you not participating this year (I'm sitting it out) still would like to know the magic formula for getting tons of writing done.

Amiright? Crest-bda7b7a6e1b57bb9fb8ce9772b8faafb

I thought so.

I shall share it with you, and bear in mind there is good news and bad news that comes along with it. The good news being that a magic formula exists.  The bad news being that magic formulas don't work unless you use them.

So, here it is: 

Commitment + Consistency + Courage = Creativity

And guess what? Creativity equals words on the page and words on the page result in a finished book. So let's look at each element in turn.

1. Commitment.  For most people, this is likely the hardest part of the formula.  I know it is for me. You tell yourself you're going to get up at 5:30 and get those words written….and then you see something interesting on Facebook (Or CNN if you're a newshound like me). And instead of writing, you're browsing the internet.  If this happens once or twice, give yourself a break, maybe your brain needs a rest.  But if it is a regular occurrence, take a look at yourself.  Where's your integrity? Ouch.  I hate calling you (and myself) on the carpet.  But, sometimes it is necessary.  So, do yourself a big favor. If you say you're going to write, by God, go write.  Integrity feeds on integrity.  And procrastination feeds on procrastination. (As in, I've blown it now, why bother? This is the same sentiment that derails diets.  Don't ask me how I know this, just trust me, okay?)

2. Consistency.  Another difficult one.  If you're anything like me, you get a good momentum going and then rebel against it.  A little rebellion is okay–it allows your ego to thing its in charge.  But only a little! Because consistently showing up at the page, day after day after day is how you get tons of writing done.  I knew a writer who scheduled writing days once a month.  Didn't work, because in the vast distance between writing dates he lost the threads of his project and it took hours to get caught up again.  Last I heard, he wasn't writing any more.  Don't be him!  Write as often as you can!

3. Courage.  You need it.  Period.  You need it for when you dredge up those old dormant emotions in order to inject realism into your characters.  And you need it for when your kids want your attention and you just need to finish a paragraph.  Or for when your spouse tells you he misses you sitting next to him on the couch at night, watching TV.  Or for when your mother makes a snide remark about how much time you're spending on that dumb-novel-that's-not-going-anywhere.  You need it to persevere, to commit and be consistent.

Put those three elements together and you get:

Creativity.  The mad delight of putting words on the page.  The feeling that all is right with the world.  The joy of being so in the moment that you don't even realize time has passed.  The satisfaction of meeting your word count.  Yeah, some days it is hard to convince yourself to get to the page, but oh my goodness, it is worth it!

So dive in!  The words and sentences don't have to be perfect, they just have to be.  Get them out of you and onto the computer, or typewriter, or spiral or whatever you write in.

(By the way, this magic formula is taken from a little Ebook I wrote called Set the Words Free, which I will be releasing soon.) 

Do you have a magic formula for getting your writing done?  Please share in the comments!

I snitched the image from the Nanowrimo website.  I don't think they'll mind too much.

10

Writing Mindset: Art or Business?

Keyboard_controls_writing_238875_lHere's how an author's career used to look: said author would get her first book accepted by a big New York publisher, and said publisher would tell said author not to worry about a thing, marketing-wise.   The happy author would be given a schedule for a tour and appearances and told to focus on what she does best–writing the next book.

Here's how an author's career looks now: said author's book may or may not be published by a big New York publisher.  More likely, his book was put out by a small press, or maybe he published it himself.   And said author knows that his publishers will do little, if anything, to market her work. He'll be calling bookstores, arranging guest posts, tracking down book reviewers himself.  Writing the next book?  That's something that will have to wait.

My first example is, clearly, art.

The second, business.

Two aspects of a writing career that exist side by side.  And more and more these days, we hear how authors need to master both. Gone are the days when we writers could lavish all our time on the first aspect.   This tends to upset us.  We mutter dark invectives about having to focus on the business side of our careers.  We begrudge time spent away from our writing.  

And yeah, I get it.  Every once in awhile I like to fantasize about having nothing to do but work on my novels.  And then I realize I'd hate that.  I like being on social media. (At least most sites.  You can take Facebook and shove it as far as I'm concerned.) I love working with my clients. (Please don't tell them, but I learn as much from them as they learn from me.)  I don't love cold-calling bookstores or seeking out reviewers, but hey, if it keeps me from working a real job, I'll deal.

And that's just it.  In this brave new world of publishing that shifts daily, we really do have to master both the art and business sides of writing.  I wish I had better news for you, but there it is.  I may not have the news you want to hear, but I do have suggestions for how to make it as painless as possible. Here goes:

1. Always put your writing first.  It's the basis of everything and if you're not doing it, you ultimately will not have a career because you won't have anything to market.  So do the work, then worry about putting it out in the world.  I mean this in a couple of ways:

a. Write your book before you worry about contacting an agent.

b. Put your writing before your marketing efforts on a daily basis. (For me, this means writing first thing in the morning.  Then I feel good about what I've accomplished all day long and that gives me energy to do the crap I hate.)

2. Realize that business is not a dirty word.  When we whisper the "b" word as if it were tainted, we do ourselves and our work a disservice.  Remember, people exist in the world who actually think business–and the dreaded "m" word (marketing)–are fun. You and I may not fall into that category, but realize that business can be every bit as creative as putting words together on the page.

3. Know that the situation is not going to change soon.  Don't waste your energy wishing you didn't have to master social media, or figuring out techie tools, or mastering marketing.  Don't spend time longing for the old days, described above.  Because they aren't coming back.  As I used to tell my kids when they complained about doing something, "With all the energy you've wasted kvetching about it, you could have been done by now."

4.  Get help.  Everyone can benefit from coaching, whether its for your writing or your marketing efforts.  If you're struggling, get help!  There are tons of wonderful teachers out there who can help you master the skills you don't yet have.

5. Do it with everything you've got.  You throw yourself at the page every day, right?  You express your deepest feelings and fears and truths, right?  Use the same mindset for the business side of things. Throw yourself at it, and give it everything you've got.  Approach it with the reverence you give your writing and you will do just fine.  More than that, you'll do great.

How do you reconcile the business and art side of your career?

(By the way, I have an email conversation with J.D. Frost to thank for the topic of this article. Thanks, J.D.!)

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