In my routine trolling of the Internet, I ran across a post by literary agent Rachelle Gardner titled “7 Ways You Give Away Your Power – And How to Avoid It.” It’s a good read and any writer seeking publication should take a look. (And really, a lot of these lessons can be extrapolated to any professional activity.)
I think I’ve touched on a few of the items she lists, but I’m going to do it again. Just, you know, for kicks or what not.
In her item 3, she says, “Always think carefully about [advice], run it through your own common sense filters and get multiple opinions when it makes sense.”
If I could summarize everything I’ve said here before it would be that anyone who wants to be an author needs to Read, Write, and Think. Without that last one, without THINKING about what you read and write, the other two steps really don’t do much for you.
And part of that includes questioning all of the expert advice. “Because I said so” might work for three-year olds, but it shouldn’t be something an adult who wants to master a craft accepts.
There’s nothing wrong with listening to successful people or experts. They got where they are for a reason and may very well have tips to share that are worth listening to. But sometimes people get to a certain point and think they’re an expert on everything when they’re really not.
So, maybe an author is incredibly successful because of their brilliant ideas and their readers overlook their slow story development and lack of character depth. But the author may not even realize that about their writing, so they turn around and spew advice about how to make characters engaging. Something like “describe each character in intimate detail the minute they appear in the story because if your reader can’t imagine the character down to their shoelaces then they can’t engage with your story.” (I made that up, but I hope you can see how describing each of five villains about to attack the main character might drag a bit.)
Some people don’t know why they’re successful. Some think that being successful makes them God-like. At the end of the day we’re all just flawed human beings. ALL of us. So question what you hear.
I think I’ve also touched on her number 5 before. She says, “You always want to be looking for the sweet spot where your own passion meets the market. This is true in any career, not just writing.”
I firmly believe that a writer should write about what they want to write first and foremost and worry about where to sell it after. And that’s because you have to sit down every day and work on that story or novel and if you hate it or think you’re selling out, you will be miserable every day. And the more successful you become, the more miserable you will probably be. And who needs that? Life is too short to do that to yourself.
Write your passion. And if you write it well enough, you will find others who appreciate it.
The final one I wanted to point out is her number 7 about holding onto negative feelings. I don’t think I’ve really blogged about this one yet, but I’ve definitely been thinking about it after some of the posts I’ve read on the writers’ forums.
The other day I saw someone ranting about how they had hated every real job they ever had and had finally quit to write a novel and now no one wanted to buy it and how life sucked and everyone was out to get them. It was, sadly, not the first post like that I’ve seen.
And I have an unfortunately prolific Facebook friend (not a writer) who always approaches life this way. It’s FML my life this and FML my life that. That kind of anger and negativity is exhausting. It wears on your body and it influences all of your relationships. It’s a miserable way to live.
I’ve been there once or twice. Trust me. It happens. Life is awful sometimes. But at the end of the day, you have to let it go or it’ll just taint everything in your life. And then it becomes some sort of death spiral of negativity that you can’t get away from. (Ugh. Makes me queasy just thinking about it…)
So, bottom line: read her post. It’s good advice from an industry pro.
And Read, Write, and Think. Lots.
I read her post, as well. I think about that “sweet spot” a lot. I want my novel, when it comes out, to be successful. And yet, this theme of “how do things change once money is involved” has been coming into my world with an uncanny frequency lately. Everything from random conversations with strangers to blog posts and even my own moods are related to it…so it definitely demands further thought. I like your elaborations on what she wrote, especially about how having one success can make someone feel God-like. I definitely have that happen once in awhile, even though my successes are so teeny, it is just hard to tell where my usefulness-to-others stops and my ego begins. I like the way you say things here, thank you for that 🙂
Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. It’s funny, when I was writing the post I had one of those moments where I thought “who do I think I am to be saying this? What makes me think I know what I’m talking about?” Hopefully as long as we have those moments where we’re questioning ourselves we’re still on the right side of the question…(And if not, at least we can hope no one takes us too, too seriously. 🙂 )
And on the “money changes things” front – in school we interviewed a series of successful women who had gone from modest beginnings to substantial success and for each one the success she achieved created a substantial amount of friction with her family and loved ones. It’s a real issue. And unfortunately one that most people don’t think about until the damage has already been done…So, good that you’re thinking about it now. Unfortunately, our interviews confirmed the issue, but I still don’t know the answer to finding success and not affecting your relationships. (Which is one reason why I’d probably be perfectly happy to be a successful-enough-to-pay-the-bills-but-unknown author someday.)
I feel the same in terms of wanting to be successful enough to pay the bills. That is truly ideal. Otherwise, I may get something like a new iPhone, and then I’d have siri, and I’d stop thinking, and all sorts of problems would probably happen. That’s a really sad result of your interview…definitely a good thing to remember when our brains get caught up in “I’d be happy IF I was successful or yada yada yada” because often times, we think we’d be happy, just cuz we don’t really know 🙂