We continue our look at the main challenges writers face and what you can do to help yourself deal with them. This list is extracted from Living the Writer’s Life by Eric Maisel, and it isn’t exhaustive. You won’t experience all of these and you may have other challenges that aren’t on the list. I’ve broken it down into several chunks for easy reading – in this part: letters L to R!
Language: Writing is a love affair with language. Write crisp sentences. Write flowery sentences. Write things that make no sense and then improve them. Write simple things and then add subtlety. Write complex things and then simplify. Get a Ph.D. in your own language.
Loneliness: Are you erecting walls around yourself? Get a sledgehammer and knock them down. Step out of the rubble. Go find a likely stranger and put out your hand.
Love: Love the person in the mirror. Love your current book. Love the decent people who come your way. Find some way to love the world as it is.
Mania: You will have to judge whether your mania is enthusiasm and energy all mixed together or a clinical mania heralding the onset of a severe depression. There are good manias and bad manias: clinical mania cries out for psychotherapy.
Marketplace: Go to the nearest big book fair. Stop at each of the scores of booths. Who’s selling what? What’s being sold? Talk to the reps. Study their wares. Start to piece together the marketplace puzzle.
Narcissism: You are the beauty in life. Enjoy a healthy narcissism. You are also the ugliness in life. Curtail your unhealthy narcissism. Live by the motto, “First, do no harm.” Before you criticise or kill with a stare**, ask yourself, “Is hurting my best policy here?”
**my note: or with a tweet – especially with a tweet. Or a comment or status update or whatever it is the kids are doing these days…
Obscurity: You may write and never get recognised. To say that obscurity is the common lot of writers isn’t to reduce its sting. Obscurity hurts like hell. Is it time to try to write something that millions of people want to read? Is it time to make another effort at becoming the exception? Or are grieving and acceptance the necessary answers?
Organisation: Use erasable boards, technology, logs, notebooks, anything and everything to help you do a better job of managing your ideas, submissions, and business efforts. There is too much to keep in one’s head. Argue yourself into the habit of organisation.
Products: Your products will start to accumulate around the house. Try not to let them make you anxious or angry. Give each one its own place. Give each one a little time each month, as you sit with it and decide if it’s in showing shape and, if it is, where you mean to send it.
Publishing: For one day, be a publisher. You have two thousand backlisted titles to sell. You have a hundred new titles slated to be published this year. You know that only ten of them will be really successful. What criteria would you use to buy your next manuscript?
Readers: Get one reader – maybe a buddy. Get a second reader – maybe an agent. Go after one reader at a time. If they tell you something, listen. When you can’t count the readers of your work on the fingers of your hands, congratulations!
Rejection: Rejection only means that someone didn’t want the work. Bad things are rejected and god things are rejected. Stupid things are rejected and smart things are rejected. You can’t tell anything about the work from the fact that it’s been rejected. Look at the work again: if you still like it, try just that much harder to sell it.
Relationships: Reframe relationships as gains of connectedness rather than as losses of freedom. Write to an author in your genre and say, “Give me two pieces of advice.” Enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.** Write to the editor acknowledged in the book you’re reading and say, “What do you look for in an author?” Yes, she probably won’t answer. But risk relating anyway.
**my note: better still, email them – or tweet.
Next time: the letters S to W!
Read the whole list here