What Not To Think About–How To Fail

In brief, unrelated news: I’m back from the UK!

In more related news, I came across this article on my Facebook feed and found myself snarkily disagreeing with everything (as I am wont to do). It’s called What Not To Think About When You’re Writing. There are many good points to what this author is saying, and I’m not disputing the wisdom of her words as much as I am, in my guilt, defending my own inability to comply to these demands.

1. Don’t think about yourself and your life.


In my introverted, daydreamy, sensitive way of looking at life, I find this one especially hard. “To write successful fiction,” the article tells me, “do not indulge in endless fantasies about what the piece of writing you are working on is going to do for your current state of existence.”

Well, why not?

On the one hand, yeah, vanity might effect the writing in a negative way. But rare indeed is the writer with a huge ego and overabundant self confidence. Most of us–not all, but most–are going to find it difficult, sometimes extremely so, to face endless rounds of rejection and say, ‘Doesn’t matter. I know I’m good enough.’

I say, go ahead and think, even while writing, “Damn right, this gonna be a bestseller.”

2. Don’t think about the Reality Police


I admit this one I only disagree with for myself. There are plenty of people I’ve edited for and critiqued where I just want to smack them and say, Move ON, man. “If you get [the reality police] in your head while you are writing, you can get derailed. You lose sight of the story and focus on minute details.”

For me, an entire story can turn on the trick of one tiny, minute detail.

Furthermore, in doing proper research–in getting those little details just right even before I sit in front of my word processor–I get a thousand more story ideas than I would have without.

Nurse those details; ground your story in as intricate of a reality as you possibly can.

3. Don’t think about the industry!

Again–I must ask the question: why not?

I do agree that following trends like a puppy won’t get you very far, except maybe six inglorious weeks under a signified sign at Barnes and Noble next to the bestseller you’re mimicking. I also think everyone should love a story for the story’s sake.

But. But. 

It’s not the industry, it’s your industry. Or if it’s not, it should be. There’s an old story told about a physicist’s son who couldn’t complete the morning equation his father always gave him. The next day, the physicist asked, ‘Haven’t you been tossing and turning–trying all different ways to figure it out?” When the son replied in the negative, the father, kindly but sadly, said, “Well then perhaps you shouldn’t be a physicist.”

No one ought to know the book business better than you, because books are what you do. It’s what you breathe.

The industry is indeed an ever-changing, disloyal, beautiful thriving creature who will eat you as soon as love you, but if you’re not at least a little bit in love with it, maybe you shouldn’t be a writer.

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