Survival Guide

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

The holidays are almost upon us and it’s the time of year where we all tend to take stock of the year that’s passed and start thinking about resolutions for the year to come. For me this typical means riding a roller coaster of emotions regarding my own writing – I berate myself for all things I failed to achieve, didn’t seem to get around to doing, resolutions I failed to fulfil…then I come back up and feel good about all that I did manage to do, the accomplishments and for the progress made. Then I go back around for another ride:) Ah, the holidays…

It’s also the time of year when, at various holiday events, I meet people who cross-question me about what it means to be a ‘writer’. These tend to be divided into two camps – the first who think it must be nice to sit around all day daydreaming and having fun and the second who can’t imagine how anyone could possibly have the self-discipline, patience or confidence to be a writer at all. I’m never quite sure how to respond to either camp because, as Jim said in yesterday’s post – the publishing industry seems like such a crap shoot sometimes. It involves personal tastes, fads, uncertainties as well luck and often the decisions made don’t make much sense at all. We’ve all wondered why some books are published and others rejected, why some books are successful and others aren’t…and most of the time, when people ask me why, I can only shrug my shoulders and say “that’s the industry for you!” 

So today, I thought I’d outline some tips for coping with those myriad of questions you get around the holidays about what it means to be a ‘writer’ – a survival guide if you will – for a time of year when, let’s be honest, we often question why the hell we do what we do!

Firstly, don’t be honest (well not entirely)….people don’t want to really know about the angst, self-doubt and hair-pulling we go through as writers. They want it to sound easy – something they could do, if they just had the time to do it. So I tend to smile when I’m asked ‘what’s it like to be a writer’  and  say it’s great, and move on – because unless you’re actually in the trenches as a writer, you have no idea what it really means. 

Second, ignore all the crap about ‘success’ as it’s impossible to talk about when you’re going to be on the New York Times bestseller list or when some one’s going to make a movie of your book…likewise don’t talk about the ‘numbers’ because I think authors can go crazy enough thinking about sales numbers without getting into a competition about it. Which leads to…

Third, don’t go into promotion overload. Some amount of self-promotion is fine, but just because its the holidays doesn’t mean you have to feel the need to go into a promotion frenzy.

Fourth, start setting realistic goals for the next year. Patience, persistence and writing the best damn book you can is really what you need to aim for, but I find it helpful to set measurable goals for the following year (that helps too, when you start riding that roller coaster of emotions). My first blog post for the new year will probably identify some of these goals but in the meantime my plan is to hunker down, meet my writing targets for the rest of the year and try to stay sane…

Anyone got any other tips for my holiday survival guide for writers??

13 thoughts on “Survival Guide

  1. Here’s an idea, Clare. Instead of telling people you’re a writer, tell them you’re a life coach. Tell them your specialty is making people’s lives interesting. If they want to know details, tell them some of the ways you have made your protagonists’ lives “interesting.” That should produce some delightful responses that have nothing to do with what it means to be a writer.

  2. My holiday tips:

    DO: Eat well, spend time with family, visit old friends, watch some football or a great old movie, read that book you’ve been meaning to get to, drink good wine. Take the dog for a long walk even if you don’t have a dog.

    DON’T: Fret about social networking (try the face-to-face kind for a change!), Amazon rankings, agents who never wrote back, how you’re going to fix that giant hole in your plot.

    Take a day or two off. Breathe out pink, breathe in blue. Your book will still be there when you return.

  3. Excellent advice, Clare! I’m taking mental notes of all of it! Later this week, I’m off to the Christmas party of my local writers’ group – it should be interesting to see what happens when the whole room is full of writers socializing! I’ll be taking mental notes there, too! 😉

  4. Christmas is a time for family and, though all my sibs love me, their interest in my writing extends only to if it makes me happy . I think it is a lot like “How are you?” Most people don’t want to know the details. “Great.” is more than adequate.

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