Staying Afloat in a Writing Ocean

Message in a bottle

What’s true with the rest of life/hobbies/interests is true with writing. So many facts and details to keep track of. I really want to keep up with what’s going on in the writing industry, so I read blog posts and tweets and articles and books and newsletters. You know what? It’s too much information to absorb. You can read too much about how to do things and it can be paralyzing as all the advice you read rolls through your head when primarily there should be the story, or poem up there. 

Or at least that’s how I want it to be. The information also paralyzes by raising doubts. Do I have story beats, plot structure, character arcs, action, a catchy opening? That can lead to obsession and reworking things over and over again until the piece is informationed into a hot mess. Then you say Argh, I can’t do this, I’m going to take up knitting. (Knitting is a lovely hobby. Highly recommend.)

Social Media Overload

It’s also intimidating to read breezy posts about how someone tweeted something and had an agent the next day. Or has 20,000 followers and aren’t even published yet. It’s exhausting to think of social media and the time sink of promoting yourself. It doesn’t stop me from gritting my teeth and posting cheery—okay, okay, mostly sarcastic—stuff. Maybe I’m too old for social media. But it’s probably because I’m way too private a person to hang my laundry out for the world to see. I was told cultivated glimpses were the answer to that. A thought worth exploring. I think I can do that and still be my sarcastic self. That’s definitely me, too. 

Reading agent blogs/websites/tweets is a whirl of conflicting information. Query like this, no, like this. Start your novel like this, no, like this. Same with writer’s forums. So much chaff to sift through to get to the nuggets. The time sink can swallow you whole. Of course, what it all comes down to is, do the best you can. If it’s not good enough for one person/publication, shrug and move on to the next. I gave up taking it personally a long time ago. I have skin of mithril. It leaves bruises, but they heal quickly. 

And what’s up with all these contests? The lists to find places to submit have more contests than regular spots. I just want to submit some poems or a book/chapbook, not pay $20-30 for the privilege of doing so each and every time. It’s like The Hunger Games of writing, but the odds are never in your favor. The slow grind of society is monetizing everything and offering shortcuts, advice, and motivation—for a price. I need to be able to afford yarn and dog food also. 

Throw Me a Rope

There are so many places to send poems and novels it’s overwhelming. Research can cut the odds considerably but suspiciously feels like sending a message out in a bottle—the same time frame for a response also. The writing industry is an ocean and I’m out there on a paddleboard. But I really like the ocean so I stay and play. Information can be your life preserver or boots filled with water. It’s up to you to choose your own adventure.

What do you do to combat the tsunami of writing advice?

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constance.brewer@gmail.com

Comments

November 24, 2019 at 10:18 pm

Whew, you’ve keyed right in on what bothers me most about the writing business: too much information/social media/everything all the time that distracts from actually writing anything. My solution is walking away from all things online at least once a week, and not bothering with all the writing advice from all directions. When I have a specific question, I’ll look for an answer but limit my sources to just a few. I make sure to keep up on self care like yoga and walking and meditating to balance the noise of constant information. Most important is to remember why I wanted to write in the first place: to create literature that reflects an artistic choice and vision in my unique voice as best I can.



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