The Five Things Writers Must Know–Episode 59 + Blog Post–September 21 2015

WRITER 2.0: Writing, publishing, and the space between show

Summary: This is the prologue to a writing book in progress, WRITER 2.0, which won the 2014 SF Writing Conference Contest, non-fiction category. You can listen to a summary of my thoughts in the podcast episode above.<br> I have taught writing in wildly diverse settings for fifteen years. From privileged nineteen-year-olds in New York City, to Native American students in Washington State, to adults struggling with jobs and families, writers everywhere face five distinct challenges. This post is about how to work with those challenges and all their permutations when writing your book.<br> The most important thing when writing a book is writing every day. Writing when you’re inspired and when you’re bored. Writing when your life is going well and when it’s going terribly. And, of course, writing when you would really rather read another blog post about writing. For this reason, I’m offering a summary of the book I’m working on in this post.<br> 1. WRITE THE BOOK ONLY YOU CAN WRITE<br> Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.<br> – Howard Thurman<br> <a href=""></a><br> Every year, publishers throw marketing money behind thousands of books. Most of them lose money. A few of them break out. Every year, books published with little financial support climb up the bestseller list, carried to number one by some invisible hand described later as “word of mouth.” And every year, thousands of people self-publish books. Most of them lose money. A few of them break out.<br> Agents, editors, and publishing companies know a lot, but they don’t know what the next big thing will be. You don’t know either, so don’t bother trying to figure it out. Instead, focus on writing the book you really want to write, the book only you can write. As we’ll see later, by writing the book only you can write you avoid pitfalls, write more efficiently, and have more fun.<br> Maybe your book will be published and you will strike it rich. Maybe you will self publish and find your audience. Maybe you will print a hundred copies and give them to friends and family. Or maybe you will delete the book a year from now and write something else.<br> In any case, the book will not win you anyone’s true love. It will not fix your life. It will not silence the voices in your head. Money is not the best motivator, and neither is trying to please someone else. If you write the book you truly want to write, you are much more likely to complete it, and to actually enjoy the process of writing.<br> In the end, you will be alone with your book. But writing it might teach you something about the world and about yourself. And this will only happen if you write the book that is true to you, the book you need to write, the book only you can write.<br>  2. DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB, BUT NOT FOR THE REASON YOU THINK<br> How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.<br> – Henry David Thoreau<br> <a href=""></a><br> I don’t have time.<br> It’s the excuse we use for everything. And it’s the best excuse not to write. But here’s the thing: you do have time to write. You just use it to do other things.<br> Most writers have busy lives: families, jobs, hobbies, and other commitments. Naturally, we fantasize about a full-time writing life. But this is not what we need. For most, this would be a terrible thing. What we need is to make time to write in the midst of our busy lives, not instead of them.<br> Why? Because we need things to write about.<br> Most readers live busy lives, too, and they want to learn about real life in our books.