Here’s the thing: I am a published author and co-owner of a publishing company. I know about writing; rewriting; rejection; not knowing what to write; not writing at all; writing a ton of crap; submitting articles for journal consideration; pitching article ideas to online publications; being cold-called to write for an online publication; debating whether or not I should give up writing; wondering why I spent the first 30 years of my life (I’m 53 at this writing) avoiding writing; embracing the suck of writing; asking myself whether I should pursue an MFA or take online classes (I’ve opted for the latter); and figuring out to the time management conundrum.
My writing career began in 1997 when Tracy Baim asked me to write a column for the Nightlines/Outlines, Chicago’s biweekly LGBTQ newspaper. I’ve been blogging off and on since 2006, published a well-received anthology in 2006, started a publishing company the same year, worked for Gentleman’s Gazette in the early teens. In 2018 I published Moxie, a memoir series about my life changing genders. I also write for One Love, Author’s Electric and Queer Majority.
With the exception of pitching a completed manuscript to a publisher, I’ve done just about everything else one can do as a self-published writer. I know about book marketing questions, the automated email responder questions, the who is my ideal reader questions, the why do I have to market at all questions.
And of course, the existential questions: why is their book a selling so much more than my book? Why am I writing at all? What do I want to write? Why do I want to write?
Then there are the where do I find my tribe questions. I live in a small-ish town in Michigan, near the University of Michigan, without a ready-made writing community. I hate online groups. Nothing personal. But online behaves as a gateway drug for me, the portal through which I mainline so many Youtube videos, Facebook posts and Instagram feeds I could probably recoup five years of my life and several pounds of self-esteem.
I know about the struggles and the triumphs and the chronic disease that writing is.
I know deep within my marrow how not to write.
I’ve tried hundreds of tips, tricks and hacks to keep writing. I’ve invested gobs of time reading about writing tips, tricks and hacks. They get a bad rep. Most writers offering these tips publish essays, blog posts and books about writing tips, tricks and hacks. And little else.
The hacksters are hucksters. I get it. They also waste our time. We spend so much time reading about writing, we don’t write our own words. Welcome to Scribbler’s Paradise, the fine line between seeking writing help and wasting time.
I confess to both, though. Yet I overflow with gratitude that such tips exist. Writing tips have pushed me when I needed a shove. Helped me to write when I wanted to give up. Made starting again exciting and worthwhile.
I offer a few of my favorites.
Keep writing no matter what. If you stop for a month, start again on day 31. Obliterate distractions in your life. Facebook? Kill it. Twitter? Who cares. Maybe after you’ve strengthened your writing muscles and your focus, then go back to these platforms, but not before. Don’t compare yourself. You write what you write at the pace that your write it. Focus on finishing and publishing. Find the most reputable outlet for your words and publish there. Pile on the work so you have no time to fret. Embrace the loneliness of writing. Your family and friends can only wish you bon voyage. You must push away from the shore and head for the beach on the other side, knowing you will never make it.
Read. Read. Read. Read how you want to write. Know what you want to write. If you want to write military thillers, read Tom Clancy. Small mini-plots with multiple points of view? Virginia Woolf. Epics addressing questions of human behavior in inhuman systems? Toni Morrison. You get the picture. Create goals for your words and follow them. Know that most days you will write so much terrible you’ll wonder where the point might lie. Get up the next day and do it again.
You’re a pro. And that’s what pros do.
Don’t spend much time reading about writing hacks. Do the work instead.