The Things That I've Learned

Publish date:

I've now spent a LOT of time away from the city of Brotherly Hub,
which has made me reflective, which is the proper mindframe to either
a) create a sappy (but totes cute!) collage of Saved By the Bell and
Party of Five heartthrobs for your best high school girlfriend or b)
think about some lessons that you've learned in your extensive and
averagely-traveled writing career. And since I didn't have any hot
pink posterboard on hand, I decided to opt for the latter (Sorry
Kristin!). So here they are, in no particular order:

1. Write. The stupidest, most obvious one is actually the hardest
to consistently follow. You can't get better without doing what
you're doing, so keep doing it. More than you do now. 20% more.
It's amazing what an extra half hour can add to your skill level. I
wouldn't know, of course, but I've heard. From, like, other blogs.

2. Read. The only thing almost as good as writing. Reading is to
being a writer as ingesting a ton of protein and eating Powerbars,
and those little kind of nasty cans of tuna is to powerlifting. It
gives you the base of knowledge to improve the writing. So read
anything and everything you can. Absorb it. Ingest it. But not
literally, that'd be gross.

3. A little bit of research goes a long way. You'd be surprised how
many people blindly pitch things, hoping that the sheer quantity of
mail they're sending will somehow cause something to stick. Take the
time to read, skim, or at least Google whatever places you're
interested in, narrow your list to a realistic portion and tailor
everything to each individual magazine/lit journal/agent/pub house.
Yeah it takes longer, but so does actually getting things accepted,
and that's kind of the point right?

4. If you've established a relationship, check in. I can't emphasize
how important it is to periodically check in with editors. Like parents,
they get busy and forget about you, so you sending them an email or giving them a
call (only after you've established a relationship/written for them
before, etc... only very lonely talkative people like cold calls)
just to check in is a great way to get back on their radar. Do this
once or twice a month and you will double your assignments not
guaranteed! Unless, of course, they hate you and your work. Then this is probably
a bad idea.

5. Figure out who runs what. The published writing world is small
circle filled with connections that resemble shorter versions of
Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon. If you're interested in getting into
that world, figure out the genre you'd like to crack, and
then go about getting closer to people in that arena through non-
stalkerish means. So if you're interested in writing mystery novels;
see if anyone in your town/city/province actually does what you're
interested in, and pitch the idea of profiling them for a newsletter
or paper or something small. This gives you the chance to meet them,
which could lead to figuring out who their agent is, other people
they write with, publish with, etc, giving you a clear picture of their publishing
tree, how to climb it, and potentially setting you up to marry them and
eventually ghostwrite their books.

6. Enjoy it. Because that's why you're doing it, right? It's not for
the riches or the semi-exclusive parties at Hampton beach resorts, or
the way that people double-take when you walk by them and then
realize that you aren't the dude from Can't Hardly Wait... because
none of that matters, or maybe even exists. So remember: you do this
because you love it and because it's fun to make original semi-clever
declarative phrases, not because of the wealth and the fame.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to be going: My butler just pulled
the unicorn up to take me to a deep tissue massage.

In sign off news, Eddie Vedder continues his musical onslaught.
Comment at your own peril.


Pearl Jam