I lied. To myself. I thought I could keep up a constant and frequent posting rate here at this blog, and it turned out to be impossible. I wasn't doing my real writing. So I'm taking this opportunity to wish my readers here farewell. To thank you for your generous comments. And to offer one final bit of advice.
Today I'm going to answer another reader question (this reader happens to be a client of mine, so I know her work quite well). Many would-be published authors have this question in one form or another. I myself have had it, found it a challenge to my confidence and motivation to persist, but overcame the doubts and wrote the book.
I have two writing clients at the moment, both of whom are working on nonfiction books. They both crave publication, and I believe they both have a good chance or I wouldn't have taken them on or stuck with them this long. Yet they may each be sabotaging themselves. I'll explain. Lex (names and other minor details have been changed to protect my clients' privacy) is writing a book about a way to increase high performance in any field. Now that's a popular self-help topic. He's got a pretty solid platform already. At least it looks good on paper.
When David Foster Wallace, a brilliant writer of both fiction and nonfiction, killed himself less than two years ago, I was as taken aback as many of his fans. I hadn't read all of his work yet, and perhaps I'd missed what in retrospect seem strong hints of irremediable depression. I always figured he was a realist who was in touch with life's darker, more absurd side, as I see myself. But his unhappiness was deeper than that. The first piece of his I read was an essay called "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again." Reading that long piece just prior to taking a cruise with my in-laws, I realized this was a writer I wouldn't be able to get enough of. Which turned out to be far too true. (That essay, in its original Harper's Magazine incarnation, can be found online here. If it's your kind of writing and thinking, you'll be hooked.)
Play is anything but pointless for the unloosing of creativity. Some writers swear by its value. According to romance novelist Phoebe Conn, "Writing is just fun for me, wonderful fun. It isn't like work, it's never drudgery." And this is how novelist Phyllis Gebauer describes her thought processes before and after sitting down to write: "Yippee! Now I can work on my book, get out of here, 'play' with my people."
How fearful are you of your own fantasies? Imagine doing anything you want. Anything! For some people, especially women, it can be incredibly difficult to imagine breaking the normal boundaries of niceness. In Getting Unstuck, a guide to unblocking your creativity, it's suggested that you talk to your shadow side to learn what's holding you back.
What happens to a writer's creative output when he or she takes anti-depressants? It's a myth that treatment harms creativity, according to numerous poets and other creative artists, as well as those who treat them. Richard M. Berlin, M.D., is a psychiatrist whose book of poems, How JFK Killed My Father, won the Pearl Poetry Prize in 2002, and whose poetry appears monthly in Psychiatric Times.
The world may not end with a bang, but with a bioweapon. A new thriller, The Ark, posits a bad guy who heads a cult and wants to end the world as we know it. His method: a highly contagious disease that was found on Noah's Ark. The Biblical elements seem incidental to much of the action (to me, anyway). The scientists are the good guys. The hero of this debut thriller is an engineer, much like the author himself, Boyd Morrison. Morrison, with a Ph.D. in industrial engineering, has worked for NASA, Microsoft's Xbox Games Group, and Thomson-RCA. He was also a Jeopardy! Champion, as well as a professional actor. He was able to get a good agent, but The Ark was rejected by 25 publishers. Morrison self-published it for Kindle, and then, after early online sales showed promise, secured a four-book deal from a major publisher (Touchstone, a division of Simon & Schuster). Intrigued by the idea of an engineer hero, I read The Ark and tried to figure out why it works, and where it doesn't.
Every piece of writing advice you've been taught could be wrong – for you. Always think of such rules as mere suggestions, knowing that the opposite of each one may be even more worthy. When I interviewed 76 successful novelists and poets, I discovered how silly some of the usual instructions can be. My advice, then, is that you seriously consider avoiding the following 8 types of advice:
When novelist Helen Simonson (Major Pettigrew's Last Stand) was asked to "help select work for short story contests, writing workshops and literary reviews," she made the shift from a desperate seeker of signs of approval for her own writing to a "callous discarder of manuscripts." As she puts it: Having spent many years putting hours of effort and creativity into my own work - sending off brown envelopes filled with still-warm pages, to various editors and judges - it is rather horrifying to discover that it takes me about a minute to know that yet another manuscript is about to be 'binned' as they say. In a sort of apology, I feel the least I can do is to reveal a few of the instant signs that your writing genius will not be discovered by the judges this time around!