Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer

Okay, can I just say I heart Nathan Bransford, can I? Yes, yes... I'm happily married to my totally hot hubby... this isn't THAT type of HEART... Just this guy works for me. He's happy, he's funny, he's nice, and he really, really helps other writers out there understand what is happening in the publishing business and how he can make it work for us. He is really one of the nicest agents out there (next to my totally awesome agent Kirsten, of course). Anyway, I came across an article he wrote about a week and a half ago, and for those of you who have already read it--sorry--but I had to post it here. Which resulted in the following email conversation:

giddymomof6 said...
This is awesome! I run a blog for a group of mommy writers, do you mind if I post this on there, with credit to you of course? Jenni

Nathan Bransford said...
jenni-Definitely. I just ask for a link back. I appreciate it!

giddymomof6 said...
Thanks! You're the best. There already is a link to you on the site, but I'll make sure it's in the post too. Jenni

Hehehe! I know, gasp! Right? I mean, he wrote me back! Eeeh! See, what did I tell you? Nice. Very nice.

Well, since it's Sunday, I thought you'd all enjoy this little pep talk, thanks to Nathan.

Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer

Writers aren't generally known as the happiest lot. As a recent Guardian survey of some top writers shows, even the best ones don't particularly enjoy it all that much. And in case you think this is a new development, an 1842 letter from Edgar Allen Poe to his publisher recently surfaced in which he was found apologizing for drinking so much and begging for money.

But believe it or not, writing and happiness can, in fact, go together. For our Thursday entry in Positivity Week, here are ten ways for a writer to stay positive:

1. Enjoy the present.
Writers are dreamers, and dreamers tend to daydream about the future while concocting wildly optimistic scenarios that involve bestsellordom, riches, and interviews with Ryan Seacrest. In doing so they forget to enjoy the present. I call this the "if only" game. You know how it goes: if only I could find an agent, then I'll be happy. When you have an agent, then it becomes: if only I could get published, then I'll be happy. And so on. The only way to stay sane in the business is to enjoy every step as you're actually experiencing it. Happiness is not around the bend. It's found in the present. Because writing is pretty great -- otherwise why are you doing it?

2. Maintain your integrity.
With frustration comes temptation. It's tempting to try and beat the system, whether that's by having someone else write your query, lying to the people you work with, or, you know, concocting the occasional fake memoir. This may even work in the short term, but unless you are Satan incarnate (and I hope you're not) it will steadily chip away at your happiness and confidence, and your heart will shrivel and blacken into something they show kids in health class to scare them away from smoking. Don't do it.

3. Recognize the forces that are outside of your control.
While it's tempting to think that it's all your fault if your book doesn't sell, or your agent's fault or the industry's fault or the fault of a public that just doesn't recognize your genius, a lot of times it's just luck not going your way. Chance is BIG in this business. Huge. Gambling has nothing on the incredibly delicate and complex calculus that results in a book taking off. Bow before the whims of fate, because chance is more powerful than you and your agent combined.

4. Don't neglect your friends and family.
No book is worth losing a friend, losing a spouse, losing crucial time with your children. Hear me? NO book is worth it. Not one. Not a bestseller, not a passion project, nothing. Friends and family first. THEN writing. Writing is not an excuse to neglect your friends and family. Unless you don't like them very much.

5. Don't Quit Your Day Job.
Quitting a job you need to pay the bills in order to write a novel is like selling your house and putting the proceeds into a lottery ticket. You don't have to quit your job to write. There is time in the day. You may have to sacrifice your relaxation time or sleep time or reality television habit, but there is time. You just have to do it.

6. Keep up with publishing industry news.
It may seem counterintuitive to follow the news of a business in which layoffs currently constitute the bulk of headlines. But it behooves you to keep yourself informed. You'll be happier (and more successful) if you know what you're doing.

7. Reach out to fellow writers.
No one knows how hard it is to write other than other people who have tried to do it themselves. Their company is golden. If you're reading this it means you have an Internet connection. Reach out and touch a writer. And plus, the Internet allows you to reach out to writers without smelling anyone's coffee breath.

8. Park your jealousy at the door.
Writing can turn ordinary people into raving lunatics when they start to believe that another author's success is undeserved. Do not begrudge other writers their success. They've earned it. Even if they suck.

9. Be thankful for what you have.
If you have the time to write you're doing pretty well. There are millions of starving people around the world, and they're not writing because they're starving. If you're writing: you're doing just fine. Appreciate it.

10. Keep writing.
Didn't find an agent? Keep writing. Book didn't sell? Keep writing. Book sold? Keep writing. OMG(osh) an asteroid is going to crash into Earth and enshroud the planet in ten feet of ash? Keep writing. People will need something to read in the resulting permanent winter.

See why we all LOVE this guy? Seriously. If you haven't checked out his blog yet, do so!


  1. I love this! Many thanks to Nathan for letting Jenni publish it on our blog! My favorite is #9! It made me laugh right out loud! Thanks again!

  2. I love these too. I read them when he first wrote them and thought they were great advice. I especially liked number 8 because if an author is bad and successful they probably really have earned it because they probably had to work three times as hard to find an agent and publisher. :)

  3. Nikki--I was laughing at nine too, but by ten.. hehehe! that was crazy funny.

    Candi--LOL! true! LOL they had to work three times as hard! It's crazy how many poeple are actually jealous though if you find yourself succeeding, I think the publishing business is hard in that aspect.

  4. He is so funny. He always makes me laugh. Thanks Nathan for letting us publish your list, you're awesome. Do you want to read my book? I mean, uh, what?

  5. LOL, Kasie! You are so shameless! You need to email to get your rejection from Nathan, just like the rest of us! It's our own little red badge of courage. He's usually the first to reply therefore drawing the first blood!!

  6. Ooh, I'm want a Nathan rejection, too. I like "maintain your integrity." I think it has further meaning for us LDS writers trying to make a righteous dent in the publishing world.

  7. Yes, I LOVED this post when I read it on his blog. In fact, I think that was my comment there. "I loved, loved, LOVED this post, Nathan." :)



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