Okay, so there are LOTS more than seven vices that can nuke a writing career. Fortunately, there are plentiful ways to prevent and stop them. Simply recognizing potential dangers can go a long way toward safeguarding us against them.
Take a peak at my list and feel free to add your own. I look forward to hearing your thoughts…
FYI, this list is in no way meant to promote, dissuade or inspire religious beliefs of any kind. You are, however, welcome to share your “confessions” with whoever you choose.
When I asked a friend—we’ll call him Tommy—what inspires him to write, he said he wants his name to appear in the “New York Times” and on the stands at airport bookstores—an urge so powerful he dreams of it. “The women will go crazy for me,” he said. While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the prospect of fame and adoration, successful writers bring much more to the page. People like Tommy love the idea of being a writer—not the actual writing. If you find yourself lusting over a writing career like a hormone-enraged teen with a movie star crush, it’s time to check your motivation.
“Buy my book! Follow my blog! Vote for my story—or else!”
“Introduce me to your agent!”
“Blurb me!” I haven’t read your book, but whatever.
Desire is a good thing. And we’re all selfish to an extent. But begging your way to a fan-base, piggybacking on other writers‘ achievements and being flat-out annoying are likely career killers.
“It makes me so angry that I don’t have time to write!” (Solution: So…make time.)
“I hate my job! It keeps me from writing.” (Only we can keep ourselves from writing.)
“I’d write more if I weren’t so distracted.” (Solution: It’s our responsibility to eliminate distractions—turn our phones off, find a quiet spot and WRITE.)
“Why does she have an agent/publisher/book deal? I work harder. I’ve written longer. I deserve it (more)!”
Every writer’s success story should bring us joy. People are buying books. Deals are being made. We could be next! And we want our friends to succeed, right? It’s natural to wish it was our chance NOW. But getting worked up and frustrated because a cohort got an agent or book deal before you did is counterproductive. It also burns bridges; you can forget about those blurbs you greedily lust after…
“How can that lame book be a best-seller (when mine is so superior)?”
I’ll use Twilightas an example. I personally didn’t dig it—no offense to Stephanie Meyer. But I consider the thousands of youth her series has drawn into reading and loving books and feel nothing but grateful.Some of us make the mistake of envying another’s success so much, we try to duplicate it. (Hmm…Why not throw a vampire and a magically-gifted child named Larry Plotter in my mystery?) Not a good move. Gaining inspiration from other’s work is positive. Attempting to clone it, however, is not.
“Pigging out” on writing conferences, books about writing, lectures about writing and conducting research for a book are not writing. Although they can undoubtedly benefit our writing and careers, spending all of our time not writing leads to one thing: nada to show for our energy, time and efforts.
“How dare my agent ask me to cut that scene/character/plot twist? It’s perfect the way it is.”
Okay, so most of us aren’t that arrogant; if anything, we fall on the side of self-conciousness. But it can be difficult to swallow our pride and accept others’ feedback. We want our work to be the best it can be, right? Choose your critique-ers wisely, of course. I’d much prefer a Simon Cowel-like editor to an uber-polite relative who rarely reads thrillers.
And your agent, if you’re working with one, maintains success by knowing what works and sells and what doesn’t. Getting angry and, worse, ignoring his or her criticism stirs up bad energy. It also makes that 15 percent they work for somewhat useless.
Apathy toward our writing is perhaps the worst vice because if we don’t care, we won’t try. We’ll never share the stories our readers desire to hear or reap the fulfillment that comes from creating literary art. If we care, but not enough, we’re liable to self-publish a manuscript in dire need of revision, query agents before we’re ready and bypass necessary research for our second work. Patience, hard work and persistence are necessary parts of the game.
What vice are you guilty of? Which have you overcome? Any to add??? Regardless… Happy writing!
Jeez like, I think I’ve suffered from all of the above at some point in the two years I’ve been writing!
I think the biggest one for me however is envy. And I’m not just envious about other writers; when I see any friend doing well in her chosen field, I can feel the little green monster squirming in my stomach, trying desperately to escape.
I know its wrong and I hate myself afterwards for feeling that way but I keep hoping that when I’m a successful author, the hate and envy will leave me for good
Off course I know it doesnt work like that. It all boils down to self-esteem and loving yourself. No love for yourself, no love for anyone else!
August McLaughlin says
So true, Nisha. Loving/accepting ourselves lends itself to genuine happiness for others AND writing success. Such a win-win! I love your word choice, btw — when, not if, you’re a successful author. YES!
Darin Kennedy says
Been all of the above at one time or another. Great blog!!!
August McLaughlin says
I happen to know that your strengths are far more plentiful than this list. Thanks for the note and support, Darin!
Kimberly Mullican says
Oh this is so true! Great post! I work 50 plus hours a week, have a home and a family. I simply don’t sleep so I can write because I love it.
Rachel A. Hanson says
Haha, definitely all true. I would say that my biggest difficulty as a writer is actually finding time to write. Or rather, to do the writing that I would perfer to do. As a college student I write all the time, it’s just usually for my professors and not for myself.
The other thing I think could be added to this list is not being selfish enough in the right way. Confusing, yes? What I mean is, make sure you leave time for yourself to explore other hobbies and interests. It’s hard to write about anything if all you’re doing is writing. It’s also hard to write when you’re exhausted/hungry/angry/whatever.
She's a Maineiac says
Excellent post. I’ve been guilty of all at one point or another, too. But I’m working on it. I think the most important thing for me is to make sure my writing is simply fun, something I look forward to, get excited about–keep my passion for writing at the forefront…that’s the key. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Caerlynn Nash says
Yes, I’m definitely guilty of a couple of these. I should bookmark this post and re-read it at least once a week. Good stuff!
I Love this! I can see some being sucked into these 7 deadly sins. I have always had the opposite problem since I have no ego when it comes to writing (I am brand spanking new), have never done public speaking (my biggest fear if my book takes off) and I am totally unphotogenic! Hahaha!
I would rather write than do anything else these days!
I write for leisure which is mainly driven by “nothing” rather than something substance. I do have vices in my bread earning profession. I don’t try to overcome them until they turn into my weakness. But if I do have to overcome them I make that an objective & strive to achieve that.
The Blissful Adventurer says
This is an excellent post and thanks to Susie for turning me on to it. I am likely guilty of a few of the deadly sins from day to day but at least I plug away with content and I am certain that will keep the energy flowing. Cheers August!