I’ve kept two articles up on my browser for over a week, because they are so full of insights that any writer could relate to.

LoveAndBiscotti_typewriter_fashion_magazineThe first is from The Atlantic: Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators.” Author Mega McArdle begins by describing how we often put off writing assignments till the last minute. I don’t, so I felt rather smug.

Until McArdle starts getting into the “why” issue. Writers, she says, often excel early in school. Most of us love to read, and hey, we do have some talent. Sadly, we’re never forced to work hard and therein lies the problem.

I see myself in McArdle’s mild accusations: the quiet kid who breezed through school with A’s even though I didn’t study, and then was blindsided by a job market that expects me to focus, compete, and work hard. In a way, it’s comforting to know that so many others undergo the same challenge. Underachievers Unite! But of course, it’s also dismaying to wonder if I’m just not trying hard enough.

underachievementpenguindemotivatorMcArdle talks about the “fixed mind-set” v. the “growth mind-set,” learning from failure, the imposter syndrome, self-handicapping, and more. All fuel for self-examination.

Yes, the last third of the piece goes off into a rant about kids-these-days, and if that leaves you cold, skip it. She never gets back to talking about writers, so you won’t miss much.

So let’s move on to the next piece. This one is from the Wayfinder blog, by none other than the extraordinarily successful self-and-traditionally published Hugh Howey. “So You Want to Be a Writer” starts with a few paragraphs of very upbeat advice, then lowers the boom: You have to work harder than anyone else. Period.

Aw, man.

25ea0b79875e93580f27aaddbf443d2eHowey says:”Look around. What are other aspiring writers doing? That’s your ground floor. Your minimum. That’s where you begin. Double that. I promise you, this is the easiest path to success.

This is followed by ten detailed steps/priorities to get you working hard. Some are fun, like “Daydream” and “Reading.” Others entail planning and effort. I credit him with getting me to blog again, here and on my HistoryLosAngeles blog. OK, that’s fun too but it requires the aforementioned planning and effort. And in no-nonsense terms, he explains the point of each piece of advice.

I love this unexpected quote, buried in one paragraph: ” … revise, revise, revise, edit, publish, and then get started on your next book. This was the best thing I ever did: I didn’t waste time promoting my works until they were already selling. I kept writing.

Become-a-Writer-They-Said-It-Will-Be-Fun-They-SaidThe italics are mine. That advice goes against what everyone else is saying, and I like it.

What is hard work to you? I’m clear on the topic, once I think about it. I learned from my father, who built things with hammers and nails, who climbed ladders and wore a tool belt, and from my always and ever-scrubbing grandmother, that hard work is physical. You strain and wear yourself out. That’s what good people do. My poor brother and I were such disappointments to them, always sitting at a desk, lazing away, pretending to work.

(I left out my mother. She was a nurse, felled by rheumatoid arthritis. So she got a pass on the physical labor.)

Well, clearly, that was the wrong lesson to cull from my experience, but it’s there in my brain. I’m taking a pickax to it.

Want one more essay to hammer the point home? Don’t mind reading the F word? “25 More Hard Truths About Writing and Publishing” reminds us that no golden tickets exist to guide you to publishing success. (So do the other articles, actually, but this one by Chuck Wendig really hones in on that.) Barnes & Noble, Penguin Random House, the Super Agents — none of them have a secret formula in their back pocket. If they did, all their books would be hogging the spots the bestseller list, right?

tumblr_n4terbv0yv1svzbplo1_1280There is no trick to master. Even writing a terrific book doesn’t guarantee you’ll find your audience, although personally, I think that is the best strategy.

And yes, the title of the post (25 MORE Hard Truths, etc.) implies that there was an earlier piece on the Terrible Minds blog. I leave it to you  to search that one out on  your own, you glutton for punishment, you.


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