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[sticky post] Notes to Self about Writing Life

sixtiescath
1. Just be yourself. Don't schmooze, don't obssess, don't get weird, don't get all theater. It's served you well, being yourself all this time. Stick with it.

2. Just write. Keep at it steadily, keep at it carefully. Do it conscientiously, do it to the best of your ability.

3. See number one again, especially when you feel insecure about number 2.

4. Believe you have a story to tell. Then don't put it off. Tell it.

5. Accept that some people will like your work, some people will not like your work, and that's okay. You write because you have a story to tell. It's nice if someone will read your story, but if they don't, well, not everyone in the world or even the Western hemisphere is going to read your story. And that is okay.

6. Writing can change the world, but is not the most important job anyone will ever have on the planet. You are not telling deep truths about the universe. You are telling a story. Get over yourself.

7. See number one and number three again, just in case you need a reality check. Never believe your own press.

8. Keep doing something you enjoy that keeps you in touch with people and makes you feel that you are making a contribution to the world, because you can turn into a mushroom if you're writing only. A strange, weird, psychologically fungal mushroom, I might add. And then you might drink.

9. Do not pass judgment on the writing of others. Do not compare your writing to the writing of others. You can have opinions about things you read, but unless you are asked, you might want to keep them to yourself, especially where other writers are concerned. Play nice.

10. Expect others to play nice with you. Avoid pseudo intellectuals and non constructive critics. Hell, you don't need them. You have your worst critic, yourself, to contend with already.

11. The industry is not the measure of your success. Attention is not the measure of your success. Of course you want to send your work out, make smart marketing decisions, and try to share. The measure of your success is stories written and sent. You can't convince the world it wants your work, but you certainly can't do anything at all unless you're telling stories.

12. Realize that success in writing, like success in anything, is really more about persistance than anything else. Write, learn to market selectively and well, and then market selectively and well. There will be a learning curve. You will battle obscurity. You will make mistakes and get rejections. BUT eventually you'll have enough circulating and people will know who you are, and you'll learn the tricks, and your writing will line up with someone's taste, and more and more things will be accepted.

13. See 1, 3, and 7 again, especially in moments of personal angst.

14. See 2 and 4 again, especially in moments of procrastination.

15. See 4, 5, 9, and 11 again, especially in moments where you lack faith.

16. See 5, 9, and 10 to remind yourself of grace.

17. See 6, 7 and 10 to remind yourself that you're not curing cancer.

18. See 8 to maintain your balance.

19. See 12 when you feel like giving it up.

20. If you're not satisified anymore, if it's causing you consternation, cease. Walk away. Writing is important. A happy life is much more important than that. Anything must give you joy for you to continue it. Don't settle.

Comments

( 39 comments — Leave a comment )
naomi_jay
Aug. 24th, 2007 10:16 am (UTC)
I like reading stuff like this - it's always good to have these reminders. ^-^
theladywolf
Aug. 24th, 2007 12:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks for writing and posting that. It came at a timely time for me. I might print it out and hang it up. :)I hope I believe 12.
BTW, I found you via Kara_gnome's friend's list. Just in case you're wondering.
cathschaffstump
Aug. 24th, 2007 01:08 pm (UTC)
Welcome!

Catherine
lisa_schroeder
Aug. 24th, 2007 01:23 pm (UTC)
I LOVE this post!!!
in_the_blue
Aug. 24th, 2007 04:14 pm (UTC)
Some of these are full of good and sound advice. I know this isn't my list, but if it was, my #1 would be "write because you want to and because doing so fills a need you have, and not for anyone else's reasons." You have that one covered in a few places, only stated differently.

Then again, I write in more of a shelter than you do, for what it's worth. Different styles = love that make the world go around.
ithilwen
Aug. 25th, 2007 01:06 am (UTC)
Now if only following these precepts were as easy as writng them down... Sigh. Why is it that knowing what we need to do doesn't make actually doing it any easier?
cathschaffstump
Aug. 25th, 2007 04:27 pm (UTC)
Because we are woefully, wonderfully human?

Woah! Sounded like Tennant's Dr. Who for a moment. Can't have that...

Catherine
kurtoons
Aug. 25th, 2007 11:49 pm (UTC)
I might have told you about this years ago.

Back when I was at ISU I was in a production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream". This was about the time I printed my first "Brisbane the Barbarian" and so I brought a few copies to rehearsal. After one of the acts I came back down to the dressing room and saw that someone had written a critique on the back of one of my "Brisbanes".

"There is much in this that is good, and there is much that is less good..." About a hundred words of critical self-important blather that infuriated me, not the least of which because I now could no longer sell that particular copy because it had been written on.

But I came to a realization which helped me put it all in perspective. I turned to one of the other actors who was with me and said: "I've been called shallow by better men than he."
paulwoodlin
Jun. 9th, 2014 01:12 pm (UTC)
One of the things I had to learn in workshops is that critiques are not about me or the author or the critiquer, but the story.
dracschick
Aug. 26th, 2007 12:16 am (UTC)
Very good. Thanks for sharing:)
onegrapeshy
Mar. 11th, 2008 05:59 am (UTC)
Wonderful post! Thanks. :)
rowanda380
May. 8th, 2008 02:56 pm (UTC)
random commenter
great advice, thanks!
blackpotmojo.blogspot.com
Jun. 3rd, 2008 01:46 am (UTC)
Notes to Self About Writing Life
Well said, thank you!

simonhay_healer
Jul. 25th, 2008 10:02 pm (UTC)
Hi. Just visiting. I like this. Thanks, Simon.
ladyeye
Jul. 29th, 2008 04:23 pm (UTC)
Hi! Just excellent. I willl definitely forward this to my hubbie.
cathschaffstump
Jul. 29th, 2008 04:37 pm (UTC)
Maybe to take to conventions for those awkward moments...
ladyeye
Jul. 29th, 2008 04:42 pm (UTC)
Definitely.
cathschaffstump
Jul. 29th, 2008 04:43 pm (UTC)
I know I don't know you well, but he's lucky to have you. Keep up the good work.
ladyeye
Jul. 29th, 2008 04:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I will.
author_aghoward
Oct. 21st, 2008 11:57 am (UTC)
What an AWESOME list! I'm serious. It's so good, I'm saving this post in my favorites so I can link back to it when I need a wake-up call. Thanks so much for that!
cathschaffstump
Oct. 21st, 2008 03:04 pm (UTC)
THANK YOU!

I thought I needed to lay some ground rules at the beginning of the whole thing, so I could keep my perspective.

Catherine
yadvocacy
Oct. 31st, 2008 09:40 pm (UTC)
Hey there! :) We noticed you are an author, editor, or are interested in literature, so we would like to extend an invitation to you to join our new LiveJournal community yauthors. The community is to allow Young Adult authors to network with one another, as well as give advice to those aspiring to become published. For more information about the community, go here. We hope to see you there!
author_aghoward
Nov. 8th, 2008 02:23 pm (UTC)
Hey there Catherine! You haven't posted for a while so I just wanted to leave a "Hi" and check in on you. Hope the writing's going well!
author_aghoward
Nov. 27th, 2008 04:55 pm (UTC)
Hope you have a great Thanksgiving, Catherine! How's the writing coming along?
author_aghoward
Dec. 22nd, 2008 04:06 pm (UTC)
Dropping in to wish you a happy holiday!
author_aghoward
Jan. 9th, 2009 01:04 pm (UTC)
Dropping in to wish you Happy New Year. I hope the writing is going swimmingly. :-)
cathschaffstump
Jan. 9th, 2009 03:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you. The year's had a shaky start, but I think we will be okay.

Catherine
(Anonymous)
Jul. 9th, 2009 04:27 pm (UTC)
Time machine shamine
Dammit don't do that to me. I'm freakin 46 now.
Dana
cathschaffstump
Jul. 9th, 2009 04:40 pm (UTC)
Re: Time machine shamine
Only two more years, baybee...

Catherine
amygreenfield
Sep. 22nd, 2009 07:03 pm (UTC)
Beautiful.
cathschaffstump
Sep. 22nd, 2009 07:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks!

Good luck with your JoNo!

Catherine
rachel_swirsky
Nov. 18th, 2009 01:02 pm (UTC)
I like this list!

I'm not sure about number 9, though, as I think there's a place for criticism.

Have we met in person, by the way? I see we've at least lived near each other.
cathschaffstump
Nov. 18th, 2009 03:40 pm (UTC)
I too believe in criticism. I'm worried about comparisons to other writers, as I'm not sure that's constructive, and rather too competitive for me.

A group where criticism is welcome, honest, and open is best.

I haven't met you yet, but that could be changed, especially over Christmas break.

At Viable Paradise, Scalzi had lots of good things to say about your writing, btw.

Catherine
rachel_swirsky
Nov. 18th, 2009 03:57 pm (UTC)
Well, I also think that there's a place for critique of published work. I know that as a writer I often shy away from writing public reviews because I feel weird about being negative about other author's work. A lot of writers handle this by only putting up positive comments, and I think that's a method that can work. But I do think that both positive and negative reviews have a place in maintaining the vitality of the field -- I think it would be better if I felt braver about reviewing novels or short stories, positive and negative.

Maybe that's a different scenario than you were thinking of.

Kirkwood Community College is in the Iowa City area, isn't it? I think some of the people from my MFA class are teaching there, unless I'm misremembering. I don't live in Iowa anymore -- my husband and I moved back to CA after I graduated -- but I will probably swing by around Wiscon.

It's very flattering to hear that Scalzi was complimentary. He's been very kind.
arhyalon
May. 18th, 2011 08:14 pm (UTC)
These are really good writing point! Exactly the same kind of things I keep reminding myself of!
jelazakazone
Sep. 21st, 2011 02:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing your notes to yourself. These are great.
paulwoodlin
Sep. 28th, 2011 07:42 am (UTC)
Actually, I'm not convinced being myself has served me all that well, but I agree with the rest of your post.
leavittoxed
Nov. 1st, 2011 08:02 am (UTC)
Very intereresting reading. thx

paulwoodlin
Jun. 9th, 2014 01:10 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure being myself has served me well; it hasn't screwed me over badly yet, but it's not exactly an over-achiever.
( 39 comments — Leave a comment )

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