Success makes so many people hate you. I wish it wasn’t that way. It would be wonderful to enjoy success without seeing envy in the eyes of those around you.
― Marilyn Monroe
We’ve all seen it. We’ve all participated. A literary work is anointed mega-bestseller by the public or an award-winner by the literati, and the writing community becomes obsessed. Does the author deserve their financial boon? Have they lost touch with the common people or promote unsavory values?
And what about those gender politics?
Here’s a hard truth I recently faced: Time spent questioning or defending another author’s success does nothing to further my own. So this list emerged from a self-challenge.
Could I name 50 proactive alternatives?
1. If you’re going to mock, do so creatively and in a way that advances your career. E.g. Andrew Shaffer’s 50 Shames of Earl Grey
2. Educate yourself. Drop your biases and deconstruct the novel to see what readers are enjoying. Are there elements or lessons to apply to your own work? (For advice on story analysis, I appreciate Alexandra Sokoloff’s blog or her book derived from her posts, Screenwriting Tricks for Writers.
3. Need to interview an expert to create a realistic fictional world? Create a list of potential candidates and send out a first inquiry.
4. Tackle 100 words of a scary scene.
5. Go over your own story’s outline using your choice of craft book to tweak plot elements, characterization, tension, etc.
6. Visit Writer Unboxed and enter this summer’s weekly flash fiction contest. (WU is routinely read by agents and editors, so get your fiction under their eyeballs.)
7. Plan a solitary day or weekend to dig in for writing work that needs a contiguous stretch. Leave your home. Leave your family. Leave the Internet behind.
8. Construct loglines for future projects or your work in progress.
9. Ask a friend to help you brainstorm solutions to troublesome plot points or character motivation.
10. Need to write snappy dialogue? Put on an up-tempo song and dance. Use exaggerated and silly movements, then promptly sit to write.
11. Establish goals with rewards for meeting them. E.g. Finish the Chapter from Hell? Purchase a song from iTunes. Finish a manuscript? Buy yourself an Oberon ereader cover, like my friend Suzanne Stengl.
12. Write a scene by recording dialogue only.
13. Write on the treadmill by dictating into your iPhone.
14. Get clarity on the makeup of your ideal reader: sex, age, hobbies, etc. Find an avatar and keep it nearby for the days you’re feeling disconnected from your story or your audience.
Promote Other Authors You Do Admire
15. Write a thoughtful, honest review on Goodreads, your website, an online store.
16. Write the author a personal thank-you note.
17. Subscribe to the author’s blog / newsletter / Twitter feed / Facebook profile. By doing so, you’re contributing to their social proof, which can have a bearing on the size of future advances, or whether they’re even signed.
18. See if your local library will accept one or more paper copy of their book.
19. If appropriate, see if your local hospital would like one or more paper copies.
20. Interview the author and host a giveaway on your blog.
21. Add their site to your blogroll.
Fitness-related, because a healthy body makes a healthy, creative brain more likely, especially in the long-term.
22. Purchase a step counter like this Omron model. Begin tracking your daily steps, aiming for 10,000 steps each day.
23. Because you’ll forget otherwise, program in a daily reminder to record yesterday’s step count in a spreadsheet.
24. Are you consuming a lot of caffeine while working? Plan an alternate low-to-no calorie beverage for all your typical working locations.
25. Are you eating while you write and is your waistline suffering? Calorie consumption will creep up with automatic eating, so can you substitute sugar-free gum? If impractical, plan the healthiest alternative available at all your working locations, or pack it in.
26. Once a week, keep a food journal and track every bite.
27. When working, use a timer. Challenge yourself to 20-50 minutes of concentrated progress, then spend the next 10 minutes in some sort of physical fitness.
- Cardiovascular: treadmill, elliptical, jump rope.
- Run through 1 set of bicycles, squats, pushups. Repeat twice.
28. Map out safe routes of various lengths to different writing locations. Walk or bike to them.
29. Devise your ideal writing schedule – and weekly schedule – as per this Michael Hyatt post.
Find and participate in a hopeful writing community, even if it consists of one friend. It will improve your productivity and grit.
30. Research local writing communities. If you find one that has potential, attend a meeting.
31. Are you already a member of an in-person group? Find a way to add value. E.g. Volunteer, conduct a workshop, or contribute to its newsletter.
32. Thinking about joining a critique group? Here’s a post I wrote for Writer Unboxed with a list of online resources and the CORBS model to help set your boundaries.
33. Are you aware of a personal writing vulnerability? Is there a class or mentor that could address it? Enrol or ask for help.
34. Begin a document to record your favorite writing quotes.
35. Do you have a Hope File? A place you keep encouraging words from friends, teachers, mentors, readers? Update or create.
36. Update your website’s links to reflect your current interests. Refresh broken links.
37. Write a blog post designed to change someone’s life for the better.
38. Create a “best of” post so new readers can locate your quality content.
39. Locate 5 new and interesting people to follow on Twitter
40. Introduce two compatible writing friends.
41. Wipe your monitor and keyboard. Put away all dirty dishes. Dust your desk.
42. Have a pile which contains random ideas, snippets of dialogue, titles? (You know, the stuff that wakes you up in the middle of the night, or that arrives in the shower?) Spend 15 minutes transcribing them or devise a filing system to handle them.
43. Back up all your documents to both onsite and offsite locations. Automate or program reminders to do on a regular basis.
44. Spend 15 minutes updating your financial records.
45. Restock your office with sugar-free chewing gum and water.
47. Create a playlist to match the mood and tone of your present manuscript. Alternatively, if you can’t write with music, purchase a white-noise app or noise-cancelling earphones.
48. Need inspiration? Reread a few pages of Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Alternatively, read this blog he composed, How We Get Better, which speaks to the value of giving up.
49. Start a 50-alternatives list of your own.
50. Turn off the Internet. Stop listening to experts and critics–amateur and otherwise. Reconnect with your own story. Write. Rinse. Repeat.
What about you? What would you add to these choices? I challenge you to come up with another fifty.