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Life in Publishing: Seven Things I've Learned So Far
Hello Pub Crawlers! I've put off writing this post as long as I could, because I've just had so much fun with you all over the years! From the wonderful conversations we've had in the comments, to the smart and thoughtful questions that prompted many of my posts, I've learned a lot in the time I've spent as a part of this wonderful group. I mean, there aren't many places on the internet where you actually should read the comments! But all good things must come to an end, and it's time for me to say my goodbyes. By way of saying farewell and thank you, I thought I'd follow in the footsteps of Alex Bracken, and share with you a few things I've learned so far in my publishing journey -- some solid, concrete tips, and a few that are less so, but just as important!
1. Take care of your back. I'm serious! This is one of my most heartfelt, and least heeded pieces of advice! Put any group of authors in a room, and pretty soon you'll find at least a couple discussing back stretches, standing desks and physical therapists. There's a reason for this. Keep up your core strength, make sure you have a good chair and good posture while you're writing, and pause regularly to stretch. If you can try a standing desk, go for it. This one really matters!
2. Take care of your tech. While we're being practical, let's add this one to the list! Put a password on your phone--your contacts may hold numbers that the owners might not want shared. Your email will hold manuscripts that the owners absolutely won't want shared. Back up your computer regularly. Back up your computer. Back up your computer. (Click here for some suggestions on how, and check out the comments for lots more ideas.)
3. Think before you speak. To put this one really bluntly: don't gossip. I don't want to be a downer, and I'm not saying you should never talk about the industry, and I'm not saying you should never vent to friends, of course. You're human. But don't carry stories around, especially if they're less than complimentary. For a start, you have no idea if they're true (and there's ALWAYS more to the story than you know), and if nothing else, you'll get a rep! Now, writing is a solo sport, and needing to vent and debrief is totally normal. So here's what you do: find a couple of friends you truly trust, and trust them with the stuff you need to discuss, wonder about, get off your chest or analyse. That's healthy, normal and helpful, and you won't be sorry you did it later. Gossiping with the whole world works about as well as it would in any workplace!
4. Cultivate a life. No matter what stage you're at in your writing journey, you need things that will make you happy outside the writing world -- tying your happiness to writing and publishing only is dangerous. Whether it's time with your kids, your weekly game of basketball, making time to attend that BBQ on the weekend, make sure you do it. It will help with perspective more than anything can. Getting away to your day job doesn't count, if every minute you're not there, you're writing. Leisure activities will help you relax, work more efficiently, and remind you that there's life away from your computer. Sunshine and fresh air are good for you! Laughing and the company of friends--good for you. Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Writing is a long career. Slow and steady wins the race!
5. Just do the work. Don't talk about doing the work more than you do it. Don't tweet about doing the work more than you do it. Don't play endless games on your computer, then later feel you've had a long day because you were at your screen the whole time. If you have to unplug the router, do that. If you have to install a program to block the internet, do that. In the end, all that platform-building, networking and sky writing will mean nothing if you didn't get the words on the page. And most of all, don't just nod in agreement to this point -- pause and think about what concrete steps you can take to make sure you really do the work!
6. Stop comparing. It will kill you. It will kill your creativity. It will make you jealous. It will make you sad. It will make you angry. And you'll probably be wrong! To paraphrase a Louis CK quote I've always liked: "Never look into your neighbour's bowl, unless you're checking they've got enough." Every minute you spend wishing you had someone else's agent, book deal, marketing plan, tour, fancy embossed ARCs, foil cover, panel appearance, etc is a moment you could spend doing something that's good for you. You also have no idea what's going on for them. Perhaps they have the agent of your dreams, and it isn't working out at all. Perhaps they have the book deal you always wanted, and it was the wrong decision for them. Perhaps they got the panel appearance you'd love, but didn't get the support they needed to organise a bumper launch party in their home town, and they'd trade with you any day. Even if this isn't the case, envy will eat you up. Someone else's success is not your failure. Every reader who enjoys a book is just looking for the next book to read. A rising tide lifts all ships.
7. Have fun! For my last piece of advice, I'm going to echo the very wise Alex Bracken -- publication is just one day of your journey, and the rest of the trip takes a long, long time. So make sure you enjoy yourself! Read great books, take joy in your writing, enjoy your friends and your community. Thanks for all our time together, and here's to everything you're yet to write!