Decided I would not do the usual thang of listing production feats and such to wrap up the end of the year. See my post “Of Word Counts, Pissing Matches, and the Lesson of Thunderbird” for a hint as to why. Enough to say it was a great year in a lot of ways, and a better one awaits.
Instead, here’s some advice based on my experiences this year for writers and creative types as we head towards the end of the world in 2012 (though I suspect Randy “Macho Man” Savage will likely avert this apocalypse as he did in May). Much of this is contradictory, but I don’t care!
- Work hard, but not so hard that you burn out the enthusiasm for the work you love to do
- Make up your own mind about the state of the publishing industry and the kind of career you want. Do your homework, and don’t rely on gurus who say “there are no rules anymore . . . just follow MY rules to Amanda Hockng’s Shangri La Time Share!” Opportunities abound, but snake oil also comes in many bottles.
- Read. No, seriously. Read a lot. Never met a writer I liked a lot who did not read a lot. Be one of those writers.
- Be inspired by things that are not reading. No, seriously. Life is more than literature. The senses exist wildly in other realms of experience. Want to know about taste and smell? Try cooking five alarm chili! Physical exhaustion? Take up martial arts! Sound? Music! Experiences beyond the books is integral, and should be as diverse as shit you see on youtube, bad camping trips, weird family restaurants, your favorite video game this year (SKYRIM!) stuff that Phil the Loner does in the bathroom at the day job when no one is looking, etc. Stuff your well with all the stuff you dig, then find the best way to turn it into art.
- Exercise. Writing is a long haul, and being sick and ill sucks balls and takes away the energy you need to get stuff done. Do what you can to be healthy, strong, and energized, but don’t be seduced by the images of perfection that apply to professionals in the beauty and sports biz.
- Challenge yourself. Not just production of words, though that’s important. I mean experiment. I wrote an essay once called “To Experiment is to Grow” about really pushing yourself to improve. Try writing challenges. The internet is full of them. I challenged myself to write a story based on a Spam message. I even sold it! Don’t just do the same damn thing every day.
- Do the same damn thing every day! Lead with your strengths and see how they develop into your writing voice.
- Love what you love. There’s a lot of noise on the nets about genre stuff, writing stuff, publishing stuff, literary stuff. Collectively, I refer to these as GENRE WARS PART X! Much of the dialog is interesting, often full of drama lamas, but the point seems to fizzle in the wake of the histrionics. I fear most of it boils down to “I wish literary people liked us and respected us and talked to us and reviewed us.” I don’t know that I have a dog in that fight. It reminds me somewhat of knee jerk anti American sentiment that some Canadians have. It makes you feel part of a special group of outsiders, I guess, but I don’t know if it solves the problems it faces. Best thing to do is love what you love and damn the torpedoes. I will not apologize for loving the works of Philip K. Dick, Robin Hobb, Ernest Hemingway, Melanie Tem, Nelson Algren, Amy Hempel, Robert E. Howard, etc., even though there will never be a conference or book tour in which they are discussed together.
So let’s hope everyone has a good, strong, and successful 2012! Write like it’s the end of the world and see what happens!
And if you thought this advice was awesome, go buy Death Match for $2.99 and support your friendly neighbourhood Ridler!
Let the New Year’s Eve festivities roll!