Stop Being Solitary: How Others Are The Key To Your Success As A Writer

“Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own…I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.” – Former U.S. President Barack Obama

I opened this post with President Obama’s quote because it can be applied perfectly to writers. From my position as publisher and co-founder of Beautiful Losers Magazine, I have seen that some of the best poets and short fiction writers are not in The New Yorker, Granta, or The Paris Review. Of course, that is not to say that the writers featured in those magazines are not exceptional talents, because by and large they are, but only that many talented writers are never discovered by the readership of these magazines. In many cases, these writers are equals to their more established peers in creativity, knowledge of the nuances of craft, and work ethic. So why are some writers exalted and others remain in obscurity? Perhaps because no one gave them some help along the way.

Writing can be seen as a solitary profession, and to some extent it is, but there are many instances where receiving help can be the difference between success and anonymity. Here are a few ways in which others can help you along in your path as a writer:

1. Editing. Every writer needs an editor. My short fiction wouldn’t be nearly as good if my editors Rairigh Drum and Lauren Rubin didn’t examine every piece that I write and offer constructive suggestions towards improving them. The same holds true for my forthcoming book with Vakasha Brenman. Writers have a blind side when it comes to their own work. To gain an agent’s representation or get writing accepted in competitive literary magazines, working with an editor is mandatory. It’s my mission to help talented writers succeed in the literary game, and I want to help 100 writers who have never been published before have their work published. That’s why I offer editing services. If you have an unpublished manuscript that needs a thorough edit, I want to help you. You can read more about my services by clicking here.

2. Networking. Your manuscript may be well-written and edited to a publishable standard; however, that doesn’t mean that you will automatically be able to attract an agent’s interest and be on the fast track to a contract with a big publisher. If you are completely divorced from the network of writers, voracious readers, agents, and publishers, you are missing a golden opportunity to advance. Forming friendships with other writers, influential readers, or those involved in the business of literature can have immense benefits, not the least of which is putting your manuscript before a person in a decision-making position.

3. Inspiration. It happens to all of us, we start writing and hit a wall. Our mood drops, the ideas stop coming, and the frustration sets in. This is where friends, family, and romantic partners come in. The next time your writing hits a wall, get connected with others, and watch how easy the words will come to you when you resume your writing.

What other benefits do you find from turning to others? Comment below to share your thoughts.

If you found this post helpful, please like, comment, repost, or subscribe to my blog – all are appreciated!

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Five Easy Ways To Become Inspired To Write

Suffering from a lack of inspiration? Major case of writer’s block? Try these five easy ways to get inspired to write!

  1. Reading. Seeing the characters, concepts, and ideas of other writers can stimulate your own creative juices.
  2. Silence.  Too much stress in your life? Take some time out to relax and watch your creativity shine.
  3. Fun. All work and no play makes for dull writing. See friends, go out, have fun – you might just have a memorable experience worth writing about!
  4. Others’ Stories. Go on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, or through your cell phone address book. Ask yourself what interesting things can be fictionalized from your friends’ experiences? A helpful note: If it’s embarrassing to them, change the details to protect your friendship.
  5. Writing Prompts. Still completely baffled? When all else fails, there’s a wealth of writing prompts online.

What do you do when you’re out of ideas? Please share a comment to help other writers in this predicament!

Writers Are Wise: Some of My Favorite Quotes

I want to deeply thank my readers for supporting this blog. It’s quite an amazing feeling to know that many aspiring writers have found my thoughts on the literary game useful. With that said, I’m switching the format up tonight. Rather than offer my advice, I’m sharing some of my favorite quotes from other writers. Many are inspirational; others are thought-provoking. Enjoy!

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“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.” – Doris Lessing

“You just keep pushing. You just keep pushing. I made every mistake that could be made. But I just kept pushing.” – René Descartes

“Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.” – Albert Camus

“I’m now making myself as scummy as I can. Why? I want to be a poet, and I’m working at turning myself into a seer. You won’t understand any of this, and I’m almost incapable of explaining it to you. The idea is to reach the unknown by the derangement of all the senses.” – Arthur Rimbaud

“When shall we live if not now?” – Shirley Jackson

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery—isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.” – Charles Bukowski

“Don’t complain, don’t explain.” – Raymond Carver

“A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.” – Oscar Wilde

“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky

“There’s no such thing as life without bloodshed. I think the notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is a really dangerous idea. Those who are afflicted with this notion are the first ones to give up their souls, their freedom. Your desire that it be that way will enslave you and make your life vacuous.” – Cormac McCarthy

“All of my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless, and brutal.” – Flannery O’Connor

“All men are lonely. But sometimes it seems to me that we Americans are the loneliest of all. Our hunger for foreign places and new ways has been with us almost like a national disease. Our literature is stamped with a quality of longing and unrest, and our writers have been great wanderers.” – Carson McCullers

“I’m an idiot, I’m a fool, I know, but I’ve been a good read, right?” – Hunter S. Thompson

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand

A Letter to a Young Author

believe

Please, whatever you do, never give up.

I know it may seem like all your efforts lead to absolutely nothing, but please don’t give up.

Believe me, I know that it’s hard rolling the boulder up the mountain to get everything going, it may even seem like a Herculean task, but please, don’t give up.

As best as you can, try to get over the initial hurdles, the ennui that keeps you from writing, the hurt feelings from the rejections, the fact that you know just how many other aspiring writers are out there.

And, please, stay calm. I know that it can be incredibly challenging for an aspiring writer to break in. It takes time to get the technique right, it takes time to know where to publish, it takes time to get the respect of other authors.

But please, try not to let your current situation get you down. So many other aspiring writers get discouraged. They could get to where you’re going, but they won’t, because they are choosing to give up. You can take their place. You can get your work out there.

So please, don’t get discouraged by all the hurdles along the way. You have work to do, lots of it, to push that boulder up the mountain. It may seem immovable, but it isn’t. Just please stay calm, regroup when you fail, and keep pushing.

You could be great, but the world may never know if you give up…

Announcement: Hey everyone. I want to thank you all for reading The Literary Game. I’m honored by how much support I’ve received since starting this a little over a month ago.

I write a lot about writing here. I hope you’ll want to read a bit of my actual writing. My piece UFO, a work of flash fiction, was just published in Farther Stars Than These. I hope you’ll check it out. Thanks!

Why Your Fiction Is Terrible

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”
― Henry David Thoreau

Take a look at that quote above. Pay attention. Study it. Does it offend you?

If you haven’t been living, it’s expected that you would take offense. I mean, Thoreau is totally off-base, and by the way, who is this jerk challenging me. Writing is solitary. I don’t need to have “lived,” whatever that may mean. I don’t need people around me. I don’t need fun. I don’t need to enjoy life.

Do you realize the stupidity in that train of thinking?

Go out and live life. You can’t write ANYTHING until you’ve lived. Whether you’re a sixteen year old in high school or a sixty year old retiree, ask yourself – have I lived? If the answer is no, then stop wasting your time writing.

So what is living? Living means seizing every day as if it were your last. We all are different. Your way of living life to the fullest is unlikely to be the same way as mine, but whatever you think life is, you better live it. Amass your experiences, seek the joy out in life. Sure, there will be pain too, but oh, it’s so much better to enjoy life than to be an animated corpse.

And, of course, once you’ve lived, then you can write. All that would be left would be the simple stuff: learning the technical aspects of craft; how to publish your stuff; how to network with other writers and others in the field; and how to promote your creative writing. That’s the easy part. That comes afterwards.

Until then, get away from the computer and put away your pen. You have some fun to do.

 

How the 2013 NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament Helped Me Dramatically Improve My Attitude Towards Writing

I’m a huge college basketball fan. Every March (and early April), I’m glued to my television set to try to catch as much of March Madness as possible. It’s my favorite sporting event.

March Madness is always a lot of fun, yet I never expected that the tourney could ever teach me anything that would help me out as a writer (If you can figure out a way that understanding how to properly space yourself in a zone defense would be of use to a writer, please comment below, I’d love to be enlightened!)

Every year, I look forward to seeing which team will come out of nowhere to be the Cinderella of the tournament. I always find it compelling when a mid-major school knocks off the “heavyweights” of college basketball. But again, none of the myriad of teams that have acted in that role since I’ve been a fan have ever taught me anything that would benefit me as a writer. That is, until 2013’s tournament…

In 2013’s tournament, Florida Gulf Coast University knocked off Georgetown and San Diego State, two elite programs. I had never heard of Florida Gulf Coast University (the school or its basketball team). I didn’t know any of the players. I didn’t know the coach. They were complete unknowns.

As I watched FGCU’s basketball team that March, though it may sound strange, I immediately felt that it was as if I were meant to watch it by some weird trick of the universe. I knew that I was supposed to see this because I needed to see exactly how to get anything done (including getting your creative writing published) – YOU HAVE TO STAY LOOSE AND HAVE FUN.

The players on FGCU’s basketball team were too loose and having too much fun to worry about how the odds were completely against them. Yes, the odds of your work getting published in top journals are slim. Yes, the odds of you getting a publishing contract are slim. Yes, the odds of your name being mentioned among the literati are slim. Yes, the odds of your book selling in vast numbers are slim. There are undoubtedly many writers just as hungry as you are, writing just as much as you are, who are as skilled as you are, and are waiting to claim it. All these statements are true.

However, if you really want to be a writer, counter-intuitive as it sounds, you have to put facts out of the equation. This is certainly not an insult to the men on the FGCU basketball team, but from the way they played, it was almost as if they were ignorant of the reality of their situation. If they were aware of the reality of their chances, they would have been easily whipped by Georgetown, and sent scurrying home to Lee County because they would have already been defeated in their minds. Aware or not, they put it outside of their minds, stayed loose, had fun, and made it to the Sweet Sixteen, allowing America the opportunity to fall in love with their team.

The odds are against you. However, the odds only can be taken into account if you pay attention to them. If you really want to be a writer, in the words of James Chance, “Why don’t you try being stupid, instead of smart.” Why not really believe that you can do the impossible? That’s the only way that you can!

Did you ever learn a valuable lesson about writing (or anything else) from an unexpected source? I’d love to hear your story. Please feel free to comment below.