Most people are familiar with the 21 Rules For a Successful Life. It’s Feel Good advice, chock full of wisdom for the average person. But writers are a different breed. We are not bound by pedestrian counsel.
Here’s an author’s take:
1. Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery. Marry an editor or agent or a big-wig at a major publishing house. Better yet, find a techie who works at Amazon to create algorithms in your favor. If not, at least marry someone who reads. Or looks on proudly as you sit at the keyboard for hours on end.
2. Work at something you enjoy and that’s worthy of your time and talent. Write the genre you love to read. Write blogs that are near and dear to your heart. If you love to do something, it’s no longer work—it’s play!
3. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully. Share your expertise, tips, advice, and inspiration with others. Do it with a smile in your heart ( or post ). Pay it forward. And if you don’t believe in karma, just remember the ease with which a disgruntled ‘friend’ or ‘tweep’ can slam you over the internet.
4. Be forgiving of yourself and others. Typos aren’t the end of the world ( somewhere I heard an editor gasp). Writers write. A lot. Blogs. Tweets. Posts. Most of us don’t employ a full-time proof reader. I’m very appreciative when someone points out a typo.
5. Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know. This is difficult if your room is plastered with rejection letters and you have no new notifications and no new followers and no one liked your post/blog. Cry on the inside if you must but smile while you’re doing it.
6. Be generous. With praise for fellow writers, with book promotions, with Twitter RTs. Also, be generous to yourself. Some days we write as if the Muse herself took residence in our brain. Some days we spew word vomit. If I’m having a word vomit day, I accomplish non-writing tasks–like social networking, reading blogs or novels, or researching.
7. Persistence, persistence, persistence. I book, 2 books, 3 books…don’t give up! Very few are overnight success stories—and overnight success takes ten years. Blog. Connect. Write. Work your ass off. Genius is 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration. Thomas Edison said that—and he’s no slouch in the “enlightened” department.
8. Have a grateful heart. Be thankful for every RT, for every book purchase or download, for every review. Do something nice for the friends who read rough drafts and husbands who don’t mind that dinner is burnt—again.
9. Discipline yourself to save money on even a modest salary. Writers, especially Indie authors, need money for new keyboards, graphic design, editing services, and fees for things like Publishers Marketplace, WordPress, and webhost providers.
10. Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated. Be nice. You never know. The forgetful waitress may be a paranormal book blogger, the guy in the cubicle next to you might inadvertently give you an idea for a story or a plot twist. The lady with the crazy outfit might be an agent.
11. Commit yourself to constant improvement. 10,000 hours. That’s how many hours Malcolm Gladwell said was needed to become a master at something. That’s a lot of writing! Read blogs offering writing tips or information about authorial techniques and literary features. ( I share my knowledge of literature with Rock Your Writing and Symbols & More Symbols blog posts.) Take writing classes. Go to conferences. Learn the craft.
12. Commit yourself to quality. Do the best work you can. Give 200%. It takes me three or more hours to write a blog. That’s three hours less to work on my novel, but I don’t rush. I try to give good blog. Anything a writer puts “out there” is a reflection of their work. I want mine to say that I’m an avid reader and diligent writer who savors well-crafted, witty prose that makes me laugh, challenges conventionality, and stirs the imagination. Or something like that.
13. Understand that happiness is not based on possessions, power, or prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect. Happiness is based on sales! Just kidding! Writers need to possess a computer, harness the power of creativity, and study the craft of those with literary prestige. And writers need to embrace relationships–it’s the subject of every novel!
14. Be loyal. If you’ve created a writing routine that works, stay with it! Do you have a lucky mug or system of plotting that works? Great. Find the method/hours/location that gives you maximum writing performance and squeeze every syllable out you can. Just don’t be a slave to routine.
15. Be honest. You have 14K Twitter followers and only 100 tweets? Who are you fooling? You bought your “award winning novel” award? You inflate your monthly sales? I think I’ve seen and heard it all. Be careful how you embellish the truth. It usually comes back to bite you.
16. Be a self-starter. This is a biggie! In fact, this rule is so important it should be re-assigned to the # 2 or #3 spot. Dreaming is great but it’s hard work that turns dreams into reality. Most people don’t like hard work. It’s not fun. It’s frustrating. It forces us to leave our comfort zone. Fortunately, as writers, we can at least write in comfy sweat pants or PJs.
17. Be decisive even if it means you’ll sometimes be wrong. Hemming and hawing may result in a missed opportunity. By no means am I encouraging rash or hasty decisions. Get the facts, do the research, outline the plot—I’m sure we know many people who use indecisiveness as an excuse not to “git ‘er done.”
18. Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life. Everyone has X amount of writing hours in the day. If you used them to avoid writing, ask yourself why. Then make the necessary changes. Figure out the reason for your procrastination. As a high school teacher I have found that students procrastinate for two reasons: 1) the task is too difficult or 2) too boring. If it’s either one of those, take a hard look at your writing goal or dream. Break tasks into smaller chunks, learn more skills, and if it’s boring–for heaven’s sake make it interesting!
19. Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did. Query that agent. Pitch that novel. Talk to the publisher at the conference. Ask that question. Submit your novel to the book blogger. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
20. Take good care of those you love. Don’t forget to come up for air or leave your writing cave on occasion. Also, take care of your characters, make sure to flesh out the important ones in ways that makes them come alive on paper ( or screen).
21. Don’t do anything that wouldn’t make Mom or Dad proud. Produce books, blogs, posts, and tweets you don’t cringe over the next day. Be mindful of socio-economic status, ethnicity, politics, culture, race, and/or gender before posting anything negative or insulting or demeaning. Don’t piss off a potential reader!
Now, write that damn novel!
Related Links: Rock Your Writing; Symbolism & more symbols;