Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ten Commandments for the Miserable Writer

One of my all-time favorite posts of Nathan Bransford’s is the one he wrote in March, 2009 called Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer.

Right now, I’m a pretty happy writer. I try hard to live by those commandments on Nathan’s list.

But maybe you don’t want to be a happy writer. Maybe you want to be the most miserable writer you can possibly be. Well, here are my ten commandments to help you be just that. It only seems fair that we give others a fighting chance to be successful at the kind of writer they want to be, right? I can understand that being a happy writer certainly isn’t for everyone. So if misery is your goal, here you go:

1. No time for play. When you aren’t doing something writing-related, kick yourself. You are a writer and thus there is no time for anything fun in your life, ever. Even if you turn on the TV to watch FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, the best show evah, you must feel guilty about it. Same goes for going to the movies or a concert or a play or out to dance. Understand this - there is no room for fun. None.

2. Send and wait. After your queries are sent out, you should sit at your computer 24/7, waiting for replies. There is nothing more important than being there when the first “No thanks” hits your inbox. No eating, no sleeping, nothing. Just sit and wait. And wait. And wait some more. When you think you may die from all the waiting, you STILL must wait, because unfortunately, death doesn’t come that easily.

3. Ignore your non-writing friends. They don’t understand what it’s like, so to hell with them. If they call and want to take you out for coffee and cupcakes because it’ll do you good to get out, just say no! Cupcakes are evil. And friends who don’t write? Of course they should be fed to the zombies and vampires we live with day in and day out.

4. Read author blogs, get jealous, and weep. Peruse other blogs and read about other writers’ sales and curse the world that it's not you. Because, you know, you could buy a new pen if you actually sold a book. Maybe even TWO! You’ve been wanting a new pen, right? A shiny, sparkly one that writes letters in the most spectacular way! You want one. And it’s not fair because that other writer can buy one now, and you can’t. No fair!!

5. Get pissed and blog about it. Rejection after rejection after rejection and it’s not enough to cry and scream into your pillow at night. Oh no, you should put it on the web for all to see and let others feel your pain. You can even get specific – give names of those terrible people who had the nerve to reject you. Misery loves company, right? Oh yes it does. Loves it so much you’ll be talked about behind your back for months. So yeah, go on, talk up that misery!

6. Read about writing, but don’t write. Buy books about writing. Go to conferences about writing. Read blogs about writing. And all the while, dream about your book on the shelf with your name on it. Take it all in, but don’t you dare do the hard work to do the writing. Oh no, because real writing is for people who have the time to do the work. And you just don’t have the time. Someday you’ll get to it…

7. Don’t get feedback on your work. Nope, feedback from critique partners will just ruin it. No one will understand your book and be able to offer good feedback, so you’re just better at going it alone. Fifty rejections later, there’s NOTHING wrong with your book, those agents are ALL wrong, every last one of them. Keep submitting that 130,000 word middle-grade novel that will surely get you published like HARRY POTTER got J.K. Rowling published. Because you know everything, right?

8. Query on the same book forever. Don’t write another one. No, do NOT write another one. Just keep collecting the no’s on that one you wrote eight years ago that came sort of close one time, but since has collected 287 rejections.

9. Take rejections personally. Let them eat at your heart and soul. Your writing sucks so that must mean you suck as a human being. Go to bed and stay there. At least until you’re ready to query again and then, only send one when you’re ready and willing to take one in the heart again.

10. Believe the negative talk. Last but certainly not least, your ego loves to tell you how crappy you are and that you’ll never amount to anything and you couldn’t write a decent sentence if your eighth grade teacher came back from the dead to help you. Your ego is designed to protect your poor, helpless self, and doesn’t care one bit about your dreams and whether or not they come true, so listen to the ego and believe it. And then, THEN, write with that ugly voice in your head. I’m pretty sure that’s about as miserable as it gets.

Anything I’ve forgotten? Please, enlighten us. The miserable writers can never get enough misery, that’s for sure!


  1. Excellent post. These rules will blow it in every profession. Always act like a professional. Sure, you can have a pity-party. Privately. Then, get over it, get to work, and move forward.

    And no, I'm not related. But Schroeder is a really cool name.

  2. Love this, Lisa! It's so true. My advice for miserable writers? Quitcher whining and write!

  3. Oh no! I just broke like, all of these! Especially number six.

  4. Lol, great post! Made me laugh, you did. Also, great blog. I'll be reading. :)

  5. "death doesn't come that easily" *snort* *guffaw*
    I think you forgot the part about going out into the garden to eat worms....
    Great post. Perhaps it should be chiseled in stone.

  6. Hi :)
    I've got a perma-grin from your blog post.
    Couched in the witty humor are gems of wisdom.
    Thanks for sharing,

  7. Ok, one of my Favorite posts also!



  8. "Quitcher whining and write!" - LOL, yes!!

    Glad ya'll liked it. Thanks for reading!

  9. Ha -- this is great! Thanks for the laugh, Lisa!

  10. Wise, wise words.

    Word on the street is that you're going to the SCBWI tomorrow. Hope to see you there!

  11. Thanks Lisa for your gentle reminders. #6 is my favorite!