I read the other day that comic books may someday outsell traditional stories. I got worried. Man, I can’t draw! (Comic books are no longer the province of children, they’re read by 20-somethings and 30-somethings.)
It may be true that ordinary books are doomed. Right now I’m not going to argue the facts. But please, can we just put a lid on the anxiety, here?
As you may be gathering from all the writer’s blogs you’re following, writers have a lot of things to work on and maybe worry about. And then there are the scares of the week, and the perennial anxieties that made you nuts but are paper tigers. But which is which? Here is a little list that you can pin up. It may not make you worry less, but at least you’ll worry about real stuff.
What not to worry about
1. The future of the book. On this one, I figure that way more important people than I are already worried about it and will tell me what to do when the time comes. Meanwhile, I have stories to write.
2. The future of my book. How am I selling, and if the stats are true, am I doomed? A: Perhaps. But perhaps not. The important thing is concentrate on the next book and not tie your mental outlook to a book that is already out of your control.
3. Why don’t I win awards? A: Because you are writing commercial fiction, and the awards usually go to stylists and folks who line up their friends to vote for them. Hey, are you in this for ego or to bring forth your best, unique stories? Let go of it.
4. Can a man write in the viewpoint of a woman? Why is this a perennial worry? Come on. The variety of human beings is your real challenge, not their gender. Just do it.
5. If I write characters based on people I know, they’ll be upset when they read my story. No they won’t. Your friends and family won’t recognize themselves. People don’t know themselves very well. Don’t worryaboutit. (But, you know, change the hair color.)
6. Will I ever finish this novel? Not if you’re dithering around worrying! But to get to the end, you only need to write a page a day to have 365 pages in a year. Even four pages every weekend gets you in one year to page 200. It may not be a wonderful book–for that you need to worry about stuff–but by God it’ll be finished.
7. Whether I have any talent. Huh. I have reviewers who think I’m brilliant, and some who think I need to retake Freshman English. Who is right? Talent helps, and you may have some, but the better question is, are you willing to work to get better? Because we’re all working at that.
Stuff worth worrying about
1. Scams and incompetence. Few new writers understand how many sharks are out there waiting to separate naive writers from their money. These may include agents, editors, publishers and courses. Some are crooks, some are failing companies who can’t fulfill promises and others are amateurs who, though well-meaning, will completely waste your time. Check out your business prospects at writerbeware.com.
2. Staying in physical shape. Let’s admit it. We sit for a living and make repetitive motions with our fingers. Not healthy. Worry about this until you get active again.
3. The quality of your stories. Keep learning. Challenge yourself to bypass your default fictional choices. This is very hard to do, and especially difficult if you think you were born with a finite amount of talent (see #7, above.) A way with words may indeed be largely a gift. But it’s not about words, it’s about stories. Worry about this. Do stuff about it.
4. Different length fingernails. Ignore this issue at your peril. Your nails do, of course, have to be the same exact length in order to type decent prose.
Notice that the second list is shorter than the first! One of the lessons here is that there’s only so much as a writer that you’re actually in control of. Let’s save our energy for those things.