Dear Self-Published Authors of the World,
Please stop flooding Amazon and social media with covers featuring stock photos of naked torsos and evocative, single-word titles in Gothic font.
Someone Who Follows Far Too Many Self-Published Authors
While the New Yorker contributors and New York Times bestsellers can be helpful in supplementary portions, the bulk of your literary diet should be comprised of the fibrous, organic, raw, flavorful books written by unknown authors and published by independent presses. These are your people, your peers, the ones you should be learning from and influenced by. These are the ones that will last.
I let a friend read a chapter from my current work-in-progress. He told me it had my fingerprints all over it, that he could actually hear me through the text. For someone who has struggled for years to differentiate her own voice from those of her favorite authors, this sentiment was exactly the kind of thing I needed to hear.
Moral of the story: Find someone you trust and let them read your work. It will make all the difference.
I have removed my wristwatch. I dislike it when I type and it clatters against the edge of my laptop keyboard. When I take it off, it usually means I’m about to pump out a good five pages of text. It is always a good sign.
Today I helped a group of young teenagers who were part of a summer writers’ workshop. As they came up to my desk and signed out their room keys, I made note of the geeky glasses, the obnoxious clip-on bow ties, the pen stuck through a messy bun. They were cheerful, quirky introverts, shy and full of excitement. This was my group, these were my people.
What would these baby authors write? Fiction, nonfiction, memoir? Which authors they were trying to be like? Which ones were the brilliant prodigies, and who was just in it for the fun of creative self-expression? Was I handing a key to the next Hemmingway, the next Salinger, the next Tolkien? These teens were Possibilities incarnate.
I remember meeting a woman who was an author by trade. She had been contracted by a publishing company to write three books in two years. They were paying for her to stay in Italy with her husband while she completed the manuscripts. While I hold fast to the idea that writing should be for personal fulfillment and self-expression, I would not mind those kinds of perks.
Every once in a while, pretend you are already a successful author. Dress up, go out to a writing haunt, and make a big show of writing your latest work. Pull out all your notebooks and spread them on the table, order an espresso or a cocktail, and dive into your work. The confidence boost is invigorating.
When I idolize those authors who became famous through their works, when people in my life insist upon predicting my own fame, it is easy to lose sight of the goal. Today I shook myself free of the burden of needing to become famous. Ultimately, I need to be writing for passion, for me. Fame, posthumous notability, the opinions of others must all be secondary.
I am currently reading The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker. Never have I encountered an author who better describes the mind of a writer. We notice everything, especially the inconsequential quirks that make everyday life so strange. Then, not satisfied just to have noticed, we must then attempt to explain – to ourselves, if no one else – exactly how and why these phenomena come about. Hence the reason we write.
There was an author who found out his favorite pen company was going under. I forget who it was, but he bought out the company’s entire stock of pens, spending a fortune in the process. His feat of dedication to what inspired him made an impression on me. I decided that if I had to follow in this author’s footsteps and buy out one thing for my writing, it would be my little black Eccolo journals that I carry around everywhere with me.
What would you buy a hundred of, just to preserve your writerly habits?