Sage Advice for Young Writers and Bloggers

Renee of Life in the Boomer Lane is a former hula hoop champion and a writer that keeps a hilarious blog, one of those blogs vampire blogs wish they could suck dry. Recently I asked her to write something for Snotting Black on the advice she would give to a 23-year-old wanting to be a writer or a blogger. She graciously agreed and sent me a really beautiful piece that I found touching, informative, and jealousy-inducing because of its depth and wittiness. May it invoke similarly complicated responses in all of you.

I’m not worthy.

Sage Advice for Young Writers and Bloggers

The first thing I did when Emily asked me to guest write a post for her blog was to be amazed that anyone would want to take such a risk.  The second was to look at the topic: what I would tell a 23-year-old who wanted to be a writer or a blogger.  I did a quick calculation and discovered that in the intervening decades between age 23 and where I am now, I have lost approximately  239 lbs and gained approximately 259. My hair has changed color and style 41 times, and my bra size has gone from 34B to 34D. My shoe size and hat size have remained constant, but my height has decreased by 1.5 inches.  Two husbands appeared, but not at the same time. Small beings in my immediate vicinity have appeared, gotten larger, and eventually disappeared. One has now produced two small beings of her own, thereby assuring me that in the distant future, after I am gone, someone will look at photos of me and wonder why people looked so funny back then.

Writingwise, the decades have contained fiction and non-fiction, some self-published, some published by others.  A couple contests were won. A short story was read on NPR.  Many rejections were collected. A blog was started a little over two years ago.  None of my writing has made me famous, and very little of it has made me any money at all.  All of it seemed of value when originally written, but not all of it withstood the test of time.

So, back to the topic: What would I tell a 23-year-old now, about wanting to be a writer and/or a blogger?

The good news is that you are coming of age at a time in which anyone has easy access to self-publishing.  The bad news is that you are coming of age at a time in which anyone has easy access to self-publishing.  Chances are overwhelming that the only way you will see your work in print will be because you put it there, not because you are discovered.  Chances are also overwhelming that you won’t get paid for what you write.  There are way too many writers out there, really good writers, happily giving their words away.

Most people who are currently successful in publishing are online.  Print magazine subscriptions are plummeting, while Huff/Post is thriving.  The Kindle has passed the vibrator as the #1 sex toy for women.  So throw out your dildos, and whatever you do, do it online.

Just because you have a passion to write doesn’t mean that the world is waiting for your words. They are too busy stockpiling water for the Armageddon or watching Bachelor Pad 2 or standing in line for the next iPhone.  Whether you have a publisher or not, the only person who will market your book is you. If you don’t create a demand for your book, there will be none.

The easiest way for a literary agent to assess the quality of your work is to ignore it.  Literary agencies throw unread manuscripts into large boxes and anyone who has time on their hands can take free reading home.  Few people do. If you want someone to actually read what you submit, you are going to have to be very creative and very diligent. In other words, you are going to have to do more than send out query letters.

Like book writing, people aren’t waiting for your blog posts, either. Building up a blog readership can be ridiculously time consuming, and, just when you are patting yourself on the back over having 1000 followers, you discover someone who has 10,000 or 100,000 followers and they aren’t famous, either.

Freshly Pressed is like a one night stand.  A hot one night stand, yes.  A one night stand that will make you shriek and rock you to your toes and back again. But it won’t last longer than that.  You won’t be able to take it home to introduce it to your parents.  It might ask you out again for more one night stands, but on subsequent romps, no matter how spectacular, some part of you will know the deal.  You will know that in the morning, you’ll be alone again, and Freshly Pressed will be gone, off to fondle another blogger.

The bottom line is that you won’t listen to any of this because you really, really believe in the depths of your soul that you have what it takes to be a writer.  You believe that what you write will be the next Big Thing.  You believe that the world will take a texting break in order to read what you have written.  And thank goodness for that.  Because after the marriage and the mortgage and the mayhem of child rearing, you might set the writing aside, in favor of more pedestrian pursuits.  And that would be a shame.  Because you might have been the one to beat the system.

P.S. from Snotting Black: Isn’t she great? Visit her blog! Give her a high-five!

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46 thoughts on “Sage Advice for Young Writers and Bloggers

  1. […] me.  One of my favorite blogs, Snotting Black, featured a wonderful post the other day.  ”Sage advice for young writers”   Please click to read.  It really made me think about my writing and why I’m doing […]

  2. muddledmom says:

    This post is awesome. I’ve always been told as a writer, “Don’t quit your day job.” To a 20-something, I’d say write because you love it.

  3. davetwhite says:

    Ah, this post is just what i need.. as I am a new blogger after all!

  4. Eliza Shane says:

    I like it! I’m well past 23 and going to give it a go anyway…

  5. Gumboots says:

    Is it just me, or is that really negative? It’s kinda saying ‘unless you are damn right frickin brilliant give up now’… Or maybe I have read it all wrong?… If I was a 23 year old aspiring writer I would find that very un inspiring….

    • Lynne Spreen says:

      But it’s reality, Gumboots. Sad to say.

      I’m 58, and for the past ten years, dreamed of sending out my book, getting The Phone Call (in which a big advance check would be offered), going on book tours, etc. But in that time, the industry changed. Authors were told that when the manuscript is perfect AND you’ve lined up about ten thousand ready customers, only THEN would agents consider our stupid little books.

      So we writers plowed ahead, not only polishing our writing, but also building websites and blogging and tweeting and LinkingIn and Facebooking and Pinteresting…but then, when we collected several thousand people who loved our writing enough to buy our books, we looked around and said, hey, who needs agents? It’s a cold, cruel, DIY world these days for authors, but it’s also wide open! The opportunity is available to anybody! Any writer can see her book in print now (for good or bad.) Now, the only limitation is your ability and perseverance, not the whims of a dying industry.

      Renee’s post is a relief in a way, because she makes light of it.

      • Thanks, Lynne, for the great explanation. Gumboots, brilliance has nothing to do with this. I have never implied that. Look around you. If brilliance were the key to getting published, most books now on shelves would disappear. Success in any artistic pursuit nowadays depends a lot on self-promotion and getting rid of the delusion that the world is waiting for what you are creating. Going into any artistic endeavor with a reality check and being willing to put the time and effort into what you do to promote yourself will be your greatest tools.

      • Gumboots says:

        I’m not doubting what she is saying… I’m not a ‘writer’ and have no desire to be published or famous so I wouldn’t know the ins and outs of it all…

        My point is that as far as ‘advice for a 23 year old aspiring writer’ I think it’s pretty negative, and it comes across as though she is saying give up now, don’t bother, there really is no point to it…. Even the last paragraph is coming across as ‘Yep, you go for it, it won’t happen, and you will fail, but hey, try anyway… ha ha’

        Again, just the way I read it and took it to mean… I didn’t find it overly funny, I found it kind of patronising to anyone who dreams of being a writer, as though she is laughing at the fact they think they might make it… But then again I could have read it totally wrong…

    • edrevets says:

      As a 23-year-old writer who would love to be published, I did find this inspiring. If I wanted an “all-dreams-come-true” spiel, I would have watched a Disney movie. But the reality is that all dreams don’t come true, and the most inspiring thing is that some people still make it against incredible odds. Could that be a 23-year-old blogger reading this post? Maybe, but that doesn’t make the odds go away.

    • simonandfinn says:

      I’d have to agree with Gumboots as far as my initial opinion on reading the post, but really appreciated what Lynne Spreen added in, as it was the sort of hopeful counter message that helped identify what the opportunity is in this brave new world we find ourselves in – and that’s always inspiring, right? I thought the following article was pretty good in terms of discussing DIY publishing:
      http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/oh-heck-ill-just-publish-it-myself/article4281834/

      • Lynne Spreen says:

        S&F, I read the article. It’s still timely even though it was printed in 2009, and it even more relevant, in fact. Especially the last, sad little paragraph. Which is why I always find myself thinking of the parable of the Little Red Hen.

  6. taylorjt says:

    Reblogged this on Keeping in contact. and commented:
    Fantastic

  7. This is great! I decided just this morning that what I have to say may deserve to be stuck between two covers, and this was an eye opening joy to read. Thank you!

  8. artzent says:

    Well, I think its a little negative but funny.

  9. ryoko861 says:

    You couldn’t have said it better! I have a friend who considers himself a writer, who has a book published, is looking into self publishing his next and has even asked me to hock his book for him. It’s on Amazon and Barnes and Noble…all about Baby Boomers living in the millennium.
    He used to work at a publishing company. So there you go. He had that in his back pocket. Didn’t matter. His book is still on Amazon and in B&N. I keep telling him he as to promote, promote, promote. It’s still not on the NY Times Best Seller list. I wonder why?
    Great post! Reality can suck for writer wannabes.

  10. Elly Lou says:

    There’s a vibrator setting on my Kindle?!?!

  11. The Waiting says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I started writing my first book this week and – brace yourself, this is a shocker – it’s harder than I thought it would be. Your advice is indeed sage.

    Both you and Emily are fantastic writers. You may not be famous to the masses, but I’m grateful that at least I know who you are.

  12. Fraha says:

    Absolutely loved this..

  13. notquiteold says:

    This is good advice for me too… although I am not quite 23. Anymore.

  14. Lynne Spreen says:

    Renee is not to be trusted, having already published a blockbuster book. Clearly, she is simply trying to clear the playing field for her own f*&%ing ridiculously compelling writing.

  15. I am momentarily paused by the synchronicity of having just discovered (and subcribed) to SNOTTING BLACK only yesterday and to already being a subscriber of Renee’s LIFE IN THE BOOMER LANE. Is this just one of those 6 Degrees… moments? Or should I run out and play the lottery?
    Your invitation for Renee to guest post illustrates that you are one savvy 23 year old. Your posts confirm that. I will continue to enjoy.
    Renee – I’m still cosidering the Kindle vs. vibrator stand — so difficult to decide — but I adore the fact of the statement. Madame, you really rock.

  16. lifelikings says:

    Such a good post, thank you so much for getting Renee to write it. 🙂

  17. Rantypants says:

    I enjoyed every word of this post, including all of the ones that snapped the small amount of hope left in my soul. I’ve always liked Renee’s writing, well done.

  18. k8edid says:

    Yes, she is great…and her advice is spot-on.

  19. Thanks for suffering jealousy on our behalf and introducing us to Renee! She’s brilliantly funny, as are you.

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