On Revision: What do you do when you’ve laid a bad egg?

This is the fourth post in a series of posts on writing—my journey as a writer, what writing means to me, and what I’m working on now. To see other posts, check here.

“The only kind of writing is rewriting.” —Ernest Hemingway

If there’s one quote that incites my writer’s guilt complex, it’s this idea that writing is rewriting.

(Or so we’re told.) Most of us know that a rough draft is just that—rough, not to be seen by other eyes until it’s been cleaned up. No one ever stops at the rough draft, or even the “first draft”. As young writers, we’re told that the best way to become a better writer—aside from just writing more, every day if possible—is to keep revising our own material.

It’s no secret that I hate revisions.

I hate them with a fiery passion, mostly because I’ve never figured out how to successfully revise without wanting to light myself on fire in the process. Revising signals Depression Brain to lump on a healthy dose of Self-Doubt in the extreme. Once I reach that state, I’m not motivated to work on the story whatsoever. I usually ignore it for a couple of days, which only makes me feel more guilty for not writing, before I admit that I’m just not feeling the story anymore.

I’ve done this process of halfway revising, only to ultimately give up, more times than I can count. Each time, I’m stunted for weeks or even months afterward. Each time, I feel more and more like a fake writer. After all, if I was a Real Writer, I’d be able to revise my own stories, right?

IMG_0032
I “rescued” this book from being sent back to the publisher and I’m so glad I did.

Then I read Mark Edmundson’s Why Write, a long-form essay in which he discusses the good, the bad, and the ugly of writing. For the first time in my life, I read someone who countered the idea that revision is absolutely, always necessary. There are times, Edmundson argues, when the best thing to do with a piece of writing is let it go.

Sometimes the best thing to do when you’ve laid a bad egg is simply to walk away from the nest. Get gone. Throw the darned thing out and start something new. You can advance by leaping from endeavor to endeavor, as well as by trying to repair the broken-down model that’s on blocks in the driveway.

When I first read this passage, I’m pretty sure tears came to my eyes. For the first time, I felt completely and totally okay with who I was as a writer—a person who needed to let go and move forward.

The fact of the matter is, revision is an important skill to have as a writer. Nothing comes out perfect the first time, no matter how long you’ve been writing. Revision is a skill I do want to acquire, eventually.

At the same time, I have to acknowledge my relative age as a writer. I talk like I’ve been writing for 15 years, and I have, but that’s small potatoes compared to most successful, bestselling authors. I have a long ways to go before I’m writing at that level. I have decades ahead of me when it comes to growing as a writer.

The best way for me to grow as a writer isn’t necessarily as simple as I once thought.

Sure, I could invest years of my life in an attempt to revise the same few novels I’ve had under my belt so far. Or, alternatively, I could let go and see what comes next.

Maybe there isn’t anything shameful about having trunk novels; maybe they’re just sign posts along the way of my growth as a writer. Maybe it’s true that any writing is a good thing as long as it’s moving me forward. Maybe my trunk novels don’t have to define who I will become, but rather can represent a small part of who I was at one point in time.

Maybe the best thing to do when you’ve laid a bad egg is let it go.

post divider 2

How do you feel about revisions? Got any tricks to share? Want to be writing buddies? Let’s chat in the comments!

post signature

Advertisements

Review || Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: YA Contemporary | Diversity: #OwnVoices sexual assault survivor

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

39280444Speak is one of those books that’s become a bit innocuous within the YA world. Why? Because it was—to my knowledge at least—the first YA book to deal openly with sexual assault.

On the surface, Melinda seems like a typical, if a bit awkward, ninth grader: she hates going to class, feels like algebra is useless, and avoids connecting with her parents. In so many ways, Melinda is incredibly relatable. She reminds me of my 14-year-old self in that she’s dealing with undiagnosed depression and wondering why no one in the world seemed to care what she has to say. As the story progresses, Melinda avoids speaking whenever possibly and it becomes clear that she’s coping with trauma by pretending it never happened.

post divider 1

Reading this book for the second time, I was struck by the deceptive simplicity of the writing.

This is a book that could be read in one sitting, without a doubt. At just about 200 pages, it’s not a long read, and the language reflects the mental age of the main character perfectly. Anderson tells the story in short but powerful vignettes, each revealing an aspect of Melinda’s everyday life and thought processes. Despite the classic teen angst of not fitting in with peer cliques and frustration with teachers, there’s an underlying thread of pure sadness.

Melinda exhibits symptoms of depression and anxiety as she attempts to ignore her trauma: she’s constantly biting her lips to the point that they’re cracked and bleeding; she avoids talking to people, skipping class to hide out in an abandoned janitorial closet; she constantly talks about how she wants to just go back to bed forever. Yes, it’s angsty; yes, it’s also realistic.

The hardest part about reading this again, though, was noticing the many ways the adults in Melinda’s life fail her.

I am not a parent (and definitely not a parent to a teenager) but I can guarantee you that I’d definitely sit up and take notice if a 14-year-old girl in my life suddenly stopped speaking entirely. Melinda’s parents are characterized as being so involved in their own lives that they either don’t notice her behavior, or that they just write it off as Teen Angst.

What I truly don’t understand is the reaction of Melinda’s teachers. Rather than seeing her behavior as a cry for help, they lecture her on how she needs to apply herself and show up for class. Not even the literal guidance counselor attempts to look beneath the surface of Melinda’s behavior for the underlying cause.

Ultimately, this is a character-driven story of Melinda’s albeit incomplete recovery from sexual assault.

For the majority of the book, the unknowing reader may not know what happened to her. Someone who’s looked into the book might know ahead of time that it involves rape, but not necessarily know the context. I certainly enjoyed reading the book again knowing ahead of time—and I think it’s important that this book be labeled as potentially triggering. On my second reading, I was able to trace the tiny hints at Melinda’s trauma throughout and appreciate her slow trudge toward recovery.

In writing this review, my biggest struggle lies in discerning the merits of this book versus what I would’ve preferred to see.

On the one hand, Speak shows how dealing with sexual assault comes down to whether or not the person recognizes her own agency and grasps control over her life. Still, I personally wanted more than the book leaves us with: I wanted to know how the adults in Melinda’s life react when she finally comes clean about being raped. I wanted to see “IT” brought to justice. I wanted to see Melinda’s parents come around to realizing their mistake in not taking her behavior seriously. I wanted, more than anything, to see Melinda in therapy for her depression and anxiety related to her trauma.

I originally read this book as a sophomore or junior in high school.

I remember being struck by the sadness of the story about a ninth grader who stops speaking after she’s raped at a party. At the time, though, I remember being struck with the feeling of “but this kind of thing doesn’t happen all that often, so there’s no point in dwelling on it.”

I recently spoke with a close friend, asking if she’d ever heard of this book, as she would’ve been in high school when it came out. For her, rape wasn’t discussed openly until she was in college, and then only because she took a class on the psychology of trauma. I don’t recall an open discussion of the prevalence and reality of rape before the year 2010, when I took Intro to Women’s Studies in college.

I don’t think this is a perfect book about rape. I don’t think there is in existence a perfect book about rape. I do think feminism owes a debt of gratitude to Laurie Halse Anderson, for not only bravely writing from her own experiences, but for opening up a place for conversation a time that it didn’t really exist outside of outspoken feminist circles.

Even in its imperfections, Speak is an important piece of feminist YA history and I’m thankful for its existence.

post divider 1

—find this book—
Goodreads | B&N | IndieBound

Have you read Speak or any other books by Laurie Halse Anderson? What is the first book you read with sexual assault rep? Let me know in the comments!

post signature

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. Each week, bloggers come together to build a list on pre-selected topics. If you’d like to join in, check out That Artsy Reader Girl’s post for more info!

Back in February, I said I was going on a book buying ban. That definitely didn’t happen. A bunch of books that have been on my digital TBR for months (and years!) popped up on Book Outlet, plus there was Barnes & Noble Book Haul… I went on a bit of a shopping spree.

That being said, I’ve got a lot of physical books in my life right now and I feel so blessed to get to read them soon. Below are the top 10 books I’ve purchased in 2019 that I want to read this spring.

yj9eu9IuTdG5edKaNMQ

The Book: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
Why I’m Excited to Read It: I purchased this back in December and I don’t know why I’ve been waiting so long. I’m a sucker for YA contemporary, and while I haven’t read any of Mafi’s work yet, I’ve heard nothing but good things, especially about this story that follows a Muslim teen directly post-9/11.

The Book: Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
Why I’m Excited to Read It:This book dropped onto my radar from our local interest table at work and I’ve been dying to read it ever since. It’s set in Tulsa, both in present day and during the race riots in the 1920s. This is such an important book, because no one in Oklahoma wants to talk about our racist past and we need to educate the younger generations so they don’t repeat our mistakes.

The Book: 96 Words for Love by Rachel Roy & Ava Dash
Why I’m Excited to Read It: I was initially hesistant about this one—mostly because I avoid anything that has James Patterson’s name on it—but when I found out that it’s based on Indian myth and that pretty much every character is diverse, I had to have this one. It’s supposed to be a bit fluffy, and we know I’m always in the mood for that.

The Book: Again, But Better by Christine Riccio
Why I’m Excited to Read It: I got approved for the ARC on NetGalley! Which is the first time that’s happened with this reiteration of my book blog. I’m not really into Booktube, but I think it’s really cool that one of the original Booktubers wrote a story about a 20-something. I always have a hankering for books about this age group, especially set in college (because it gives me nostalgia). I’m excited to see how this one turns out.

The Book: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Why I’m Excited to Read It: This ARC has been burning a metaphorical hole in my shelf all year. The story centers around a Jamaican British woman who feels caught between two cultures and just trying to get her emotional life in order.

The Book: You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman
Why I’m Excited to Read It: I loved the first book by this author, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about her sophomore novel. The lovely Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books has raved about this story that’s a m/m romance with a heavy element of academic pressure—something we don’t see enough of in YA.

The Book: You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
Why I’m Excited to Read It: This has been on my radar since its release in 2017 and I finally bought myself a copy as encouragement to prioritize it. It follows three generations of Indian immigrants in America as they struggle to hold onto their culture and deal with racism. Apparently it also has strong feminist vibes, so I’m definitely excited for that.

The Book: Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
Why I’m Excited to Read It: Speaking of feminist vibes…this book follows a teen whose mom came of age during the Riot Grrrl 90s, and I’m excited to see this take on new feminism vs. old. I think that’s always an interesting discussion: how can we get better, but also how can we learn from our mothers and grandmothers.

The Book: Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Why I’m Excited to Read It: I loved American Street so much and I’m a huuuuge Austen lover, so this book is obviously on my radar. This book is an adaptation of Pride & Prejudice that’s set in contemporary Brooklyn, featuring an Afro-Latina main character and discussions of gentrification.

The Book: All the Rage by Courtney Summers
Why I’m Excited to Read It: This is another one that sat on my digital TBR long before I finally got my hands on a copy this year. This won’t be an easy read—it’s about rape culture, and how society tends to blame the victims rather than the perpetrators—but it’s one that I think is important, regardless of your age, gender, etc.

post divider 2

There are so many more books on my TBR for this spring, but these are a few of the books that have recently (or not so recently) come into my life. I’m excited to dive in! Did you participate in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday? What are some books on your spring TBR? Let me know in the comments!

post signature

writing toward recovery

This is the third post in a series of posts on writing—my journey as a writer, what writing means to me, and what I’m working on now. To see other posts, check here.

I have a confession to make: I feel like a fake writer.

IMG_4007

It’s weird, considering I’ve been writing fiction for 15+ years and I’ve been calling myself a writer pretty much as long as I can remember. It’s weird that I am this insecure about the one thing I’ve always known I could do. But it’s not weird when you look at what the rest of the world thinks writing is.

Last week, I talked about the kinds of “advice” people like to give writers: how we should all get creative writing degrees and then self-publish and everything will be hunky-dory. Obviously, I have a lot of image issues when it comes to who I am as a writer—because I haven’t done what they said I should’ve done. Part of being a writer, to me, means going my own way, but the cost is that I’m constantly questioning myself.

So yes, I feel like a fake writer: because I’m still unpublished outside of this blog; because I don’t have a writing degree; because this blog is mostly me shouting into the void, still, and I’m not savvy enough to gain a real Twitter following; because I go long periods of time where I’m between major projects; because I’ve decided to go back to school and become a teacher until such point as this writing thing pans out for me.

I feel like a fake writer, but the reality is that I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t a writer.

It sounds dramatic, but learning to express myself in writing was the best thing I ever did for my mental health, back before I even knew what depression was.

In ninth grade, I started writing to myself in black-and-white composition notebooks.* I poured out all my angst toward my parents, frustration toward peers, and pining over guys who didn’t know I existed. I let everything out onto the page and I realized that writing about my thoughts and feelings really did make me feel a bit better. Sometimes I would come to the page with a problem and leave the page feeling at peace about the situation, either because I’d found a solution or simply the relief of not holding it all inside my head anymore.

The deeper I tread into the sinking pit of my adolescent depression, the more I wrote. I switched to 5-subject spiral notebooks, which I filled in a matter of two or three months sometimes. I repeated myself almost constantly, talking myself in and out of a feeling or a thought pattern. Yet, for all that repetition, writing was there for me when literally no one else was.

By the time I reached adulthood** keeping a journal became a lifeline. I went longer between entries, but the page was always my last resort when I was feeling particularly down and occasionally even suicidal. Writing about depression didn’t always solve the underlying problem*** but it kept me from hurting myself. Putting my feelings down in words enabled me to deconstruct my negative thought patterns—even when I had to deconstruct the same thoughts over and over again.

*which I named Martin B. Sneed, for reasons I literally can’t remember.
**aka the point at which I was out of college and paying my own bills, I guess?
***I still made horrible choices when it came to relationships, but that’s an entirely different story.

Writing fiction has also been an integral part of my depression recovery.

When I was in college, I got involved in an unhealthy relationship with an older guy. I was incredibly open about my feelings for him, but he refused to admit to feeling anything beyond lust. For years, we went back and forth and around and around the marry-go-round of turmoil before I finally moved on.

It has been seven years since I’ve so much as spoken to him and I’m in a much better place now.* Still, there is a part of me that’s haunted by this bad relationship. For years after this guy abruptly stopped talking to me, I tried to write my experiences into a novel. It took, two, maybe even three goes before I came up with a finished draft, a hundred thousand words or so.

This draft is still sitting on my computer, collecting dust; each time I’ve tried to revise it for potential submission, I can’t do it. Writing Brain tells me that the story needs a lot of work, but that it can certainly be done. Depression Brain, on the other hand, tells me that no one would want to read a story about a girl who lets this kind of relationship happen to her. Even now, I get this odd ache in my chest when I think about this story. It’s the one closest to my heart but the one that pains me the most to read over again.

*I’m literally marrying my favorite person in the entire world next week!

There are some stories we write that just need to come out.

I firmly believe this. I had to write the most personal story I’ve ever written, because I had to get it down, somehow. That doesn’t mean that I need to show it to anyone, or that I should suck it up and edit it so I can publish it. Not everything we write has to be shared. Sometimes, we just need space to come clean.

post divider 2

Do you struggle with feeling like a fraud as a writer? How has writing helped you cope with life? Let’s share tips in the comments!

post signature

Review || A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum

Genre: Contemporary Fiction | Diverse Rep: #OwnVoices Palestinian immigrant family

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I received an ARC of this book through my work. While I am grateful for the opportunity to review, this in no way influences my opinion of the book.

Content Warnings: misogyny, alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, sexual violence, death.

IMG_0595In A Woman Is No Man, three generations of Palestinian-American women struggle to find a sense of self in a culture that treats women like wallpaper. Fareeda holds her family together in the new world of America; Isra submits to her husband and worries about a future for her daughters; and Deya yearns to go to college instead of getting married.

It should be noted from the start that this book is in no way meant to represent all Arabs/Muslims.

In fact, one of the major characters points out that other Arab families allow their women more freedom. In the author’s note to my edition, Etaf Rum remarks that by even writing this book, she’s violating the code of silence in her community; she worries that the world will take this as further reason to discriminate against Arabs. But remaining silent wasn’t an option for her, and I’m so glad she decided to write this book in spite of her fears.

I was so excited to read an #OwnVoices book about Palestinian-American immigrants.

For one thing, it seems that Americans avoid talking about Palestine whenever possible, and this book encouraged me to do more digging. For another thing, I firmly believe these kinds of stories are so important—not only to break the code of silence, but to remind us just how real these issues still are, right in our backyard so to speak.

The use of 3rd person limited to show each woman’s perspective was incredibly effective.

While it’s a character-driven story, the slight distance from the minds of downtrodden characters adds to the story, rather than detracts from it. Reading the perspective of Isra, a mother of four whose husband is physically abusive, would’ve been even harder had we been fully immersed in her mind. I also loved every single reference to reading (the author runs an amazing bookstagram that I highly recommend). Throughout the story, reading is the way that younger women are able to visualize a culture and way of life that’s different from theirs. They’re able to imagine going their own way, whether it’s having adventures or actually falling in love, rather than being forced into an unwanted marriage right out of high school.

I can’t lie: this book was hard to read.

Every time I picked it up, I got sucked back into a world where women can’t go out alone, even just to walk around the block; where reading is dangerous and motherhood is one’s only solace. What was amazing, to me, was how Etaf Rum carefully revealed why the family operates the way it does. Fareeda and Khaled grew up in refugee camps, first in tents and then in concrete shelters. They didn’t have running water and they were barely able to pay bills. They make it to America, where they have a better life, but neither of them truly leaves their old life behind. Fareeda worries that America will spoil her children and grandchildren, so of course she holds onto her culture as tightly as she can.

I loved getting to see inside the minds of three generations of women.

Each of the characters has a reason for her silence and submission to what’s expected of her, yet each of them rebel in their own ways. Isra remains silent, allowing herself to be beaten if it means protecting her children, but she rebels through reading books that her sister-in-law brings home. Deya sneaks off to visit her long lost aunt and comes to understand her own power in shaping her future. Even Fareeda, the grandmother, stands up for herself the only way she knows how, and she’s the one who holds her family together. We see how the culture is toxic for men as well, through Adam’s slow deterioration under the pressure of supporting not only his wife and children but his siblings and parents.

Still, the story ends on a bittersweet yet hopeful note. It’s clear that there is hope for the future, but the women in the story have to learn to make their own destiny—even when it comes at a high price.

I will be shouting about this book for a while. I want my friends to read it, and my family too. I want this story to be read as widely as possible, so that hopefully change will come for women like Fareeda, Isra, and Deya.

-find this book-

Goodreads | B&N | IndieBound

fullsizeoutput_2bb5

Have you read A Woman Is No Man? Are you participating in the 2019 Year of the Asian Reading Challenge? What are your favorite books with Arab/Muslim rep? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Standalone Books That Deserve a Sequel

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. Each week, bloggers come together to build a list on pre-selected topics. If you’d like to join in, check out That Artsy Reader Girl’s post for more info!

fullsizeoutput_2bb5

I love a good standalone book.

To be quite honest, long book series are really intimidating to me. I’m bad at getting invested in a series because I don’t enjoy being sucked into one world for too long. On the flip side, standalones* leave a lot to the imagination. As I was compiling this list, I realized that mainly what I want is more of my favorite characters, in all their flaws and especially their triumphs.

*does anyone else feel like standalone and sequel are just really weird words? No? It’s just me? …

fullsizeoutput_2bb5

Top 10 Standalone Books That Need a Sequel

The Book: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Why I want a sequel: I loved getting to know Cam so much that I miss her, still.

The Book: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera
Why I want a sequel: I still want to see what happens with Arthur and Ben grow up and go off on their own in the world.

The Book: Home and Away by Candice Montgomery
Why I want a sequel: further development of Tasia’s relationship with her birth father + more steamy romance.

The Book: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Why I want a sequel: the vagueness of the ending made me desperate to see what happens next for Bri.

The Book: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
Why I want a sequel: I’m in love with boarding school settings.

The Book: Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee
Why I want a sequel: mostly I just want to see more out ace characters, period.

The Book: Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
Why I want a sequel: This book has one of my favorite recovery narratives of all time – because it’s messy, and incomplete, and a constant thing in Ella’s life.

The Book: Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
Why I want a sequel: I want to see more of Suzette’s bisexuality (because I love bi rep and I’m selfish)

The Book: Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
Why I want a sequel: the book shows Nora really struggling with her mental health, so I’d like a glimpse of her on the flip side of things—and maybe even dealing with a relapse while she’s in a new relationship.

The Book: Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Why I want a sequel: Juliet makes such a powerful character and I’d love to see more of her personal growth into her twenties.

fullsizeoutput_2bb5

Do you prefer standalone or series books? What is your favorite standalone book that you wish had a sequel? Do you participate in Top 10 Tuesday? Let me know in the comments!

the most harmful writing advice I’ve ever received

This is the second in a series of discussion posts about my writing life. If you want to follow along, check here!

IMG_0064
connect with me on instagram! (@lady.gets.lit)

For some reason, as long as I can remember, people I hardly know have felt the need to advise me on my writing career.

I know, deep down, that most of these people mean well. They ask questions and make suggestions because, on some level, they care about my success. Many people I meet are also readers, so they’re fascinated by the other side of the coin. Still, whether it’s because they think I don’t know what I’m doing, or they thing writing isn’t a real career until you’re making loads of money, people always seem to have something to say.

I recently read this post by Elizabeth @ Redgal Musings, and it made me laugh tears of frustration from being put in similar situations. I started to realize that I’m not alone in being annoyed by my parents’ neighbor who leans over the fence and asks if I’m published yet. I was inspired to compile a list of some of the more frequent—and often harmful—advice I’ve received over the years.

“Write what you know.”

As a kid, I really struggled with math.* Fortunately for me, my dad happens to be an annoyingly brilliant electrical engineer** who was perfectly willing and able to walk me through math problems. He always started by having me read the word problem and then write down what I knew.

“Write what you know” is probably one of the most ubiquitous pieces of writing advice out there. It’s the reason personal memoirs is an exploding market*** and shows why #OwnVoices books exist in the first place: people writing about their own experiences, what they already know about the world. Don’t get me wrong—I seek out #OwnVoices stories because I trust the validity of the diverse representation, and because there’s a level of passion that goes into writing about your own experiences. But “write what you know” is so oversimplified.

Here’s why I think “write what you know” is harmful, at least for me: it encourages me to stay inside the bubble of my life experience, limiting the kinds of ideas I allow myself to even attempt to write. Trying to stick to what I know takes all the fun out of imagining what it would be like to be someone else…which if I’m honest is half the reason I started writing in the first place.

*Especially those dreaded word problems. Ugh.
**whose favorite class in college was differential equations. I don’t even know what those are.
***hell, anyone can write a book these days, as long as they’re already famous and/or they have a compelling life story.

“Why don’t you just get a degree in Creative Writing?”

I’m going to tell you a little secret: when I was in high school, I was convinced I’d never go to college at all. By the time I was 15, I was dead set on graduating high school and moving as far away as I could think of without leaving the country: New York City. I was already halfway through my first novel so I didn’t need anyone to teach me how to write. What did I need a degree for? It’s not like you need a degree to write novels!

Spoiler Alert: I ended up going to New York. But I ended up going to college first. I got my B.A. in English and Women’s Studies* and I have absolutely zero regrets. Here’s why: I loved getting my degree. I loved taking literature courses and reading obscure books no one had ever heard of. I loved taking a wide range of social science courses and learning how to think radically outside the box I grew up in. And while I took two creative writing courses in undergrad, I didn’t really love taking those classes.

I’ve never been one who believes writing can be taught; I think it’s just something you do over and over and over again until you suck slightly less than you did when you started. Still, having people question my choice of degree year in and year out, sometimes it stings. Sometimes I start to question myself.

*I can’t believe I graduated almost 7 years ago

“You should just self-publish! Everyone’s doing it, and look how successful they are!”

Here’s the thing, and I’m not trying to be an asshole*: I don’t want to self-publish.

I want to traditionally publish in part because that’s been my dream as long as I can remember, but it’s more than that. I don’t want to have to do 100% of my own marketing, find someone to do cover art, spam people’s twitter feed with self-promo, etc. etc. I don’t want to run my own business, which is what you have to do to self-publish successfully…and I don’t think I would be successful as a self-published author.

I know that people mean well, but I don’t think they realize that I’ve thought this thing through. Self-publishing is great—for some people, not for me.

*Although I’m probably coming off that way anyway, who are we kidding?

“You have to be able to self-edit to really make it as a writer.”

Okay, so this one might be partially true. If all I can do is slap a bunch of word vomit into Scrivener and call it a day, I can’t expect to just be handed a book deal. I have to do the grunt work of editing too.

My issue with this bit of advice is that editing for the sake of editing hasn’t really helped me. Every time I’ve tried to knuckle down and really edit my own work, I’ve ended up more discouraged and less enthused about the story to begin with. Sometimes, it’s enough to just leave a draft in the metaphorical writer’s truck.*

*More on this in a couple weeks…

“You can’t just write about your own experiences and call it fiction. You have to make things up!”

Yes, I know what you’re thinking: but Lady, didn’t you just say that you hate when people tell you to write what you know? Yes. Yes I did. But the opposite—writing only ever outside of your own experience—doesn’t work for me either.

A long time ago, I had a very unhealthy romance with an aspiring poet who thought he knew everything there was to know about writing* and that it was his job to tell me about it. In fact, he was the first person who told me to get a creative writing degree (because that’s what he was doing). He was also the first person who implied that it didn’t count as fiction if I was writing about things that had happened to me.

Here’s the thing: realistic fiction has to be based at least partly on what the writer intimately knows, on what her views of the world are. Granted, I can’t very well write my own autobiography and call it fiction. But I also can’t write your biography—at least, not without doing some serious research. In order to write realistic fiction, I have to find a balance between writing from experience and thinking outside the box.

*despite the fact that he almost never read anything. No, seriously. He was a writer, who didn’t like reading.

fullsizeoutput_2bb5

What’s the weirdest bit of harmful advice you’ve ever received about your choice of career? Do you think creative writing can be taught? Do you prefer to write more about your experiences, or make things up completely? I’d love to know your thoughts!