by Will Viharo
It’s New Year’s Eve, so you probably won’t even read this until next year, i.e. New Year’s Day - bleary-eyed, hung-over, and anxious about your professional future. Well, maybe not hung-over since not every writer drinks like Charles Bukowski on a bender every December 31 (or ever).
One reason for that is you aren’t Charles Bukowski (he’s dead, for one thing, something else you don’t want to have in common), but you will never come close to his rarified literary ranks unless you buckle down and start taking your career seriously. Not as an alcoholic. As an author.
Anyone can drink excessively, but not everyone can write successfully.
In my previous blog I suggested five New Year’s Eve Resolutions for aspiring authors. Here are five more promises to make to yourself, and keep. Maybe not all of them apply to your situation, but at least one does, probably more.
Since your head might currently hurt either from too much booze or too much worrying, or both, I’ll keep this one brief and to the point. Because your future has already started, with or without you, and will be over before you know it.
So, to continue my Top 10 list of resolutions…
6. Try something different. Since you don’t have a global audience (yet) with established expectations, plus a penny-pinching publisher to please, why not take advantage of your relative obscurity and experiment? This means tackling a genre or style that is outside your comfort zone. You might discover your field of expertise is fertile with creative seeds that just need a little nourishment. Surprise yourself, and the reward might just be worth the extra effort, for both you and your readers.
7. Start planning your next book, even if you’re still working on one. It’s never too early to begin thinking about what you’re going to do after you complete your current project. If nothing else, it keeps your imagination hungry and active, so you won’t just sit around waiting for fame and fortune to magically fall from the sky as soon you upload your eBook. Staying busy is the best way to avoid inevitable inertia and post-novel depression.
8. Set up some promotional events. This means arranging a live reading of your work, perhaps in concert with a local group of writers at an accessible, amenable public venue, or just solo at a neighborhood bookstore. Or it could just mean doing something outrageous that attracts attention, something creative but innocuous that won’t get you arrested for public indecency, like randomly passing out free T-shirts with an ad for your book printed on the front, or plastic cups or posters or balloons. Anything that will generate a unique response and positive word of mouth. Make sure the local press gets wind of your stunt, though. They’re always looking for a good story to tell, too.
9. Stop competing with other authors. You only need to compete with one writer: yourself. Set your own standards. Maintain your own pace. Petty jealousy poisons not only potentially fruitful friendships, but also your own creative soul. Everyone is on their own unique path, toward their own unknowable destination. We’re all special in our own way, regardless of society’s barometers of “success.” Don’t fret about the challenges of remaining commercially relevant. Celebrate your own individuality by artistically expressing it. Because nobody but nobody but you can do that.
10. Stop making resolutions you can’t keep. Maybe you don’t really want to be a writer after all, deciding it’s not worth all those sacrifices and commitments and all that dejection. That’s okay. The world is overflowing with word-slingers anyway, way more than this increasingly illiterate world needs. But a truly talented author with an original voice always has something special to offer our collective culture. Be different. Be bold. Be unique. But most of all, be yourself. Whether that means you’re a writer, or something else that you need to discover and explore. But don’t waste any more precious time pursuing goals that won’t actually fulfill your spirit.
Happy 2016. Maybe the best is yet to come, maybe it isn’t. Some things simply aren’t under our control. In any case, all you can do is your own personal best to make it anything you want it to be.