Ways to Trash Your Writing Career: Incorrect Definitions

My favorite quick and easy method involves mispronouncing names of key editors and authors in public. Misspelling editors and agents names in query letters has also worked for me in the past. I suggest you try one of them if you have a need for some quick trashing.

Alas, the effects of the above do not last long. If you’re looking for a more permanent solution I have a couple of better ideas.

First, follow every bit of advice on how to become a successful writer you’ve ever come across. This will certainly lead to mind malfunction as you meticulously follow conflicting information.

Take for instance Robert Heinlein’s advice to new writers to make sure everything you write gets published. Not a bad idea, but when you’re starting out, you have no name recognition and your writing needs to be developed. Sure you could stick with one piece and edit, edit, edit it until it’s micropolished, hoping one of the big three will one day recognize the genius, but meanwhile you could be writing, writing, writing and developing your craft (and getting a head start on your metacarpal tunnel syndrome to boot).

In a moment of weakness, you consider taking all those rejection letters to heart and put the story where it belongs: in the trunk. But you stop. You can’t do that if you’re going to follow Heinlein’s words. Who are you to question Bob? So you think about sending it out to some of the more eager-for-writers small semi-prozines. Better chance of getting it published there and then you can move on. Problem solved.

But then there’s John Scalzi’s recent advice about publishing stories in smaller zines. They don’t pay well, he says, and it’s an insult. Other writers agree and point out that it’s the next best thing to career suicide to be seen in such low-rent districts.

So there you go. Conflicting advice for the newbie that’s bound to short-circuit your brain. A sure way to trash your writing career before it even begins. And it’ll take years to get your mind right after that.

The second way to effect a career tilt is both more intense and more subtle. It has to do with the definition of “trash.” Remember one man’s trash is another man’s junk. In order to trash your career, you must first figure out what your career is.

Most people would consider a number of best sellers, a Nebula, and editors at top markets contacting you instead of the other way around a good career. Nice work if you can get it. If that is indeed your career definition, you will write to those goals. But what if at heart you’re an oddball, a renegade, a literarily incorrect writer? What if the mass culture is not ready for your true voice? Do you conform to the Nebula world?

No one in their right mind doesn’t hope for top honors and a huge readership, but some writers have something else to offer the world. Maybe they’re actually way ahead of their time. Or they’re just weird. They can probably find a following amongst the quirky and ungelled. Why keep such writers from their public who deserves its heroes just like the rest of us?

Let’s say this oddball decides to go for the brass ring and write to the masses. They perfect their craft. Having kept their politics to themselves, they gain entrance to the Nebula circle. They never say what they really want to say, though. They become rich and famous, but are never allowed to diversify or experiment.

They live the Nebula life and are envied by the rest of us. At the same time they are never fulfilled. What do they say on their deathbed? “My work is piss.”

In the end, couldn’t you say this writer’s career was trashed?

Perhaps the best way to trash your writing career is to not write what you want to write. Worry too much about your audience and don’t let your art take its natural course.

Good luck with this and keep on trashin’.

Sue Lange
Evidence of Sue Lange’s trashed writing career can be found at her BookViewCafe.com bookshelf.

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Ways to Trash Your Writing Career: Incorrect Definitions — 3 Comments

  1. Nicely put, Ms. Lange.
    I could not agree more, and I think it’s wonderful advice for the struggling writer. It’s just what THIS struggling writer needed to hear.

    I’m subscribing to your blog.

    Best,
    Lucien E. G. Spelman