Seth Godin and Jennifer Crusie on Artistic Legitimacy

Following onto the post about Amanda Palmer's exhortation to legitimize yourself as an artist, instead of waiting for gatekeepers to do so, here are marketing guru Seth Godin and best-selling romance author Jennifer Crusie on the same topic. First, Godin: No knight, no shining armor "Sure, Seth can do that, because he has a popular blog." Some people responded to my decision to forgo traditional publishers (not traditional books, btw) by pointing out that I can do that because I have a way of reaching readers electronically. What they missed is that this asset is a choice, not an accident. Does your project depend on a miracle, a bolt of lightning, on being chosen by some arbiter of who will succeed? I think your work is too important for you to depend on a lottery ticket. In some ways, this is the work of the Resistance, an insurance policy that gives you deniability if the project doesn't succeed. "Oh, it didn't work because we didn't get featured on that blog, didn't get distribution in … [Read more...]

Amanda Palmer on Artistic Legitimacy

Musician Amanda Palmer recently gave a keynote at Grub Street Writer's Muse and the Marketplace Conference. She's whip smart and really "gets" this brave new world of social media, and so we should always listen to what she has to say. Her talk at Grub was about something much more important than social media: it was about legitimacy. That's a huge topic in artistic productivity, and a major focus of class discussions. Some writers think, for example, that until they've been published in the "right" way and by the "right" people, they aren't "real writers." So: Published by a commercial publisher? Real Writer! Go forth and conquer. Indie published? Fake Writer! Hang your head in shame. Published in established literary magazine. Real Writer. Published on a blog (yours or someone else's)? Fake. Similarly, some artists believe they're not "real" until they've been invited to participate in certain shows, represented by certain galleries, or reviewed by certain magazines. Feelings of illegitimacy … [Read more...]

Erasmus on Writing

              Courtesy Grub Street Writers … [Read more...]

Useful Apps for Mac and iOS Users

  Ph.D. student Reid Leamaster reviews some useful writing productivity apps, including several for taking notes and organizing information. His latest review is an app called Flowstate, which, if you stop writing before the end of your designated interval erases everything you've written. Yes, you've read that right. Sounds crazy and coercive to me, but someone must have thought it was a good idea. … [Read more...]

Writer’s Block is Always Caused and Curable

This essay by Fairfield University professor Elizabeth Boquet on how her writing productivity suffered when she switched from teaching to administration is a perfect illustration of the principles that: 1) procrastination/writers block/underproductivity are always caused (versus being some kind of intrinsic moral flaw like "laziness" or "lack of discipline"); 2) the causes are always outside ourselves, in our current or past contexts; and 3) it's *far* more productivite to problem-solve around the causes than succumb to shame, blame, or guilt. Oh, and 4) THE PROBLEM IS SOLVABLE. … [Read more...]

I Wish Hilary Mantel Were My Sister II: Manuscript Coherence and Polish Come Late in the Writing Process!

As if Hilary Mantel's wise words on memoir weren't enough, she also has something great to say about the writing process itself. In answer to the question, "What’s the best thing about writing a book?" she replies: The moment, at about the three-quarter point, where you see your way right through to the end: as if lights had flooded an unlit road. But the pleasure is double-edged, because from this point you’re going to work inhuman hours, not caring about your health or your human relationships; you’re just going to head down that road like a charging bull. This is REALLY important for all writers to understand, and here's why: Anne Lamott famously said, in Bird by Bird, that every piece of writing begins with a "shitty first draft." That's almost right. The reality is that most pieces of writing are built from many shitty drafts, until you reach a point where the whole thing starts to cohere and come into focus. That's Mantel's "floodlit" point, and it truly is magical. Mantel puts the transition at … [Read more...]

I Wish Hilary Mantel Were My Sister I: Memoir Isn’t Easy

Honestly, I wish Hilary Mantel were my sister. Despite egregiously spelling her name with only one "l", she is one cool writer. In a New York Times interview she demolishes the naive view that memoir writing is easy: Memoir’s not an easy form. It’s not for beginners, which is unfortunate, as it is where many people do begin. It’s hard for beginners to accept that unmediated truth often sounds unlikely and unconvincing. If other people are to care about your life, art must intervene. The writer has to negotiate with her memories, and with her reader, and find a way, without interrupting the flow, to caution that this cannot be a true record: this is a version, seen from a single viewpoint. But she has to make it as true as she can. Writing a memoir is a process of facing yourself, so you must do it when you are ready. GREAT to read this. In every writing class I teach there are memoirists who feel guilty because they've bought the line that, "You're just telling your own story. How hard can it be?" Hopefully … [Read more...]

The Eroticization of Equality and Social Justice

Note from Hillary: this is a reprint of an article I published elsewhere a few years back that I wanted to archive on this blog. The topic remains timely; thanks for reading!     To begin with, check out the romantic presidential couple at the bottom of the right-hand group of pictures (near the date) in the above image. Isn't it wonderful that we elected someone who, among his many other virtues, is so loving? That's not a trivial thing, as psychologists Kathlyn and Gay Hendricks write in their article, The Obama Relationship: a Major Benefit Nobody's Talking About.Okay, back to that first link. It's to the Love as the Practice of Freedom conference, the first national meeting devoted to romance fiction and American culture. I attended it a couple of weeks ago at Princeton University, and had a blast being surrounded by academics, authors, editors, and readers who were not only passionate about their emerging field and its importance in the larger culture, but passionate about … [Read more...]

Michael Chabon on True Novelists versus “Rebel Angels”

From Wikipedia: In a 2012 interview with Guy Raz of Weekend All Things Considered Chabon said that he writes from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. each day, Sunday through Thursday. He tries to write 1,000 words a day. Commenting on the rigidity of his routine, Chabon said, "There have been plenty of self-destructive rebel-angel novelists over the years, but writing is about getting your work done and getting your work done every day. If you want to write novels, they take a long time, and they're big, and they have a lot of words in them.... The best environment, at least for me, is a very stable, structured kind of life." … [Read more...]

All Your Work Should Be Sand Castles

The wonderful and much-missed writer and writing teacher John Gardner wrote in On Becoming A Novelist: “If children can build sand castles without getting sand-castle block, and if ministers can pray over the sick without getting holiness block, the writer who enjoys his work and takes measured pride in it should never be troubled by writer’s block. But alas, nothing’s simple. The very qualities that make one a writer in the first place contribute to block: hypersensitivity, stubbornness, insatiability, and so on.” However, if you work on your perfectionism and other barriers to productivity, all your work CAN be sand castles! Those other barriers, as outlined in my book The 7 Secrets of the Prolific, include: resource deficiencies, unmanaged time, ineffective work processes, ambivalence, unhealed traumatic rejections, and an exploitative/unliberated career path. Yes, your work might be intellectually or emotionally challenging— but the act of sitting down to do it should be little harder than sitting … [Read more...]