Photo by aurelio.asiain
The literary agent, Irene Goodman, wrote an article back in 2008, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Authors.” Most of her successful authors had these following habits in common. The article should be my Bible; it makes so much sense, and yet I fail at each one. I’ll paraphrase the article anyway, because if I were a highly effective author, here’s what my habits would look like:
1. STOP WAITING FOR LIGHTNING TO STRIKE AND SIT YOUR ASS DOWN ON A REGULAR BASIS.
Picture a writer as a lazy hooker, hanging out on the corner of Procrastination and Despair, south of Writer’s Block, whenever she (or he) feels like it, waiting for a john (an idea) to pick them up. Maybe one comes by, maybe one doesn’t, but it doesn’t change the fact that you have a family to support, or a crack habit to feed, or a book to write. As Janet Dailey said, “Someday is not a day of the week.” Treat writing like a job.
2. NEVER GIVE UP.
I used to pray to my God every day to take away the craving to write, the need to live a creative life, and replace it with a burning desire to be a banker instead. I wanted the stability and routine of a normal job. Funny thing is whenever I’ve worked a normal job in the past, I’d have regular visions of jumping off bridges or cliffs or buildings—anything to avoid being at the same place at the same time, day in and day out. Those jobs equaled death of my spirit, and the perks just weren’t worth it. No matter how craptastic you think the writing life is, realize that the alternative is even worse. Ride out those downs.
3. DON’T LOOK A FEEDBACK HORSE IN THE MOUTH.
Nobody likes criticism, even less so when it’s about their writing. Writers always think whatever they’ve written is crap. So you can imagine how it feels when someone confirms it. I entered the first chapter of my romantic comedy, The Accidental Cougar, in a contest last year. Two judges trashed it, and one thought it was perfectly written. Guess what I focused on? The criticism, of course. I went back and forth between thinking the judges didn’t know shit to me feeling like the worst writer on the planet. When I received a contract for the manuscript soon after, and went through the editing process, I didn’t change much. But what I did have to change was indeed what the wise judges had suggested I should change. Hmmm, maybe I don’t know everything there is to know about writing.
4. IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT.
I understand writers become bored, they want to branch out and try new things, chase a trend, and hopefully target a new set of readers. But writers have fans for a reason, so if you up and change the program, or in my case, give me Fifty Shades of Grey when I’m expecting a well-written, sexy erotic romance that doesn’t resemble Twilight in the least, you’ll be met with a cranky bitch. Never alienate your bread-and-butter just because you have ADD. Nobody wants to see Cindy Crawford do Shakespeare, just like there’s a reason Matthew McConaughey takes his shirt off in movies. Give your audience what it wants, or be prepared to suffer their wrath.
5. ALWAYS WEAR CLEAN UNDERWEAR.
Accidents are when you rear end someone or the condom breaks. Very rarely should a career be accidental. Even E.L. James who wrote Fifty Shades of Grey had a plan in mind: Steal another writer’s idea, opps, I mean, write fanfiction; Don’t edit it; Have a well-known NY blogger talk it up; Sit back and rake in millions. While most writers will never come close to seeing their book translated somehow into makeup, bed sheets, or sex toys, it’s still no excuse for having a career without a sense of direction. Even though I despise this word, Plan, write down goals and meet them. Be the tortoise, not the hare in the race.
6. TAKE A VALIUM EVERY ONCE IN AWHILE, OR HAVE A GLASS OF WINE FOR GOD’S SAKE!
In other words…Chillax (Chill out + Relax) as my twelve-year-old neighbor would say. You must replenish the well, smell the flowers, enjoy the fruits of your labor—lest your creativity run dry. Um, yeah. Sorry, I can’t comment on this one, because I don’t relax. Ever. I have too much shit to do. Writing is a full-time job. You want eight-hour shifts, with a half-hour for lunch and two fifteens? Go work at Costco.
7. NEVER REFUSE SEX.
This is actually a metaphor about missed opportunities, although if a woman wants sex and her man tells her he needs to eat a sandwich first and take a shower? That man better be prepared to wait a long, long time before getting another offer again. Also, when you’re travelling, never turn down a meal. And those cute shoes you’re not sure you should buy? They won’t be there when you go back to the store. Ever notice how a lot of actors always say they didn’t want to do a certain movie, but then their agent convinces them to and they end up winning an Oscar for their performance? Same is true with writing. If a once-in-a-lifetime chance comes along, take it, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
There you have it—seven habits that make a successful author. Does anyone have anything to add?