Living the Writing Life - Essential Rules for Authors

Writer's desk
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How do you live the writer's life?

Over the years, this Book Publishing Expert has listened to, read about, and polled many successful authors about their writerly habits and their best advice to their fellow writers. Here's a roll-up of some of the core lessons from the pros.

Professional authors write. A lot.

If you want to be a writer, you need to develop disciplined writing habits. Even if you have another day job, if you want to be a writer then writing is your job.

If you haven't written today, you haven't done your job. Researching, reading about writing, talking about writing — all nice and maybe even necessary. But these are no substitute for getting the writing done.

Healthy professional writers move around. A lot.

Admittedly, this is advice from health advocates more than writers, but writers need to hear it.

Writers jobs are at the computer, sitting for long stretches of time — which, studies show, is really, really bad for your body and your health. There is a lot of very lovely advice about other aspects of the writing profession, but if you're in a hospital, you won't be able to worry about those.

To offset the dangers of a sitting profession, a couple of big pushes at the gym during the week aren't nearly as effective as raising the general activity level during each and every day. So between chapters get up and get moving around as much as possible.

Some writers set timers and make it a point to get up and walk around for a few minutes whenever it goes off. Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code) is reported to do calisthenics periodically during the day. Learn more about healthy habits for authors here

Sane writers ignore the critics and (especially) the trolls

Literary critics.

Reviewers. Your Aunt Mabel. If you get a bad review, give yourself a set amount of time hours to be upset and/or mad, then get over it. You have work to do and if you let a bad review or a careless comment derail you from your writing job, then the lousy critics win.

A special note on Internet haters and social media trolls: Most of these are not legitimate critics, but nasty internet folks whose only goal is to create controversy because it leads to them increasing their pageviews — the only thing they care about. The only way to best them is to ignore them and let the noise die down — which it will when they move onto their next undeserving victims.

Good writers read. A lot.

It's what made you want to be a writer in the first place, no? If you got away from avid "readering," start carving out some time from Candy Crush Saga and get back to the books.  Read in the genre you're writing, and read more broadly. Read for research and read just for the fun of it. Reading will make you a better writer and it will make you more interesting to talk to at cocktail parties... and on Facebook.

Lifelong writers find their own writerly paths and their own voices

No matter how established the author, agent or editor giving you advice, know that your path will be yours alone.

Respect your own writer's process — no matter how different from others. Your brain works the way it works and it's what makes you unique.

The same goes for your writerly voice. Respect the composite of your DNA and hopes and dreams and experiences and talent and skill — they, too, make you unique.

Remember that your job is to show the world something it didn't know it needed. Get going.