The Seven Unhealthy Habits of Unsuccessful Writers

I shouldn’t be posting this because you’re probably going to think, “Who does she think she is?” Well, it all started when I was taking a break from revisions and came up with the following list based on some of the bad habits I’ve had to undo (yes, me), and the habits I’ve observed in others.

So before you hate me, hear me out okay?

The Seven Unhealthy Habits of Unsuccessful Writers
1. Wrote to get published when I should’ve written to uncover my voice
2. Spent more time talking about writing than actually writing
3. Believed my own excuses as to why I never had time to write
4. Needed the approval of others whether it was a contest judge, a “get-published-quick” seminar or a critique partner
5. Said “if I finish a book” instead of “when I finish the book”
6. Couldn’t keep my behind in the chair, or worse, played online Mah-jong for “inspiration”
7. Gave up too early

What bad habits have you had to undo, or are in the process of un-doing?

Do They Have Good Books In Heaven?

For Christmas, my friend Dana gave me a coffee mug that reads, “Choose an author as you would a friend. – Wentworth Dillon.” I don’t always like every book I meet. Some are pretenious, others are real downers and unfortunately, some are just boring. Now that I’m an author, my pickiness is a real problem. You see, I now receive advance copies of books for my endorsement – why anyone would think my endorsement would make a difference, I’ll never know! Anyway, when I don’t click with a book, I don’t know what to do. I want to like every book I read, truly I do. But I can’t paste a fake smile on my face and mislead people into thinking I liked a book I didn’t like. Nor can I say to the author who sent me his/her book, “I’ll pass.”

So when I meet a book that makes me laugh or cry (or both), I want to tell everyone about it. (And not just because it’s good for my karma.) When I first met Erica Orloff through Diary of a Blues Goddess, I knew I made a new friend. But then she one-upped herself with Do They Wear High Heels in Heaven, which I started yesterday and then had to give to my husband so I would do my writing when we switched baby duty. When I got it back last night after the baby went to sleep, I not only had tears in my eyes for the two and a half hours it took me to read it, chills sped up the back of my neck and I never once tried to read through the book like I normally do. The love story between Lily and Michael swept me up so quickly. Erica’s no-bull-shit prose made me believe I was sitting right there with them, feeling warmth of the love they had for each other, laughing at their wisecracks and crying with them in despair. And Erica’s wisdom shone so brightly that I couldn’t see the wizard working behind the curtain.

When you’re a writer, you look for the technique and especially, the crutches some of us use to make it snappy, sexy chick lit. Sometimes I even ask myself as I read books (even those by people I know and like), “How the hell did this get published?” Hey, I never said I was a liar…a bitch, sometimes, but a liar? Nuh uh. But I do keep it to myself!

You’d think that a great author would make a fellow writer feel jealous…Inadequate. Not me. I love books too much. I want aspire to my favorite authors, without trying to be like them. They energize me to write the best to my ability, to write down to the bones of my characters. (I’m not sure who coined that phrase but it wasn’t me.) I’m always looking to read new books to get inspiration and ideas. One of my friends even showed me a website that has so many book recommendations on it, so I’m excited to find even more books to read.

While I try to think of a diplomatic way to decline my endorsement of books I don’t like without hurting the author’s feelings, I want to share my favorite passage from Do They Wear High Heels in Heaven? by Erica Orloff (Red Dress Ink, Oct. 2005).

We shifted gears instantly. Real friendship is like the tide. It ebbs and flows, it fills the little trenches we build in our hearts. It finds our holes and fills them, then it seeps down deep. It washes up starfish and shells and magical things that we get excited about, like pieces of sea glass. And it washes up seaweed and man-o’-war and ugly things we’d rather have stay in the sea. It cleanses, and it goes on forever.