Reminder: Stop Comparing Your Career with Everyone Else’s

Living as a Writer series

This thread made the rounds during the holidays and garnered attention and comments by long time writers even during the whole RWA explosion. From what I saw, the reaction was nearly universal: you’re never too old, and stop comparing where you are to where others are. Their road isn’t your road.

This idea if you haven’t reached some milestone of success (in any endeavor) by age X (some arbitrary number usually less than 35) is an idea we need to resist and resist hard.

Everyone’s journey is different. Everyone’s life circumstances are different. I think we all know this, yet so many of us, myself included, fall to the trap of wanting someone else’s success.

I’ve been writing since I was in high school but publishing was out of reach until recently. I know I couldn’t have written the novel I just turned in at any earlier stage in my life. I didn’t have the experiences that make up the book’s subject and themes. I didn’t have the skills, nor the opportunity to gain those skills until recent years.

But that’s my journey. Rebecca F. Kuang and Samantha Shannon wrote stellar books before they were twenty-five. Each of their journeys is unique. N. K. Jemisin didn’t find success until her forties. Her journey is unique.

It’s easy to see the success of others and wonder why we’re not having ours at the same time. But embrace your individual journey. It’s unique; it’s yours, and your books will reflect your unique life and be better for it.

Creative Recharge

We’re at that time of year many of us find hectic and demanding. Then we flow right into the new year and feel pressure (external or internal) to make resolutions and changes. All of this can harm you, for real. It can also beat your creative energies into submission so deep you won’t see them until April. What’s a creative writer to do?

If you can follow advice such as slow down, take everything one minute at a time, breathe and make mindful choices, go ahead, maybe all you need is a reminder to do those things. But what about the rest of us? I’m no therapist, but I’ve found a few concrete things that work for me.


First, I keep to my health routine. Sure I eat more than I should during the holidays, but I don’t eat everything that looks good. I pick the things I enjoy the most. If I overdo so much I feel guilty, then my creative energy suffers. I exercise according to my normal schedule. Those endorphins feed creativity.

That Mindfulness Thing

A lot goes into living a mindful life, but the element I try to stick to is being single-minded in purpose and task. We can’t do everything. Multi-tasking is a proven a fallacy. It’s time-slicing. Think about that. We only have so much time, and when we think we’re multitasking, we’re just dividing that limited time into smaller and smaller chunks. Concentration goes up the chimney. One task, one focus. I get more tasks done and they are better quality. I do this all the time, but the end of the year and start of a new one invite disruption and I have to guard actively against it.


As I’ve written before, reading fires creative synapses as well or better than anything else. Make time to read. Retreat to your favorite spot and enjoy a good book, story, or collection of poems. I can’t read more than a paragraph without ideas flowing.


Finally, if you have a creative work routine, keep it. I may not work as many hours, and I might skip a day or two, but generally, I keep writing. I do it not because I’m working toward a deadline (though I have deadlines) but because I love writing. Writing is my creative release AND my creative regeneration. Writing today makes me want to write tomorrow.

Enjoy the season. Allow it to rebuild and restore your creative self. Don’t let it dictate your actions and knock you down.

How do you keep your creative writing life active and energized through the holiday season?

Never Too Old to Write

Living as a Writer Series

One thing among many NaNoWriMo is good for, is starting that book you’ve always meant to write. You get the pep-talks, a community of encouragement, and guided writing sprints. Whether you succeed in writing 50,000 words, a full month dedicated to the effort of writing can be enough to kick-start a writing life.

Adopting a writing life can happen at any age. The thirty-under-thirty lists are great but as a reader, I also want the fifty-over-fifty list. I want books written by people who’ve lived long and interesting lives. Books are memories shared. I want to re-live someone else’s memories even made up ones in a novel.

Anyone who can write can become an author. There are no qualifications to being a novelist. You need not be young, or older. You also don’t need any special tools. You can write by hand or on a computer, on an ancient typewriter, or a smartphone. The only requirements to writing a novel are:

  • Have a story to tell
  • Write all of it

So if you have a story, write it. Someday you may write a novel, and if you start now, someday is today. Even if you just start NaNoWriMo today you can be part of the communal effort and launch your writing life. Those ten or twenty thousand words you write between now and December first are ten or twenty thousand words you won’t have to write later.

Are you ready to start your writing life?


Surviving NaNoWriMo and ignoring the FoMO

Living as a Writer Series

November is nearly upon us and with it all the tweets, blog posts, and Facebook chatter. There’s a belief that everyone has a novel in them. That may be true, but it may also not be true for you this year; this November.

You don’t have to take part in NaNoWriMo

I know. That’s practically heretical to say to writers, particularly early writers just finding their way. I’ve done NaNo four times and won it four times. If you’re ready for it, by all means, do it. It’s a great experience. I plan on doing it again this year. But you know yourself. You know if you’re ready, or if you even want to write a novel. Don’t let the Fear of Missing Out push you into a miserable slog that leaves you feeling like you’ve failed. Writing is hard enough and there are plenty of ways to feel like a failure.

You don’t have to write a novel

Sure, it’s called National Novel Writing Month but there are no writing police checking to see if you’re really writing a novel. If you want to participate but don’t have a novel, you can do other things.

Last year I wrote a collection of short stories. I used all the collective positive energy, writing sprints, and write-ins to write 50,000 words of short stories. I had enough that I’m still editing and submitting them to markets.

You can edit a novel instead of write one. Count the words you review and edit, then put it in NaNo’s tracker. You can still win the month.

A word about winning NaNoWriMo

Officially you ‘win’ NaNo if you write 50,000 words in November. I think that sells a writer’s work short. If you make a real effort and only get 20,000 or 10,000 words, did you really lose the month? No. Chances are you wrote more than you usually do in a month. Those are words written. Words you no longer need to write. That’s a win.

How will you spend November?