To celebrate next year’s release of my first science fiction novel, The Curiosity Killers, I will be posting my responses to the Confessions of a Writer Tag survey (http://nicoletteelie.com/2015/10/02/the-confessions-of-a-writertag), with a few responses to each of the twenty questions parsed out over October and November interspersed with other news and events.
1. What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?
One of my thesis advisors told me once to focus on one thing at a time, as I’m a habitual multitasker and overextend myself in all areas of my life. As a result, it was hard to get anything done with too many works in progress and too many obligations generally. I’ve learned to better zero in on what’s most important and try hard to get that completed before moving on to the next thing. I now have a color-coded priority list of my writing projects and am doing better with putting some pieces on the back burner. I’ve also learned to say “no” in other areas of my life and understand that to really master your craft, sometimes you have to let go of being the best at absolutely everything in your life. I can be a fabulous writer, but I probably shouldn’t also take up the trombone and expect to be great at that as well. I also probably shouldn’t volunteer to add extra things to my plate unless I’m sure I can devote reasonable time to them. A lot of a writer’s life is time management and prioritizing. When I was finishing the first draft of The Curiosity Killers, I was working full-time, teaching two college classes, and taking three graduate classes. I never sacrificed sleep, but I sacrificed a lot of leisure time. For the overscheduled writer, learn to take tiny breaks and soak up as much joy as you can from them, because they may be few and far between.
2. What advice would you give to another writer?
Perseverance is half the battle. If you really want to be good and successful, don’t give up. Things will happen that discourage you, but if you put your focus on your own work, try to make it high quality, and don’t compare yourself to others, you will likely find a lot of satisfaction. Also, don’t go into this thinking you’re getting a six-figure, 1970s-style multi-book deal. Money shouldn’t be your endgame, nor should quitting your day job. That era is gone, if it ever existed. Carve out a niche for yourself among your peers, among people who like the kind of stories you tell, and with publishers who believe in your work, and keep at it. Keep making it better. Keep taking the advice of people who’ve been doing it longer and whose work you admire on artistic merits. The saying used to be “Do what you love; the money will follow.” I think in the current state of the industry, it should instead be “Do what you love, get better, don’t stop, and you will achieve something with your work that will bring you satisfaction.” For some people, that satisfaction might come in the form of money, but for others, it might come solely from critical acclaim or respect from peers or students. And if you’re writing what you really believe in, that will be more than enough.