Monday, February 18, 2013

Twenty-five Things I Know For Sure About the Writing Life

by Saralee Rosenberg

This year marks my twenty-fifth anniversary as an author and how wonderful that the silver has not yet tarnished. Eight of my books have been published, (four novels and four non-fiction titles), and yesterday I finished HOTLINE TO HEAVEN, my first novel for younger readers.

Reinvent yourself or die!

In honor of my two and a half decades in the trenches, here are twenty- five things I know for sure about the writing life. The list is meant to remind both the emerging and the experienced writer that there may be a million other ways to make a living, but few that are as exasperating lol. I meant rewarding. And exasperating!

How do you spell rejection? A-B-S-O-L-U-T

So for what its worth, here is my best advice:

1.     Readers, reviewers, agents and editors are idiots unless, of course, they love what you wrote. Just kidding. They may not get you but they know what they like so listen and learn. You just might discover your book's fatal flaw.

2.     Read the how-to books and blogs, take classes and spend the summer in Iowa. But at some point just write the damn story and let your characters be your guide.

3.     If you breathe life into your characters, by page 50 you'll hear the natal heart beat. And that is the point they are big and strong enough to take the story in the direction you had no idea you were going.

4.     If your characters are not leading the way by page 50, you made a wrong turn.

5.     When nothing is going right, go left.

6.     Input and feedback matter, but not too soon. The rush for accolades and encouragement can destroy potentially great ideas before they've had time to percolate. Resist the temptation to ask for comments until you're on solid ground.

7.     Input and feedback matter, but only from the right people. Those with an agenda or who like/love you too much to be brutally honest are doing you no favors. You only need a few trustworthy, gentle readers to keep you in check.

8.     Admire other writers but don't aspire to be them. We don't need Richard Russo light.  Aspire instead to bring yourself to the party. We'd love to hear YOUR voice.

9.     Just when your story feels like it's falling apart it may actually be falling into place.

10. Have faith.

11.  You can't edit what you didn't write.

12.  The Internet is a time suck. You show me an author who is jumping between Facebook and a manuscript and I'll show you an author who is writing crap.

13.  Yes, yes. Crap sells. That doesn't mean you have to contribute to the shlock pile. Give us your absolute best work.

14. Enjoy elation when it occurs. Whether it's finishing a book, getting an agent, an advance, a deal, a great review, an award, an interview, making the best-seller list or just hearing from a reader who sings your praises, take time to be excited. You get nothing in writing that guarantees it will ever happen again.

15.  Take criticism but not disrespect. Anyone who is rude, dismissive or mean spirited is not worthy of your time and talent.

16. If someone turns you down, move on. Every door that closes brings you one step closer to the door that was meant to open.

17. Follow your instincts and trust that your ideas are coming from a higher place. A place that honors you.

18. Write daring. Your job is to disturb the Universe.

19. Care a great deal about your well being and that of your characters.

20. Dont waste time worrying about something that has not yet happened. There is a no-refund policy on time spent dwelling on the future. Worry only when a problem has presented itself and only if fixing the problem is within your power.

21. There are no such things as problems. Only opportunities to do things differently.

22. If you are writing to dazzle and impress then you should become a speech writer. Novelists will better serve their readers by telling stories that matter.
23.  Pushing to write a certain number of pages per day is like committing to driving a certain number of miles on a long road trip. You may arrive but you'll have missed the great scenery and possibly the turns that you should have taken.

24. Thank everyone you meet for whatever service, friendship or act of kindness they show you. This has nothing to do with writing, but an attitude of gratitude will lighten your load.

25. No matter what, if your blessings outweigh your burdens consider yourself among the very luckiest.

So that is it from the trenches. Happy writing. Oh and one last thing. Dream big! I did and it brought me to you.

Saralee Rosenberg


  1. Loved every word of this! Thanks, Saralee. I'll pass it around.

    And I can't wait to see HOTLINE TO HEAVEN in a store near me!

  2. Fun, fun, fun. I'm not sure which point resonated most in terms of truth, but number five made me laugh. Loved the visual.

  3. I adore this post, Saralee. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and insight. Congratulations on your 25th anniversary, and the finish of HOTLINE TO HEAVEN.

  4. Great advice, Saralee!! Here's to HOTLINE TO HEAVEN!!

  5. THANKS for the morning laugh with number 13 ("schlock pile"!), and I need to remember 14 and 25, especially when I'm having one of those days when I want to bash myself in the head with my laptop.

    Congrats on 25 years and Hotline to Heaven.

  6. Thanks for the great post, Saralee. Good advice, all. Number 12 resonated with me. The Internet is a terrible time suck (except this post, which is time well spent).

  7. Thanks! Numbers 3 through 6 are so true for me. As for number 12 ... I found this blog, didn't I...
    Good Luck with your latest release, Saralee.

  8. Love this post! So many great reminders. Especially loved 7 - "Input and feedback matter, but only from the right people." and 8 - "Admire other writers but don't aspire to be them."

  9. Thank you! Beautiful post. I'll need to read it again--and again!

  10. A very thoughtful list Saralee. Thanks. Your many years of experience show.

  11. Nice list. I'm going to say 14,15,17, and 18 are my favorites.

  12. Saralee, I'm seeing this late but I just wanted to say thanks for your wonderful post. And I could read #18 again and again ;).
    18. Write daring. Your job is to disturb the Universe.

  13. Congratulations on 25 years and the new book. Loved number 13 -- trying hard not to contribute crap to the reading world.

  14. Wao great! So its the actual secret behind your success and you got selected for cheap bibliography helper as you are best in it.Thanks for post.

  15. Writing is always a hobby of my. I write what I think. It's make me comfortable. I always want to write. Because it make me proud.

  16. Hi I am also a writer but you are the professional writer in my mind. I read your 25 topic carefully and I got help from your article. specially thanks to you click here to more info.

  17. It is great to know the limitations of yours as it could let you be work within your expectation like these 25 factors which you know. to get more tips and helpful guide on research papers writing.

  18. You have posted so well that I couldn't identify which one is the original post and which one is the related to this blog and your team did great on 3rd day of workshop too.

  19. Thanks for providing the short cut for reaching out at particular website .It has been a great help as now I don't need to find out any specific painting.