Friday, August 30, 2013

25 Things I Know For Sure About Writing and/or Life

By Saralee Rosenberg

This year marks my twenty-fifth anniversary as an author and I'm happy to report that the silver hasn't yet tarnished. Eight of my books have been published, (four novels and four non-fiction titles), and my new work-in-progress is a departure for me- a novel for younger readers called THE MIDDLE SCHOOL MEDIUM.

Indeed, one of the first rules of publishing fiction is to reinvent yourself or die! The second rule is to avoid exclamation points!!!!!!!!!

In honor of my two and a half decades in the trenches, here are twenty- five things I know for sure about writing and/or life. 

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.

2.     Read how-to guides and blogs, take classes and spend the summer in Iowa. But at some point just write the damn book.

 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 a writer who is jumping between Facebook and a manuscript and I'll show you a writer 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's it from the trenches. Happy writing. Oh and dream big! I did and it brought me to you.

Saralee Rosenberg


  1. Thank you once again for great advice and inspiration. You're a keeper!

  2. Such a beautiful list, Saralee! So many resonated with me--especially #23. Love it and will commit that one to memory. Many thanks!

  3. This is so solid. As I was reading it I kept thinking "Oh, that one. Oh, that one." So many that ones. I will come back to this to remind myself what matters.
    Thank you

  4. LOVE these... particularly 6 & 7, which seem to be bugaboos for so many writers I know. But #18 is my personal favorite... disturbing the Universe has always been a task I've taken very seriously! :)

    Thanks, Saralee... always good to share inspiration. We can all use it as a regular diet!

  5. Saralee,
    I loved every single one of these!! Thank you ;).
    p.s. This one is my fave:
    18. Write daring. Your job is to disturb the Universe.

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