As I do each summer, I’m taking a break from my weekly love letters and podcast. There will be no more new episodes in June or July.
Before I head out, I want to share my list of five things you can stop doing as a writer and wrap-up our series on agency.
And before I do that, I want to let you know that if you’ve been listening closely, you’re not wrong. There was supposed to be one more episode this month. Our book-club episode is still coming up and we will discuss Craft and Conscience by Kavita Das, but it will happen my podcast returns at the end of August. This is because I was able to book the author Kavita Das herself to talk about this essential book on writing about social issues and to create social change.
I really look forward to our conversation with Kavita Das about Craft and Conscience and hope you’ll tune in for that conversation.
This means there’s a bit more time if you’re reading along with us. Myself, I’m listening to the audio version and enjoying walking and mulling over the ideas. I know other members are also listening to it; it lends itself well to audio format as the collection started as a series of lectures in a writing course.
Other writers in our membership community have said they are taking good notes about how to approach social issues in memoir in particular.
If you’re just tuning into my podcast, welcome. I’m on a break, but back later in August as I mentioned. Pick up a copy of our book club read to join in the conversation, which will appear in this feed here in August. To catch up over the summer, I encourage you to listen to my recent episode series on agency for writers, starting with episode 73.
And if you’ve been here all along and reached the end of my series on agency, I hope right now you feel like you can write and publish in your own way.
I hope you know you can do the writing you feel most called to do and were reminded of this by all the conversations we had with writers who made their agent matches, writers working in their own form and own way, and literary citizens who worked in agencies and who want to foster relationships that help writers find their truths.
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When it comes to agency, I feel most intentional in my writing life (and life-life) when I say “no.” So today I will share from a recent love letter I wrote to writers subscribed to my newsletter. (By the way, you can also subscribe at rachelthompson.co/letters).
In it, I offered five things you can stop doing to bring more love to your writing life. Some are things I’m not doing, and others I’ve loved witnessing other writers not doing. So, here is what I encourage you to say Nope to…
🚫 Nope, to Writing how you’re supposed to write.
The edict to “write every day” and the tautology “writers write” are unhelpful, uncool, and ammunition for all the inner criticism inherent in a writing life. As if we can’t take a day (or a season or a decade) off until our minds and bodies can create. As if all writing feels the same or all writers feel the same as they write and face the same limitations or challenges in their process.
Write in your own time and way. That might be daily, monthly, yearly, on a retreat, on a full moon, at lunchtime, midnight, or early in the morning for a week (then catching up on sleep the following week). Your way might change and surprise you because it is different than it was before. Let it. Whatever you do, don’t follow a routine set by outside forces. Find your way and do it that way, imperfectly (see below for more on this).
🙅🏼♀️ Related nope
Also say nope to writing WHAT you are “supposed” to write. Skip the market-researched niche. Skip writing a book you think will sell. Skip avoiding the book you were meant to write because it’s “not marketable.” Nobody can predict markets; if they say they can, they are kidding you or themselves.
✨ Write what you want to write and how you want to write it. ✨
🚫Nope, to Building a platform that feels icky to you.
Last month I updated my Instagram for the first time in 18 months with a grid of things I’m doing off of social media, including this podcast. I updated it and then logged out, and I don’t plan to return anytime soon. Let me tell you, it took a full week for me to work on this, and it triggered both my anxiety and a weird rash on my neck. It reinforced all the reasons why I am not a regular user. I didn’t expect this little instance of use to throw me so much. However, I’m glad it did because it showed how important NOT doing social media is for me and my well-being.
I still believe that being seen and connecting with writers is essential. If you like how you show up on social media and enjoy your interactions—brilliant. Keep doing it. If you don’t, you don’t need to do it. Or, at least, you don’t need to do it like everyone else does. And you definitely don’t need to do it by learning all the algorithm tips and tricks.
✨Make connections and build your platform in ways that feel healthy and fun for you.✨
🚫Nope, to Taking “no” as a bad thing.
Recently, Lindsay Foran wrote me to say, “After taking the Lit Mag course, I was able to distinguish the tiered rejections and realized that sometimes a no can be a good thing!” (She also told me she longlisted for CBC’s short story prize this year!)
Why can “no” be a good thing? It means you’re writing and submitting! Beautiful! Plus, some qualified “no’s” mean you’re getting closer to publishing (or longlisting, as Lindsay did).
I often express my love for the game writers in my membership community play, Sink or Submit. This game of unclear origins—a friend of a friend of a member, Yolande, may have come up with it—gives you points for both submitting writing and receiving rejections. Then it takes them away when you get an acceptance. (Basically, it’s like if you win, you lose, and if you lose, you win. Clever and fun.)
✨ Instead of thinking no is a bad thing, give yourself a high five or a reward for doing the complete job of being a writer—the highs and lows. ✨
🚫Nope, to Being perfect.
Oh, my gosh, writers. I’m so imperfect in how I recover from perfectionism. First, with all the social media anxiety, I realized I couldn’t do a podcast episode this week; then, I had some hard feelings about being inconsistent and letting listeners down. Before then, I had a bout of insecurity around my editing work with Room; every task took twice the time it used to. Because, well, I am not the same person who used to push through all night to complete deadlines.
Sunlight disinfected my perfectionism relapse. I reached out to other editors at Room and realized I was just being normal and not failing. I also find all the perfectionism aphorisms helpful, like, “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” (Churchill, ugh.) “Fail again. Fail better.” (Samuel Beckett). Those guys were onto something here. Don’t do a perfect draft. Don’t do a perfect revision. Don’t strive for a perfect writing life if you want to grow and succeed.
🙅🏼♀️ Related nope
Nope, to valuing consistency over health. Nobody can be consistent if unwell. (Talking to myself as much as to you here.)
✨ In my experience, we can only really beat this together by talking about our “failures” and realizing they are just us buying into unhealthy standards. ✨
🚫Nope, to Getting into drama off the page.
The drama of daily relationships, bumping into all sorts of people and following all the intrigue of humanity is tempting, yet so disruptive and infiltrates precious mental space we need for writing.
For those occasions when I feel pulled into gossip or other senseless shenanigans, I have another aphorism, this one from Julia Cameron, “Keep the drama on the page.”
Yes, it is easier said for the more superficial relationships. Yet, I always smile when I think of my book mentor, Stan Dragland, reading my manuscript for Galaxy and remarking, “This mother character is very interesting.”
On the page, the drama was manageable, even funny. Off the page, it’s consuming to spiralling. So, I try to stay on the page.
✨ Keep the drama on the page as much as you can.✨
And that’s the list of five things. But there are so many more. You can say nope to anything you’re ready to stop doing listed above. Or, let my list prompt you to think of what else you can let go of right now.
Then just say nope.
I hope you feel you can say “nope” to with confidence to whatever doesn’t foster creativity and joy, and that your nope-list includes taking rejection and requests for revisions from editors personally. And I hope you can call on your inner agent when you’re having doubts about your writing.
Thanks also to the team of brilliant folks who help out with my courses and podcast behind the scenes, including sound editor Adam Linder, transcriber Diya Jaffery, our support team in the Writerly Love Membership community—Lyndall Cain, Ellen Chang-Richardson, Tamara Jong, Mridula Morgan, and Kimberly Peterson—and big LOVE and gratitude to our community facilitator, Meli Walker and a little extra love for Lyndall especially, as I accidentally left her off of the gratitude note in my last letter. File this under errata.