I think I first heard of the person “Chelsea Hodson” via the Twitter medium via a mention by @janeysmithkills. Given that I rarely trust anything that Janey Smith says, I wasn’t sure about this Hodson person. But she’s a writer and an editor and had a chapbook published by Swill Chidren, which is one of the best micropresses around. I also like this Book Report she wrote on Seneca. I have come to trust/like Chelsea Hodson, but not Janey Smith necessarily.
— Chelsea Hodson (@ChelseaHodson) January 31, 2014
Agree or Disagree?
Because there’s a lot of advice here, I’ll go through a few of the points, the ones that moved me to action. Here’s the first–
Work. Be relentless. All over the world, people are working harder than you. Don’t go to events; go to the receptions after the events. If possible, skip the receptions and go to the afterparties, where you can have a real conversation with someone.
Agree, but not. This starts off by talking about working, but then moves into networking under the heading “work” which is the part I disagree with. That advice is part of “the work” but is it actual work? I don’t know. I agree with networking in general, I’ve come around to it I think, but not under the heading of “work.” But the caveat, I don’t live in New York, so I think the parties and the afterparties are more important there and maybe in LA too or maybe Portland, most other places book parties are awkward affairs with old ladies wanting to get their hardcover signed so another old lady can buy it from them on eBay. In those parties, I try not to go at all, I’d rather go to a party where books aren’t discussed or if they are, your book is discussed and then people will read it and love it because you are the only author they’ve ever known, and yours will be the only book they read that year. Go to those parties.
Money. Learn to live on air. Buy the best health insurance you can afford. If you have roommates, work in the library. Run and do calisthenics instead of paying for a gym membership. Invest in ear plugs, good sneakers, and a coffee machine. Buy oatmeal in bulk. Learn to cook simple, nutritious meals. Save and eat leftovers. Cafes are a waste of money, calories, and time; leave them to the tourists. Buy books used, perform periodic culls, and resell them. Wasting money on clothes is the stupidest habit of all. You will only ever need two good outfits.
Agree. On all of it, good stuff.
Health. Stay healthy; sickness is a waste of time and money. Smoking or overeating will eventually make you sick. Drinking and drugs interfere with clear perception, which you will need in order to make good work. It may be worth paying for psychotherapy sessions now instead of paying for inpatient treatment next year; see someone in-network.
Agree. Sickness is a waste of time and money, I hate it, except it helps me read more, because then I get through a novel, anything really, and that inadvertently helps my writing or at least helps me accomplish other goals.
Friends. Avoid all messy and needy people including family; they threaten your work. You may believe your messy life supplies material, but it in fact distracts you from understanding that material, and until you understand it, it is useless to you. Don’t confuse users, hangers-on, or idols with friends. If a former friend asks you why you don’t have time to see him or her anymore, say your existing responsibilities have made it impossible to socialize as much as you used to. Cutting someone out with no explanation is an insult that will come around.
Disagree. It’s important to make sacrifices I think for people, to love others beyond yourself, and the fact is that people will always get in the way of your writing, and the messiness does add to interesting characters. Messiness also forces you to think outside of yourself which I think is important for writing, any type of writing, to think about other viewpoints, the audience, who would buy this product, who would watch this movie, who would read this book.
Dignity. Don’t respond to personal attacks, either aloud or in writing. Don’t respond to criticism outside the letters section of a magazine that routinely publishes responses to criticism. When asked an ignorant question, take it as an opportunity to educate the questioner; compassionately explain his error in judgment or perception.
Agree. This is probably the point from Manguso that I like the most. The key is “personal attacks.” Criticism to your writing is fine, I think it’s great, and if someone wants to talk about style or plot or something or the way you phrased a headline, go for it. Don’t seethe that stuff. Compassion is also important, writers are often misunderstood (really) and everyone thinks they can do it, except when you hand them the pen or the keyboard and they don’t know where to start. But compassion–yes, I’m for it, though I’m not always the best at practicing it, I’m for it.