In some ways, we writers have the easiest jobs on the planet. We generally don't work outdoors in the elements. We get to be creative for large chunks of the day. And the wardrobe...hello, working in your pajamas all day, goodbye fitted khakis. And farewell annoying coworker who always, always eats fish for lunch. At his desk. Right next to yours.
Still, even writing for a living has its downsides. Besides not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from, you also have to learn to take really good care of your body. Because a broken, burnt out body/psyche aren't going to help your career.
I was recently asked to write a guest post over at Writing and Wellness on this very topic: how to take care of your health while writing full-time. I shared some of the tips and tricks that I use and hope you'll get some benefits from them.
Somewhere out there must be a writer who loves editing.
That person is not me.
Out of the entire book writing/outreach/administrative/publishing parts of writing, editing has to be my least favorite. I've tried everything I can think of to make the process smoother--even writing from an outline (I hate outlines and much prefer to follow the story as it unfolds), but nothing seems to make it easier.
As you can see from the photo above, I've now resorted to sparkly gel pens and highlighters along with tea and pumpkin-scented candles to keep me going. Whatever works, right? ;)
As I work on the edit of the next novel I'm struck by something: there is a "next novel." I am so blessed. Despite the angst I feel about editing, despite the fact that I'm not some huge, best-selling novelist, I get to write books. What fun! And some people buy them. Amazing!
Counting My Blessings
It's easy to get caught up in the why-can't-I-be-as-popular-as-that-author type thoughts, especially when you work alone day after day. I'm making it more of a point though, to count my blessings when it comes to work (and life in general).
What a thrill to be able to write for a living!
I've dreamed of this for years and years: when I worked as a receptionist; when I toiled as a vet tech; when I helped women in the clothes store pick out that "just right" dress; when I was employed for several years in human services where I worked as everything from a DUI program assistant to a case manager.
When you have a creative dream, do all you can to make it reality. Even if you work on it in tiny chunks (like say, writing a book in 15-minutes a day), keep going. Even when people make snide remarks about "getting a real job," keep going. Even when you're stuck in the 9-5 treadmill life, do whatever you can to move just a little closer toward your dream.
And hey, if you find yourself in need of a pep talk, drop me a line: jpcwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. I love talking with other creatives and may have a tip or two that will help you.
This weekend marked the 52nd Vermont Maple Festival. Perhaps you've heard of it? It's been featured in several prominent U.S. magazines and draws thousands from around the U.S., and even the world.
This celebration of all things maple is one of perks of living here in northwestern Vermont. In the past few days I've discovered the bliss that is maple syrup dipped French fries (wow!) and met some wonderful "neighbors" at the local craft show where I shared a table with two other awesome Vermont authors.
For the past few years fellow Vermont author, Beth Kanell, and I have shared a booth at the Maple Festival craft show. This year we were joined by a third Vermont author, Lori MacLaughlin.
Beth writes beautiful poetry and historical novels for the YA crowd (her newest has just come out, The Long Shadow, and I can't wait to read it!). Lori focuses on fantasy and writes entertaining and adventurous books that are hard to put down. Her newest book, The Road Once Taken, has just come out on Kindle and will be available in paperback very soon.
And if that wasn't enough, I also got to finally meet the wonderful, witty and completely personable Vermont author, Kathryn Guare, last week as well. We've chatted online before but it was lovely to meet her face-to-face and talk shop. The hour and a half we spent discussing plots and exchanging publishing tips felt like 20 minutes!
It's always a pleasure to join forces with other local authors. Do you like to read books based in your area? Why or why not?
Tell me the truth: when you read a poor book review, does it make you want to run out and buy the book anyway, or cause you to have second thoughts?
Like art critics, I believe that book reviewers can hurt authors. While reviews are important (how else will anyone online discover your work?), I choose not to write them for a few reasons. Here they are:
3 Reasons I Don't Write Book Reviews
1) Book reviews say, "I'm an expert," and I'm not. I think that two people can read the exact same book and one will leave the experience in love and the other will be wondering why they wasted those hours of their life. Who am I to say, "yes, read THIS book," or "no, don't read THAT book"? Reading tastes are so individual that it's impossible to predict whether or not someone will love or dislike the book that as a reviewer you tell them they "must read."
2) I hate reading things I don't want to. Just the thought of having to read something makes my skin feel itchy and my legs twitch. I did loads and loads of that in high school and college. I don't want to "have to read" anything. This is also why I have never joined a book group. I tried and failed.
Book reviewers often have lots of free books coming their way and they are expected to actually READ them. Shiver, shiver. My reading time is so limited that in the few precious minutes I do have, I want to focus on something that I love. Reading is an escape. It's hard to "escape," if you're reading something that you'd rather not be.
3) Reviews can hurt. I nearly gave up writing books a few years ago. I allowed a series of negative reviews online and in person at book events to really discourage me. I thought that I sucked as an author. "Maybe I should just give up," I thought. "There has to be better ways to spend all this time and money than on writing books that I put so much of myself into, only to have them criticized and belittled. Maybe I should take up extreme ironing. (Guys, it's a real thing.)
Anyway, after a long time, a lot of reflection, prayer and introspection, I eased back into writing novels. But my point is this: critical words hurt. It doesn't matter if you're a baby beginner or a stalwartly pro. Creatives are sensitive creatures (some more than others). Putting your work in the world, the work that you've put your heart into, that you've spent hours upon hours on is risky. One too many barbed comments or scathing reviews take their toll.
What I Do Instead of Writing Book Reviews
Rather than writing book reviews, I choose to write book recommendations. The biggest differences?
a) I only write these about books I really enjoy and
b) I follow Mom's rule: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."
With that said, though, I do like to write and verbally share book recommendations. Book recommendations are fun! I love making these and do so monthly in my newsletter for readers of suspense. I will also occasionally read something really good and then reach out to the author and ask if I can interview them here on the blog. I also often promote their work on Twitter or Facebook or a private suspense reading recommendation group that I'm a member of. It's a great way to share other authors great work, without writing traditional book reviews.
In the next post, I'm going to tell you more about some suspense reader review sites that I do enjoy. Just because I choose not to write reviews, doesn't mean that I don't like reading them...and enjoying the community that these review bloggers have created.
If you're a creative, you likely feel guilty when you take time "away" from "real life" to practice your art. This is an epidemic in the creative field and one that I am becoming more and more frustrated by.
Too few artists and writers and musicians have the luxury of doing their work on a full-time basis. When we talk about making our art as our career, it's often in awe-laced voices. Smile lines around the eyes deepen and a happy glow radiates from our faces. Phrased like, “Someday…" and “When I retire…" and “Wouldn’t it be wonderful …” are common phrases we too often mutter.
Why is the world set up in a way so that bankers and accountants and software engineers and business owners are lauded and given the head nod of approval, while those of us who create are told to “do it in your free time?” Where has the respect for art and creativity gone? Why do we as a culture no longer embrace the creative gifts the same way as we did in the Renaissance Period?
Maybe my view is skewed. I certainly didn't get enough sleep last night. Still, it irks me that creatives gifts are seen as “less than,” because our society views money-making endeavors as more important. But when did the dollar bill outshine the importance of creating? When did the banks become more important than the art galleries, and Wall Street more valued than creative expression?
When did we decide as a culture that working 40 or 50 or 60 hours a week in a cubicle or warehouse or office was more important than living a full life, one that includes creative expression and communication—not just as a “side hustle,” but as our life’s work?
This is one of the reasons that I recently joined Patreon. Unfamiliar with this community? It's a platform that allows art patrons to support artists and their creative endeavors. I've been thinking for joining for a long time, but that little voice in my head held me back.
"Who are you to think that people would want to support your writing?"
"Don't you think that people have more important things to spend money on?"
"Get over yourself. There is no way that you'll get anyone to take a chance on your work."
Of course, that sealed the deal. If I've learned one thing from that negative, critical voice over the years it's this: do exactly what it fears most.
So I created an account on Patreon. You can watch the video below for more information, or check out my page there right now.
I believe that creativity matters. I believe that people love books and stories. And I believe that my career as an author and writer will grow stronger with the support of a community.
Welcome to the website of author J.P. Choquette (pronounced, "show-kett"). Join the Reader Group and nab a free short story, along with the latest news, goodies, upcoming event announcements and more.
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