Thursday, February 03, 2011

Unplugged

"Please give me some good advice in your next letter. I promise not to follow it." - Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 - 1950)

About five years ago, I started reading writing advice blogs, websites and newsletters. I learned much about the publishing industry, how to get an agent, and the craft of writing. Over the years, the amount of on-line writing advice has exploded. Where there were ten, there are now hundreds. As I read these over a period of years, the information began to get repetitive. There are only so many things to say about character motivation and, despite the changes in the publishing industry, the basic components of the query letter remain the same.

Lately as I scanned these entries, I felt depressed. Did I really need to hear one more iota of advice? I tend toward melancholy anyway, and I decided to pay attention to the way these posts triggered an automatic downward spiral in my mood. I was on overload. It was time to unplug.

On January 14, 2011, I systematically unsubscribed from almost every blog feed and newsletter that had been making its way to my inbox. I kept my subscription only to those that seemed to feed my desire to write. Over the next few days, a few I'd forgotten showed up and I unsubscribed from those as well. By January 17, my task was complete. I opened my email inbox to find no one telling me the 5 ways to build conflict, the 12 things I need to know about e-books, or the one thing every writer needs to know to get a book contract. Whew! What a relief! I could feel the space opening between my ribs as I took a deep breath.

As a writer in an information age like none we've seen before, it is up to each of us to find balance. For now, the writing advice input switch on my inbox is turned firmly to the "off" position. Yours may be taped to the "on" setting. I'd love to hear how you manage the input and what you find helpful.