Thursday, February 03, 2011


"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.


Anonymous said...

You have a good point about where you are in the writing process. I got into the agent/editor blogs about 1-2 years ago, so I haven't quite consumed all the information yet. It is starting to get repetitive, but now I'm taking a closer look at the different resources & contests some blogs offer. Just fun little things, but it's a way for me to take some chances.


Anonymous said...

I understand and agree, seems everyone has an opinion ... and that opinion may be good for them but not you. I admire that you have 'unplugged.' Just go with your gut. By the way, recently I read a couple of books that make me wonder how those books ever got published. Thanks for sharing your interesting information, you make me think!!!

Tania said...

Good point, and well said as always in your blog posts. I teach writing, as do you, and I keep myself informed, and there are always new things to discover or integrate. But there come's a point when a writer has got themselves well-educated on the craft and the biz, and they *can* get too hooked on all the resources and info. It's almost like hoping to uncover some new 'secret' I think ;-) When really it's time to knuckle down and do the job of writing. Of course, reading all the info is also an excellent distraction from the work. Thanks for the thoughtful read!

Sr. Hiba said...

Great idea! I agree with other comments I've seen in response to this. I can only add that I think sometimes our "overload" adds to what I call our "computer a.d.d." It makes us hyper instead of focused.

I always enjoy your blogs but this one is so practical and healthy.

Thank you.

Cathleen said...

Very well-said. . . . the brain becomes so saturated after awhile!

Stephanie said...

There are only so many hours in a day . . . .

Anonymous said...

More writing time!

Anonymous said...

Amen, sister.


I too got rid of many of my ongoing newsletters and posts that were guaranteed to make me a published writer! You're right. You can only read so many.
I've matured and grown with each new thing I've learned about writing and publishing. Now it's time for me to put everything I've learned to work.
I enjoy your newsletter and now your blog.
Check out my blog on WRITING: the ups and downs at
(I sat in on a lecture you gave at Central Ohio Fiction Writers and loved the fact that you love the work and advice of Natalie Goldberg. As far as I am concerned her books on writing are the very best. Blessings, Barb