Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Seven Deadly Sins of Writing

How can a writer be greedy? You write. You sell your writing. You make money from it. Where does the greed come in? Is it possible to make too much money as a writer? Well, I'm not talking about money here, not specifically, at least. When it comes to greed, a writer can be greedy by not being willing to pass along advice and tips to others who are trying to be writers. Admittedly a writer who has "made it" can't spend all of his or her time mentoring others, and maybe they don't have the time to blog or come up with a Web site about writing, but they shouldn't always shy away from questions asked them by those who have had less success. Because who knows? That kid at your book signing might turn out to be a big-time editor in ten years and he or she will remember if you snubbed them.

This might be the most common of writers' sins. Sloth. Laziness. Never getting things done that need to be done. We've all been there, right? You've always got something else to do besides writing. Walk the dog. Wash the car. Pay the bills. Play a video game. All of it is a temptation to keep us away from writing. Sometimes things have to be done instead of writing because those things are important, but often enough we're just looking for an excuse not to write. Maybe we're not in the mood. Maybe we don't feel good. Or maybe we're just being lazy. Write. And write everyday. Work out a writing schedule. And stick to it. That will beat the monster that is sloth.

Can a writer commit to sin of wrath, as it pertains to writing? Sure! At least verbally. How often have you seen or heard of one writer going out of his or her way to bash another writer? It happens all the time on the Web, especially among those who are still trying to be professional writers. Yes, there are certain writers I like and certain writers I don't like, but I try not to publicly bash any writers (though what goes on in e-mails and IMs is not for the general public). Not only is it taking the high road not to bash other writers, it's also smart. If you insult some big-name writer, they might hear about it and remember your name. Then a few years later that writer happens to be the editor of an anthology you're trying to get into. What's going to happen? You can guess. And it's also not smart to insult writers who haven't made it big. You never know, they might be next year's bestseller.

A little bit of envy can be a good thing. It builds competition. But envy taken to extremes can become dangerous. For on thing, a writer doesn't want to be so envious of another writer he starts to emulate that writers style. It will sound fake on the page, believe me. You need your own style, and if you don't have it now, you'll eventually work into it naturally. For another thing, a writer shouldn't become so envious of another writer that she tries to shoot that writer down publicly in an attempt to bring down someone who "has gotten too full of themselves." That's not your job, as a writer or as a human being. Anyone who thinks too much of themselves will eventually be brought down to Earth or they'll eventually die (hey, we all do whether you like it or not) and then won't be a problem any more. Badmouthing others just makes you look insecure, at best, and you don't need that type of reputation as a writer.

Pride is a sin a number of writer can be accused of, specifically a handful of writers who have made it into the big time as professionals. I won't name names, but the fans and readers know who they are. A bit of pride is a good thing. One should feel pride about their work. But pride taken to the point of arrogance is beyond silly, it's just stupid. No matter how well you write and how big your writing career becomes, you're still a human being just like everyone else. You still have to sleep, eat, go to the restroom, etc. Just because you've won an award or signed a book deal doesn't mean you're so hot you should look down upon others and treat them badly. Writing might be important, perhaps extremely important in your life, but it's not the only thing there is. And remember the old saying of "what goes around, comes around." Snub the guy working on your car, and he might tack on a few hidden fees to your bill. Be prissy with the girl in line in front of you at the store, and she might recognize you and go home and start a Web site about how awful a person you are. Honk your horn at the car in front of you, and it might turn out to be a friend or a family member.

To many, lust is the worst of sins, and that can apply to writers as well. How does lust apply to writers? Plagiarism. Stealing of another's work. When you like someone else's work so much you just have to have it and use it under your own name, that's partially lust (though sloth and greed and envy could apply as well). Plagiarism is one of the worst of writers' sins, even in this oh so modern age of the Internet. Writing is work. A writer owns his or her work (unless they've sold their copyright, that is). Using their work as yourself is stealing, plain and simple. Stealing out of want can be lust. Don't do it. If caught, you'll burn.

Gluttony is often thought of as eating or drinking to much, but that's only one form of gluttony. Some writers can be accused of eating or drinking too much, and sitting in front of a keyboard all day long doesn't exactly burn away the calories. This might seem a silly sin for writers, but it does apply. It suggests you need to take a break from your writing from time to time, though not necessarily a long break. A break of a few minutes every hour or so might be enough for you. Or perhaps you're one of those writers who produces in bulk, writing voraciously for several days, but then needs several days off. Either is fine, but give yourself some time away from writing. Yes, this will help to burn those calories, but it also can help to keep your mind clear. And as an extra note, there was a tradition among fiction writers (though it seems to be dying out today) of heavy drinking. You don't need alcohol to be a good writer, or even to be a writer. In fact, alcohol is much more likely to lead to bad writing. And in can kill you if not taken in moderation.

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