Joe Konrath Is A Genius…

Joe Konrath is a genius. Some may argue with me about that, but I don’t care. Joe Konrath is a genius.

Let me go ahead and say upfront that I don’t know Joe Konrath personally. I’ve never had a conversation with him live or on the phone or through Facebook or any other social media. Joe Konrath could be the biggest jerk on the planet, but I don’t know that. He could be the nicest guy on the planet, as well. Again, I don’t know that, because I don’t know Joe Konrath.

But I do follow his blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. There hasn’t been much to follow here lately because, well, Konrath has been writing. That’s what writers do.

Write.

Painters paint. Athletes play sports. Lawyers practice law. Doctors practice medicine. Cops practice safety and justice and catching bad guys. Judges rule on cases. Politicians… well there are exceptions to every rule. Garbage men pick up the trash. Mechanics work on various vehicles. Engineers build things. The military protects us. That last one is massively important, and to get off topic for a second: If you know someone in the military, thank them. If you see someone in uniform, take a second to say thank you. Trust me, they won’t mind.

Back to what I was saying… err… typing.

Each year Konrath does his New Year’s Resolutions for Writers. This year was no different, though he only posted one new resolution. Upon reading them all (dating back to his first one in 2006) I saw things that I agreed with, things that I have done, things that I have said or thought. Let me give you a couple of these:

I will finish every story I start (2006)… yeah, I have failed at that. Miserably.

I will refuse to get discouraged, because I know JA Konrath wrote 9 novels, received almost 500 rejections, and penned over 1 million words before he sold a thing–and I’m a lot more talented than that guy. (2006)… I wouldn’t say I’m more talented than that guy, but talk about perseverance. Basically, this means never give up, folks.

I will stay in touch with my fans. (2007)… This is the one I really enjoy. Hearing from a fan is great. Hearing that someone enjoyed your work is a good feeling. It provides encouragement and gives you a bit of resolve to continue pursuing your goal. So, if you like my work, feel free to drop me a line in the comments section or at my e-mail address: theunderwriter36@gmail.com. As a writer, I love hearing from folks.

I will help out other writers. (2006)… In every business you have those who do for themselves and take for themselves, but don’t offer to help others or give to others. The writing community, though large in and of itself, is broken down into families based on the genres they write in. There is your Sci Fi family, which I liken to The Big Bang Theory. There is the Fantasy family and Romance family. There’s your uncle in the closet, the Bizarro Family (which also is one of your funnier, less inhibited families). There is the Lit-Fic family, The Poets (yes, they just go by The Poets, no family added to the end there). The list goes on and on and on because there are so many genres and sub-genres. I belong to the Horror Writers Family and it is a very tight-knit group. We watch out for each other and airtight bonds are formed after just a few conversations. Sure, we have our quacks as well, but the vine that is the horror writers family is not easily severed.

Any horror writer will tell you that things are tough in this genre. The editors are tough and it is extremely hard to get published by reputable publications. It’s also very easy to be cliché and very hard to be original. It’s a tough market. Horror writers, for the most part, are very good about helping each other out, giving advice, helping with editing or beta reading or informing each other about the markets our there or just encouraging each other.

Every year I make this one of my goals: to help other writers in some way or shape. Interviews or pimping their wares or trying to help boost the confidence of others. That’s the one thing I do fairly well. If you’re a horror writer, help someone this year. It will make you feel good, knowing that you did, not only for yourself, but for someone else as well.

I will not get jealous, will never compare myself to my peers, and will cleanse my soul of envy. (2006)… How many of us fail here? Raise your hands. Come on. I know I’m not the only one who has failed at this. Many writers are competitive exhibitionists. Go ahead and laugh, but it’s true. We have to be a little bit exhibitionists to just put our work out there. But, so often we see others do well and we’re like, ‘Really? He got published by them?’ We spend more time being frustrated that we didn’t get published by someone that published something from another writer that we think is not as good as us, that we forget all about what we should be doing: writing. Wow, that was a bit of a tongue twister.

Keep an Open Mind. It’s easier to defend your position than seriously consider new ways of thinking. But there is no innovation, no evolution, no “next big thing” unless someone thinks differently. Be that someone. (2007)… This is me. This is the way I view writing. I choose not to write like everyone else on purpose. Forward thinking and all that jazz aside. I don’t like all the action, action, action stories with very little build up or characterization, so I don’t write that way. I write my way. You want the next big thing? You’re reading him.

Find Your Own Way. Advice is cheap, and the Internet abounds with people telling you how to do things. Question everything. The only advice you should take is the advice that makes sense to you. And if it doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to ditch it. (2007)… I especially like ‘the question everything’ part of this. I do that and probably too much, but not everything (meh, not half of the advice given by writers and experts I find helpful). If you want to learn, you must ask questions. If you don’t understand something, ask questions. If you don’t agree with something, question it. If you want to know why the sky is blue, ask and someone might be able to give you an answer.

I Will Use Anger As Fuel (2008)… I’ve already done this… several times.

2011 gave two of the great ones for this day in the publishing world:

I Will Self-Publish and I Will Not Self Publish Crap. Here’s the problem with e-books. Anyone can publish a book online and call themselves a writer. That’s the truth. ANYONE. The key is to not just self publish, but to NOT self publish crap. There is too much out there that belongs on the bottom of shoes. Don’t do it. Don’t. Do. It.

There are so many other resolutions in there I can touch on, but some of them are repeats of others, just worded differently, probably because they are in different years.

All those things that Konrath says means absolutely nothing. But, A.J., you said he is a genius. Yes, I did. As a matter of fact, I think he is a super genius.

Why?

Simple:

Let it all Go. Spend your time working on your books. That’s the only thing that really matters, and the only thing you have control over.

Genius. It’s so simple it’s complicated.

Here’s what I take out of this: Be your own person. Don’t be afraid to try and fail. Don’t be afraid to try and succeed. Don’t. Be. Afraid. Believe in yourself, in your abilities. Above all else, let go of those things you can’t control.

We can’t control the markets. We can’t control the media. We can’t control the readers. We can’t control the algorithms that places like Amazon use to determine how to promote books on their site. We can’t control reviewers. We can’t control how many of our books sell.

In the grand scheme of things, we can’t control much. Writing every day. Reading. Editing our work to the best of our abilities. Submitting the work. Creating our own e-books for publication. Those things we have control over. It’s been said not to fret over what you can’t control. That is true. Let it go.

And write. Just write.

Until we meet again my friends…

P.S.: If Joe Konrath reads this, thanks for the resolutions–none more important than 2013’s… oh and you are a genius. And not the Wile E. Coyote type.

Motivation… and Ray Lewis?

Okay, before I get started today, I want to preface this by stating that this is NOT only about sports. Okay? Yes, a major part of this involves a sports figure, but it is also in relation to writing, which is what I do–or at least try to do.

Got it?

Good.

Now, onto the post…

I love sports. No, that doesn’t quite say what I want it to say. Let me see if I can make you understand: I LOVE SPORTS! Okay, do you understand? I can watch sports at any time of the day. As a matter of fact, I’ll be watching the Detroit Redwings in a hockey game at ten tonight and plan on sitting through the entire game. Yeah, I love the Wings. But, that’s not the point.

The point is this man:

That would be number 52, Ray Lewis. Not the guy getting laid out.

What’s so special about Ray Lewis and how can I relate him to writing? That’s an easy one:

Just in case you missed it: What time is it? Game time. What time is it? Game time. Do you see what Lewis does before every Baltimore Ravens football game? For those of you who don’t get it, he motivates his team, not only by running his mouth and pushing his players around during the pregame, but also during the game with his play, you know, like the one above where Dustin Keller got jacked up.

His teammates love him… and fear him. I would as well. Ray Lewis doesn’t let you slack off on any play and it doesn’t sit well with him when you do. He is one of the main reasons the Baltimore defense has been rock solid over the last decade.

Enough about that, let’s focus on what he is really good at: motivating those around him. When a player joins the Ravens, they go to the Ray Lewis School of Hard Knocks. In other words, Ray lets them know what HE expects of them. You do good, Ray lets you know. You don’t do good… yeah, let’s not discuss that here.

Now, what does this have to do with writing?

Writing is a goal driven type of thing. So are sports. We set goals for ourselves and we strive to reach them. The same thing with sports. The road is bumpy and hard and a lot of times we get discouraged. Sounds like an athlete to me. What I like about Ray Lewis is that he doesn’t allow his teammates to get too down on themselves. He motivates them to try harder and to not give up. He’s like a drill sergeant with some of his in game chatter and yelling. That’s not a negative thing. Why? Because his teammates respond to him.

As a writer, sometimes I need a motivator, someone who is going to tell me if I want to succeed I need to try harder, to study more, and to create better stories. Sometimes I need someone to say, ‘hey, damn good story you wrote.’ Other times I need someone to yell, “This is war and they’re the enemy.” (In the writing world, it’s very much like a war with how fierce the competition is for the few paying gigs out there.) And who better than to get me fired up than someone like Ray Lewis?

If I played for the Baltimore Ravens and Ray Lewis said, “Run through that brick wall. You can do it. Run through that brick wall.” You know what? I would try to run through that brick wall. I would believe I could run through it. And guess what? If I didn’t succeed and I landed on my butt after crashing into that brick wall, Ray Lewis could yell at me, “Get up, boy. Try again. Run through that brick wall. Run through it. Go. Go. Run through that brick wall.” I would get up and, damn it, I would run through that brick wall.

I would probably have a headache or a couple of broken bones afterward, but when I get motivated, I go through brick walls.

I want Ray Lewis to motivate me to write. I think if he could teach me the Ray Lewis dance and yell that it’s publishing time over and over, I would get pumped.

What time is it? Publishing time? What time is it? Publishing time.

Heck, I’m getting pumped just thinking about it.

Some of you are thinking: Ray Lewis scares you. That’s okay. Fear can make you a better person and who better to help you overcome that fear than Mr. Lewis, himself?

Sigh. I know Ray Lewis will never be like a writing coach to me and I can accept that. It was just a thought anyway, and really not even the main focus of this piece. The main focus is motivation.

It’s not enough to want to be a writer. It’s not enough to want to be a good or a great writer. It’s not enough to want to get published. It’s just not enough. The desire may be there and that may be all the motivation some folks need. But, when things aren’t going right and rejections are coming in a lot more often than acceptances, where’s the motivation come from?

Motivation doesn’t come just in an exceptional athlete yelling at his teammates. It comes in the form of having a story accepted somewhere (that’s always a start). Or maybe it’s in having someone tell you that you’re on the right track, but you need to work harder. It could possibly be someone who, like earlier this week for me, tells you they love your work and would like to read more. Talk about a confidence boost.

Or maybe that motivation could come from your significant other. My biggest supporter is my lovely wife, Catherine. There have been times over the last six years where I wanted to stop writing and even questioned myself about it. Catherine has been there each time to keep me going, keep that fire burning, so to speak. Without her constant encouragement, I would have quit a LONG time ago.

Just recently, in an online forum, someone mentioned how a woman’s fiancé didn’t support her writing. That saddened me. Then another individual, who I have been working with, made a similar assessment, stating something along the lines of, how could what she wrote interest someone. Of course, I’m taking her statement out of context, but it bothered me.

What if my wife said to me, “A.J., nobody will read this. Why would it interest anyone?” It would be a major smack down and would probably discourage me for a while. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened.

Having my wife’s support in my writing endeavors, no matter how much I succeed or how bad I may fail, is probably the most important thing for my writing ‘career.’ Because of her I want to improve on a daily basis. She is, without a doubt, my best motivator.

If you are a writer, I hope your significant other supports you. If you are the significant other of a writer, please encourage him/her–writing is tough and it’s a roller coaster ride that rarely slows down, much less stops. We need your support. We need your encouragement. We need you to yell at us from time to time and tell us it’s Publishing Time.

I may never have Ray Lewis as a writing motivator, but I have the next best thing: a wife who supports what I want to do. Okay, flip that. Ray Lewis, as much as I like him, is second fiddle to my wife supporting me. Sorry, Ray… Please don’t hurt me or hit me like any of these guys: