Protect Yourself

February 23, 2011 at 10:09 am (Random Thoughts)


One of my idols and mentors, Jenny Crusie, has a fabulous article called Taking Out the Garbage: How to Protect Your Work and Get Your Life. (I like to paraphrase it as Protect the Work.) Please–read it, bo0kmark it, print it out, but you’re fine for now because you get the jist of it.

Protect the work. Simple enough? I thought so.

Well, that used to be Rule #1 on Pam’s list of Writing Rules, but recently it’s been bumped down the list and here’s why. The past 4-6 weeks, I’ve had some fascinating conversations with a couple of my writer friends about all of the shit out there and how it’s been flying at them like sharp and painful needles to a magnet. (And I’d be lying to say this hasn’t affecting me from time to time as well.) Think about it–in the cyber world alone, there are bad reviews, announcements books being sold before yours or with the same premise as the one you’re pitching, irritating tweets, snarky or snooty FB posts, rude blogs and the list goes on. (And those don’t even count well-meaning or bitchy friends and family who love to ask about your writing, having no clue about the path we tread every day.) Sometimes, it’s just  too much, and all of those updates, squees and pithy little comments can wear us down like a fire hose blasting against a brick wall.

So, here was my advice to them, to me, and to anybody who has felt this way (be it web-based or not):

Protect yourself.

If the web is making you feel like shit, turn it off or go to a happy site (Cake Wrecks, the LOLCat network, FunnyorDie, or anything else that floats your boat). If somebody on Twitter is constantly making you question your writing or your process or your state of Zen, consider un-following them or skip their posts. If a blog gives you a lovely sensation of burning acid in your gut, for God’s sake, take it off your Google reader list! Trust me–you’re not going to miss out on anything and once you build your self/spirit/protection back up, you can look again. Judiciously. Sporadically. Football players don’t go out on the field without pads. Why should you throw your psyche into the brawl of publishing and writing without its own protection?

And here’s step two of my prescription: Take some time for you. The publishing and writing world is always going to be there. It’s always going to be changing and it’s always going to feel like it’s against you, so the answer is not throwing yourself into it further and risking more harm. Go outside or to a different room in the house or to a fun new restaurant and just have fun. Be. Enjoy. Remember what it’s like in another world and take some deep breaths there. Those of us fighting the same fight will be here when you get back and ready to support you, same as always. But we want you happy. Healthy. Sane.

Well, maybe sane is pushing it…



  1. montana (curtbooks) said,

    Best advice ever.

  2. Karen Pinco said,

    So true.
    As you know, I’ve had to dial it way back and bow out for a bit (family stuff).
    But last week I actually cracked open the manuscript file and looked at that WIP again.
    Then a stomach bug hit along with a poorly timed detailed full rejection.
    So, I’m finishing up the ‘time for me’ and hope to jump back in the next few days wearing a helmet.

    Here’s a good happy site for you:

  3. coffeegirl88 said,

    Sanity? Sanity? I’m not familar with that word.

    Oh and to mention sanity then post a video of the Muppets doing In The Navy, I suspect you’re not particularly familiar either. 😉

    However, this post does sound a lot like what I’ve been doing lately. I’m getting closer and closer to actually putting words on paper again after what was a miserable couple of months. I’ve definitely got the story talking to me, I just need to find the mental energy to sit down and get to it. The fresh foot of snow we got this week hasn’t helped either.

  4. Marilyn Brant said,

    “Remember what it’s like in another world and take some deep breaths there.” (I needed to read that today…thanks, Pam.)

    I’m seconding Montana’s statement and sending you hugs — and more of those virtual sticky buns. Also, I’m here for you, you know…and definitely sympathetic to having those moments of sharp needles flying… xo

  5. Gail C said,

    Excellent advise, not just for your work life, but your personal life. Get rid of the negative, be it blogs, tweets, or “friends”. There’s just not enough time to dedicate to that which does not enrich your life.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    @Coffeegirl88, love your comment “I’m not familiar with that word.” I think if any of us were, we wouldn’t be doing what we do, but then again, maybe that’s what makes it so fun. A little crazy isn’t so bad.

    @Karen, didn’t know you’d been under the weather, hope you are feeling better!

  6. Pamela Cayne said,

    Montana–thanks, babe. 😉

    Karen–you’re writing and that’s awesome. And if you need help bedazzling your helmet, you know where to turn! 😀

    Coffee–you know neither of us are really into the sanity thing, true enough! Sorry you’ve had some licks, but the story is talking so they didn’t win. 🙂

  7. Pamela Cayne said,

    Marilyn–if anybody can teach a class in avoiding the needles, it’s you! (However, I won’t turn down sticky buns–virtual or otherwise!) 😉

    Gail–hi!! *waves frantically* Yeah, it’s hard to learn the lesson of leaving the negative behind, but so true! 🙂

  8. Caryn said,

    Well said! Publishing seems so vast that it feels like we have to read and read and immerse ourselves in so much information in order to know what we’re doing, but it’s possible to be *too* informed – especially if it takes away from our actual writing. I needed that reminder. I’ve been reading Twitter and Facebook and blogs way too much lately and just need to slow down for a bit. It’s easy to feel like you’re working when you’re studying agent blogs, for example, but writing is the *real* work.

  9. Caryn said,

    P.S. I just read the article. LOVED it! Thanks for posting it. She’s one smart lady.

  10. Robin said,

    I always appreciate your thoughts, Pam, and this advice is great. I’ve always struggled with all the social media stuff because I know I can’t keep up. That makes me feel bad, so I will sort of disappear, but then I think I’ll miss something. It’s a terrible cycle. So thanks for reminding me that the most important thing is me and what I’m comfortable with and what makes me happy. Writing makes me happy. ((hugs))

  11. Pamela Cayne said,

    Caryn–you hit it right on, we feel like we *have* to read that to stay ahead, when in reality, all it does is make us want to write less. And glad you liked Jenny’s article! 😀

    Robin–You got it! Do what feels right to you (like play with your puppy!!) and to heck with the rest! Write an awesome book and the rest will come. 🙂

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