Lessons learned – VanderMeer’s Booklife

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Last week I finished reading Jeff Vandermeer‘s Booklife. This is a guide for writers that focuses on lifestyle and the business of writing, things like keeping motivated and how to publicise your work, rather than writing technique.

I knew I was going to find a lot that was useful in this one. I’d originally picked it up from the library and got twenty pages in before I knew I needed my own copy, to dog-ear and scrawl notes across, to mark pages with post-its and crease the spine back while I poured over the most useful pages. Because for me, books are like childhood teddy bears – the best ones don’t get kept in pristine condition, they get loved nearly to death.

It’s hard to sum up what I learned from this book, or even pick out favourite bits. There was so much that pushed me to think about the fundamentals of a writing lifestyle, sometimes succinctly pulling together advice I’d heard elsewhere, sometimes offering new insights and tactics. To be honest, I ended up feeling almost overwhelmed, these was so much to think about.

But if I’m going to pull out one lesson, it’s the importance of planning. As I touched on on Friday, my approach to this blog and to publicising my work has been haphazard at best, as has my thinking about what to write and where to send it. I should have known better – I’ve worked as a professional project manager – but somehow I never properly applied those skills to my writing life. Until I read Booklife I wasn’t applying that to many significant areas. Heck, I still haven’t applied it yet – that’s the thing about a planned approach, you can’t apply it until you’ve had time to do that planning.

A lot of the content of Booklife is ahead of what I need at the moment. Some of it’s ahead of what I can use. But it’s useful to know that that information’s on my bookshelf when I need it. Like any advice, I’ll pick and choose, adapt it to my own situation. But there’s a lot there of value, and even if it just helps me to plan better it’ll be worth it.