Guest Blogger R.L. Saunders: Things That Happen to Writers (and how to deal)

free adviceDo you love writing? More than almost anything? Possibly more than Doritos and wine for dinner?
     Did you recently decide to start calling yourself a writer (out loud) after years of contemplation and writing lots and reading lots and teaching (English, maybe) and/or working in a library or book store and/or writing for newspapers and magazines and/or getting an MFA or some such writer-type behavior?
     Have you spent the last several months or years reading publishing news and writing advice?
     In the name of industry research, do you regularly cyberstalk authors, agents, and editors?
     Do you fully understand what a long shot traditional publication is, but secretly believe you’re an exception, because who knows, maybe you are?
     If so, I don’t have any specific writing advice for you. Sorry about the buildup.
     But I do want to tell you to stick it out for as long as you love it. If you love it, deeply and genuinely, keep at it even when ugly but normal things happen that nobody likes to talk about–things that make you feel like the ousted mayor of Schmucklandia because you’re too big a loser even for the town where all manner of frauds and talentless hacks go to die.
     Normal things that happen to most writers:
  •  You’ll sometimes feel like a joke nobody gets, and not because it’s a smart joke.
  •  You’ll sometimes feel embarrassed about the stupid shit you say and write while you’re learning how this publishing thing works (see: this). There’s a lot to know and it’s always changing. Forgive yourself and keep learning.
  •  You’ll feel (and be) perpetually ignored, especially at first while you’re trying to build yourself into a circle of writers you’re sure are your people. Some people you admire and were positive you’d like will turn out to be dicks. But some will turn out to be your greatest allies and writer friends. Adjust accordingly. Do not turn into a dick.
  • You’ll experience several dozen fucktons of rejection at every level.
  • There will always be people–even friends and family you love and respect–who just don’t get what you’re doing. And some won’t understand what the big deal is, even if you get an agent or a book deal or twenty book deals. Oh well. You’re not doing it for them.
Reminders for writers:
  • If you choose, over and over, to make it about the journey–about the writing–instead of about “making it” (which is a moving target anyway) you’ll be okay. You’ll be happy, even.
  • Stay humble. Keep growing.
  • So much is outside your control. Try to laugh about that at least as much as you cry. A 60:40 laugh to cry ratio seems healthy.

And remember that there’ll always, always be evil assgadgets who get something from malicious criticism of those who have the audacity to go after seemingly impossible dreams. If you die trying, you’re a thousand times braver than they are, which is probably why they hate you so much. Unless they’re paying your bills, fuckem. Do what you love.

Headshot RhondaR.L. Saunders writes young adult and middle grade fiction. She lives in Key West, where her well-received column in Key West, the Newspaper ran for five years. Saunders was Assistant Professor of English and Humanities at Northwood University, and developed and directed their writing center. You can find her online at and @rl_saunders.


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20 responses to “Guest Blogger R.L. Saunders: Things That Happen to Writers (and how to deal)

  1. Rick Boettger

    Rhonda, you are So. Damn. Smart. Thanks for sharing your whizzicky brain and sass with us.

  2. Ha! 60:40 is definitely a ratio to aspire to!

  3. As usual, you are genuine, witty, poignant, and honest. Thanks for sharing this important reminder and absolute reality check. Your last paragraph struck a very personal chord and is so true: those who dare to take a chance, to dance outside the lines, will (quite often) invoke the wrath of those too scared to chase their own dreams. Thanks for this!

  4. I think you’re really cool. Fucktastically awesome. I’d love to meet you…I don’t think either of are dicks, luckily. Or assgadgets. xxoo

  5. Mark McClure

    I’m proud to know you. I get 35% of my motivation from you and your blogs always find their way in; I can always relate in one way or another. We can all tell that this is your passion. If anyone has trouble seeing that this is the case, they haven’t seen true passion before.

  6. I’m pretty sure I’m not a dick, but people who are probably think the same thing. Regardless, I will never ignore you, you’re too awesome! Great post!!

  7. I love the screwy crap you write. It’s funny, smart, genuine, kind, and laced with some of the most fucktastic potty mouth around. (See: this.) Thanks for keeping at it, in spite of the assgadgets.

  8. Richard J. Niedzwiecki

    We are ever so proud of you and your accomplishments. Your unwavering tenacity and quality of writing is second to none. Also the tremendous balancing act of managing your family, your home(s) and their education is very inspiring. KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK

  9. Pingback: Publishing is hard. Don’t let this process turn you into a dick. | R.L. SAUNDERS