Writer’s Resolution 2023: Mounting An Aggressive Defense

(If you’d care to read last year’s 2022 resolution — here ’tis.)

This year’s resolution is simple on the surface, if difficult to implement:

Be vigorous in your defense of your work.

Now, already I want to be clear that I don’t mean “defend it against bad reviews” or “against healthy criticism” or “editors” or whatever.

So, let’s unpack what I do mean.

As a writer, everyone wants a piece of you. They treat the act of writing as an unserious endeavor, failing to see it as the result of the three corners of art, craft and work. It’s something anyone can do, they think. You’re replaceable. None of this matters. And so on. But writing does matter, we know. Writing goes into everything. Writing is bricklaying — it holds up the world. The stories built from the written word can change the world, too. Maybe not the whole world, but often, one person’s world. And that ain’t nothing.

But I don’t know that everyone… agrees with that? Or understands that? And I think there’s a very real threat against writers that comes from all directions. People want your time. They want to take your place. You are the singular summation of your experiences and have stories to tell, but sometimes people want you to tell a different story — one better designed to sell books or one that is simply someone else’s story that they want to put in your mouth. And this is definitely the year where I feel like I’m hearing from a lot of writers who are feeling somewhat beaten down by all of it — by others’ estimation of writers, by the industry, by the doom of Twitter, by just the pandemic in general. They feel taken advantage of, in some cases. They feel whittled to splinters.

So, I think this is a good year to dig in your heels a little.

It’s a good year to ensure that you take the time to write when you need to take that time. And also to carve out a place — a literal place! — for yourself to write, be it a room, a desk, a kitchen table, a shed, whatever, wherever.

It’s a good year to worry less about killing your darlings and instead start to learn what hills you’re willing to die on.

It’s a good year to think about what you want out of this career — what matters most to you, what stories you want to tell, you must tell — and to seek out those desires as if you deserve them. (Because, spoiler warning, you do.)

It’s a good year to make sure you’re not sacrificing things to anyone (publisher, family members, whoever) just to further their needs and not the needs of you, your stories, your career. Don’t let them ding your future. You deserve to get paid. You deserve your rights. You deserve to have your voice heard.

It’s a good year to make sure we stop believing that writing and storytelling is just some precious privilege and you’re so lucky to be doing it that you should be willing to give everything up just to be allowed to stay near to it.

It’s a good year to understand your power and to hold onto it.

To express it when you can, or when you must.

Again, this is not an exhortation against criticism or review or editorial oversight. It is not to say your story is so good it must be published and damn anyone who doesn’t listen. This is not to say you are a perfect being with perfect stories. This is also not a refusal to compromise. Compromise is vital. Writing, even when it’s just you, is a collaborative act in a sense, and there will be compromises that must must must be made to improve the work at hand.

Rather, this is all a reminder that you do this thing because you love it, because you have stories to tell. And it’s a reminder that people will try to take a little of your magic away for themselves — and that this can come from people in your life, it can come from big licensed intellectual property machines, it can come from publishers, it can come from whoever and whenever, and it’s important to know when it’s time to say no, when it’s time to say I deserve better, when it’s time to demand respect in service to your art, your craft, your work. In a sense, this is sometimes about good relationships — and you’ll know when you’re in one because they’re going to join you in this defense of the work. That could mean a spouse, an editor, an agent, whoever. They can still challenge you, but that challenge is about bringing the best version of yourself and your stories to bear — it’s not about taking something away, not about reducing you, but sharpening the knife that’s already in your hand. Some people want to brighten your light. Others just wanna throw a blanket on it.

Stand tall for yourself and your work. And stand tall for others who need that defense, too. (For instance, keep up with the Harper-Collins strike here. Support them when you can, because a healthy bookish ecosystem is good for everyone. Look too to how Brandon Sanderson talks about Audible and how that affects authors.) Stand tall for your writing, for the writing of others, for the good of your own support systems inside the publishing machine.

We only get one good turn on this carousel, so make it count.

I hope your 2023 is a good one, a productive one, and one where you make a stand for the stories you want to tell.

I selfishly remind I have a new writing book out this year —

I mean c’mon it has a BIRD flying out of someone’s HEADCAGE.

Preorder from Doylestown Bookshop and I can sign and personalize, if so desired. Comes out June 6th, 2023.

Have a great year. See you in the word mines.

16 responses to “Writer’s Resolution 2023: Mounting An Aggressive Defense”

  1. Many (many) years ago I brought a report card home from high school – and was so proud of my A in Creative Writing! My mother said “Who cares about writing?” I know I do, but that’s something that has stuck with me for a long time and definitely effected my ability to sit down and do the thing.

    “It’s a good year to worry less about killing your darlings and instead start to learn what hills you’re willing to die on.” I love this – definitely my writing mantra going into the new year! Thanks, Chuck.

  2. I am not a writer, nor do I pretend to write. But I love all of this. As a bookseller I too often hear people complaining that writers don’t put out enough books and it makes me crazy. Take your time, know your worth, care for yourself. We support you all.

  3. Your post makes the tiny mouse writer in me want to stand on the front porch and ROAR. I will print it out and read it every day. Thank you, Chuck!

  4. As always, you gave the appropriate motivational kick in the junk to get things going for the new year, and we appreciate it! Happy Writing, Chuck! 😀

  5. Thank you so much for this post. It spoke directly to my heart and helps to know that I am not alone in being told that “writing isn’t a real job”. I could almost be fine with simply lack of support, but that blanket has been thrown over my light way too many times.
    I will fight harder in 2023. Thank you for helping all the writers and artists.

  6. You have no idea how much I needed to read this, Chuck. I have been sitting here, thinking maybe this is the year to give up. To stop telling myself that this writing is not worth it. And here you are, reminding me that it is. Thank you. Happy New Year.

  7. Here here! It’s so easy to let self-doubt seep in. Sometimes the first person to whom you need to defend your writing – is you.

  8. Thanks for this. As an indie, the big hurdle is not viewing self-promotion as bragging when it’s literally the only way anyone will know what I’m writing. That’s the hill I have to die on.

  9. Bravo, and thank you! This applies to creative works of all kinds, really. As an artist, I replaced “writing” in this piece with “arting” and voila – totally speaks to me. Creatives unite – it is our year to thrive – and roar now and then in the process!

  10. So great to see oldskool Chuck posts here, the ones that I’d enjoyed reading in the ‘finish your shit’ era. I’ve been leaving my writing pursuits out in the open, letting others (and myself) just walk all over them. Perhaps 2023 is when I all my literary ducks lined up. Perhaps not. Either way, I might very well check your new book out!

  11. YES! “It’s a good year to worry less about killing your darlings and instead start to learn what hills you’re willing to die on.” I love my stories/characters/books and stand by them despite the potential kickback (although if TX would like to ban my books, and those of a few friends as well, we’re good with that. Helps sales.) Have an awesome 2023!

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