On $3.5 Million, Not Being the Next Someone Else, and Instituting a 30 Minute Rule

I started this blog because I had a scattered online presence and I wasn’t writing for myself (i.e. not for work) enough. Then I went and got a full time job and my writing for myself has gotten even more sporadic. Go figure.

And while I can say “I’m going to update more,” and “I really need to get back to my novel,” or “I’ll still freelance on the side,” until I’m blue in the face, it all amounts to a hill of beans if I don’t actually do it.

It’s not for lack of ideas, I have so many draft emails, Word documents, and bits of paper with the beginning of ideas on them. And while I feel like its due to lack of time–life has been a bit hectic these last couple of months–that’s really a lame excuse at the heart of it. When it comes down, there is no reason to not do it.

The Internet was in a tizzy last week when it was announced that 26-year-old Lena Dunham got a $3.5 MILLION advance to write a book of essays about being a 26-year-old right white girl in New York.  Of  course this bothered me too, for several reasons:

1. The story of a privileged white 20-something woman in New York City is possibly the least original idea on the face of the planet.

2. I don’t think she’s particularity funny or insightful, in fact I find her kind of irritating.

3.  I think the idea of getting an advance to write a book, is an amazing dream–one in which you don’t have to worry about how to pay the bills and can just write all day long. BUT, $3.5 million would mean this groundbreaking book about going to bars and guys sending vague texts, will have to be the next Harry Potter, the next Bossypants, the next Fifty Shades of Grey…oh wait, I just depressed myself even more.

So yes, there’s a huge difference between getting an advance that lets you quit your day job and $3.5 million (about $3 million dollars of difference). But I am of course all for writers getting the time and space and money to write. But the idea of advances at all (especially those built around hype) make me more than a little frustrated when there are talented hardworking writers barely scrapping together enough money and time sit down and labor over a chapter.

4. Everyone is heaping praise on her calling her the next David Sedaris, and while this kind of praise and that kind of advance comes with a lot of pressure, it’s also irritating. I’m reading a book right now that’ pretty lackluster, it’s not bad, it’s just so so. It’s written by a woman who is “funny” and who is writing about being an awkward child, etc., and right there on the cover is someone calling it “the British version of Tina Fey’s Bossypants

Front Cover

UGH. Enough. I’m calling bullshit on calling anyone or anything the next something. You know who the next Tina Fey is? Tina Fey. I read a fantastic quote in an article I edited recently: “You need to focus on being the first you, not the next someone else.” Yes. Give me being the first and only whatever I am in the room over being  sold as being the poor man’s version of that thing everyone likes.

But, regardless of all the reasons that I’m annoyed with Lena Dunham and her giant paycheck, there is one other big difference between me and her.

She sat down and wrote.

Yes, I’ve written a lot, and yes she’s had a lot more time/money/connections than I have, but I really have no space to complain that my novel isn’t making fifty shades of grey moo-la if I haven’t written more than 100 pages.

SO…I’ve been thinking about joining National Novel Writing Month again (I attempted it in 2010) and I’ve also read about a smaller and less intimidating writing goal: Writing 15 minutes a day, everyday, no matter what.

I think I will start with my own rule: writing for 30 minutes (blog, novel, letter, journal, poetry, whatever) every weeknight at the same time. I see where that gets me and keep you posted.


2 responses

  1. What a great post. You talk about so many things that I agree with. Yes, it is very difficult to try and find (or should I say ‘make’) time for writing, when we have a full time job and other commitments. As for advances, I felt the same way about Eat, Pray, Love, which, despite all the hype and all the sales, frustrated, annoyed and bored me more than any other book I have read. I recently completed the 120 Day Do What You Love Challenge, in which I wrote every day for 120 days, and learned that even 15 minutes a day makes a huge difference! Good luck for your regular writing goal!

  2. kathleenerindavis | Reply

    Thanks! So far so good–I think a half an hour is a reasonable amount of time. (Another) of my problems is that I’m good at starting things and not finishing them.. Also I was super annoyed by Eat Pray Love too!

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