How to decide between self-publishing and mainstream publishing

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Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

Self-publishing is a perfectly fine method for getting your work in front of readers, and it can be an effective way to resist traditional publishing (and everything that comes along with that).

But writers sometimes falsely believe that self-publishing will lead to traditional publishing. Sure, it happens. But very rarely, if ever, is a project going to meet criteria for both self-publishing and traditional publishing. That’s like mixing up chocolate chip cookie dough and then deciding that you’ll just use it to make a souffle.

I’m going to risk offending a lot of folks here, but I firmly believe that if you want to be a writer — a professional writer with a long career— you should not self-publish. (Before you @ me, keep reading to the end. I do think self-publishing has a place in the marketplace and some writers will thrive in that space.) …

How to be a better deep reader

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Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

Writing takes a lot of time and energy — both of which are in short supply for most of us. It can be tempting to spend all your limited time on writing and forget about reading.

But the hard truth is that the more you read, the better you’ll write. Stephen King has famously argued that writers who don’t make time to read, don’t have what it takes to write. I’m shocked how often I hear aspiring writers say that they don’t read, either because they don’t have time or because they simply don’t like to read. …

How achievement-addicts can break the addiction

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Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

My first real job was as a cashier at my neighborhood Kmart. I stood on a little rubber mat for hours at a time and mindlessly slid products over a scanner until someone told me it was time to take a break in the windowless, smoke-filled breakroom. Fifteen minutes later I would be back at the register, thanking each customer for shopping at Kmart. I would stand for so many hours in cheap shoes that I would need corrective surgery on both feet almost twenty years after I quit.

I answered to three managers, all men, who were always addressed as mister. Mr. Welsh was the head manager. He was tall and gruff with yellow cigarette-stained. Mr. Renaud, well-groomed with an east-coast accent, was second-in-command. The lowliest manager was Mr. Larson with his wrinkled shirts and messy hair. If it had been middle school, Mr. Larson would have been swirlied in a toilet during fifth period. …

It’s time to deprogram yourself and exit

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Photo by Alex Holyoake on Unsplash

If you clicked on this article, then I bet you are a lot like me (and thousands of other readers): We’re eager to use our time wisely, manage our attention, and reach the nirvana of ultimate productivity. We’re productivity nerds, and we’ve got a solution for every time or energy management problem you can throw at us. We don’t always practice what we preach, but we definitely know what everyone should do to maximize our professional and personal lives.

But for many of us, I think it’s fair to say we’ve crossed the valley of self-help and arrived on the doorstep of a doomsday cult. We’ve turned studying productivity hacks into a kind of reverent practice. That practice almost inevitably leads to serving the needs of an endless production of labor, whether it’s valuable or not. …

Three ways to foster deep thinking and improve your writing

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Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

Let’s try a quick experiment: Juggle plates while reading a novel while doing jumping jacks. I’ll wait.

Can you do it? Probably not. In fact, you probably didn’t even try. It’s just as likely that you also can’t work on a thorny problem, answer email, text your sister, and check Twitter for updates. But you probably do that on a daily basis. Most of us do. And it’s disastrously bad for our focus, our productivity, and our thinking. We simply can’t think well when we are distracted.

If we can’t think well, we won’t write well. Good writing requires making connections between and among ideas. It requires evaluating our own conclusions and applying concepts in new contexts. Perhaps more than anything else, good writing requires creativity — and creativity requires the space for deep thinking. …

If we want to preserve the concept of reality, we have to fight for it.

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Photo by Hugh Han on Unsplash

Here’s the bad news: The battle for our attention is over. We lost. The attention economy won. We are no match for technologies that have been designed to keep us in a constant state of endless distraction.

Distraction isn’t going away, and we aren’t getting any better at managing it. If anything, we’re getting worse because we are simply adapting to living in a state of constant cognitive chaos where our thinking is regularly and relentlessly compromised.

Thinking while distracted makes us bad decision-makers, but it also does something to us that may be far worse and have far bigger consequences.

We’re at the end of the hyper-productivity era, and it’s not a moment too soon.

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Carl Heyerdahl:

I’m starting a list of things I believed in when I was a kid and now know to be utter balderdash. For instance, I once believed that adults knew what they were doing. After college, I learned we’re all just crashing around in the dark like moths searching for a light. When I was thirteen, I believed that popularity was critically important. Then I learned that popularity is as fleeting as snow in June.

But here are some beliefs that stuck with me until recently: Getting stuff done is better than not getting stuff done. Being in motion is better than being idle. Striving is better than enjoying the moment. …

It might be digital distractions

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Photo by David Sager on Unsplash

As a writer, I get asked a lot what the secret is to getting published. Is it knowing the right person who can critique your work? Getting an MFA? Attending writing conferences? Joining a writing group?

All of the things I mentioned above can help you become a better writer, which can in turn help you get published, but the truth is that the secret to publishing is ridiculously simple. Lean in a little closer, and I’ll tell you what it is. Are you ready?

The secret to writing success is to write.

Okay, true, the mere act of writing won’t guarantee that you’ll be published, but I can personally guarantee that you’ll never get published if you don’t write. …

Reading Isn’t a Waste of Time

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Photo by Alice Hampson on Unsplash

As a lifelong reader who devotes a fair amount of time to books, I get asked a lot about how I manage to find time to read as much as I do. The answer is really quite simple: I make time for reading because it’s a priority. It’s my best method of understanding and engaging the world. I read because I have an insatiable need to know more, to think more deeply, and to understand the people around me.

“I simply can’t justify reading when I have so many more productive things to do,” a friend recently told me. Sure, his comment carries a whiff of patronizing self-importance, but it represents a cultural idea: to sit still with a book, especially if you enjoy it, is tantamount to pleasure-gluttony. In my friend’s mind, reading is the same as eating a bag of chocolates in one sitting: pleasant, but bad for you. …

You just have to want to read

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Photo by James Tarbotton on Unsplash

I’m a Reader, a capital-R reader. For me it’s an art, a sport, a hobby, a calling — it’s a way of life.

Nothing confuses me more than people who say, upon learning I am a Reader, that they too would love to read, but they simply don’t have time. If they didn’t have a kid/a poodle/a lawn/a job, why, they’d be reading up a storm.

Non-Readers will raise an eyebrow skeptically and wonder aloud what it must be like to have all that free time to engage in something so decadent as reading, as if I had just admitted I fly in fresh lobster for lunch each day or that I use five-dollar bills as toilet paper. The person may say that one day — maybe in retirement — he’ll read books too. …


Christine Seifert, PhD

Christine Seifert is a professor, writer, and reader. She is philosophically opposed to pep rallies.

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