S.G. Browne

Five Stupid Non-Writing Things Writers Do

There are all sorts of bad habits writers can get into and all sorts of distractions that can keep us from doing what we’re supposed to be doing, which is writing. We can spend all day on the Internet. Play video games. Watch the entire first season of Breaking Bad in one day on Netflix streaming.

This list could be called Ten Stupid Non-Writing Things Writers Do. Or twenty. Or fifty. But I decided instead to list just the following five, which are really less about habits and distractions and more about destructive behaviors that can have a significant impact on your writing.

1) Read Your Reviews
Yes, I know. How are you not supposed to read your reviews? And if you’re fortunate enough to get a positive review from Kirkus or Entertainment Weekly or The Washington Post, of course you’re going to read it and share it with others. But if you’re constantly reading about what others are saying about your books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and Goodreads, that’s when you get into trouble. Not everyone is going to love your book. And as most reviewers will tell you, the reviews aren’t there for you. The reviews are there for other readers. Which leads to Stupid Non-Writing Thing #2.

2) Get Attached to Reviews
Every writer knows that a bad review can ruin your day and that the best way to get over a bad review is to read a good review. Though you’ll have to follow the Rule of Ten and read ten good reviews to offset the one bad review. But whether the reviews are positive or negative, don’t get attached to them. After all, writing is subjective. What someone thinks about your book has nothing to do with whether it’s good or not. What ultimately matters is how you feel about the book. Don’t let the opinions of others dictate how you feel about your writing.

3) Argue With Reviewers
Never, ever, ever argue with someone about a bad review of your book. Again, writing is subjective. And as I’ve said before, the truth of creation is no more valid than the truth of interpretation. When you let your creations out into the world, they no longer belong to just you. They belong to everyone who reads them. So whatever someone thinks about your book is true for them and to argue about it makes you look like an idiot. Which is another reason why you should avoid doing Stupid Non-Writing Thing #1.

4) Get Fixated On Sales Numbers
While selling books and making your living as a writer is something every writer hopes to do, the sales aren’t always there. Or what you hoped they would be. When this happens, it’s easy to get fixated on your sales and start measuring your value as a writer in the number of books you’ve sold. This will only lead you to a dark place. So stop focusing on book sales and focus on the satisfaction and the gratification the act and art of writing gives to you. Even if your sales are better than expected or beyond your wildest dreams, don’t allow that to impact your writing. Whether you sell a hundred books or a hundred thousand doesn’t change what you’ve written. It’s still the same book. And you still wrote it.

5) Spend All Day on Facebook and Twitter
Yes, social networking is important in this day and age, but you need to have some balance, and the balance should be weighted more heavily toward writing, not Tweeting or Facebooking. Plus it’s good to disconnect. Get out and have new experiences. Receive stimulation from a world that doesn’t exist on computers. As Francoise Sagan said: I shall live badly if I do not write, and I shall write badly if I do not live. She didn’t say anything about constantly updating her Facebook status.

Filed under: The Writing Life — S.G. Browne @ 9:08 am


  1. *retweets*


    Comment by Rhonda — January 27, 2012 @ 9:17 am

  2. Great advice :)

    Comment by john horgan — January 27, 2012 @ 9:26 am

  3. Great post! I essentially agree with not worrying about reviews and stats, but I don’t think a writer should ignore it 100%. Some reviews are helpful in expanding as a writer. And sales can be an indicator of how well you’re marketing. However, getting caught up and obsessed over either doesn’t gain anything.

    This line is worthy of quoting:

    “When you let your creations out into the world, they no longer belong to just you.”

    Well said.


    Comment by Rainy Kaye — January 27, 2012 @ 9:28 am

  4. Hell, I’ll take any review! They all told Jacqueline Susann that she sucked. I doubt she cared!

    Comment by Aaron — January 27, 2012 @ 9:30 am

  5. Is this your two cents on the messy Goodreads reviews debacle? :)

    Comment by Stephanie — January 27, 2012 @ 9:48 am

  6. Reviews are evil!

    Comment by Suzanne — January 27, 2012 @ 10:04 am

  7. Rainy, yes, I agree. Having some awareness is good, but becoming caught up in reviews and sales figures can be detrimental to the creative process.

    And Stephanie, I wasn’t aware of a messy Goodreads reviews debacle. Though I guess I should be.

    Thanks everyone for your comments!

    Comment by admin — January 27, 2012 @ 10:37 am

  8. Francoise Sagan was a woman.

    Comment by JV — January 27, 2012 @ 3:18 pm

  9. Well, now, don’t I look silly. Thanks for reminding me that I need to get all my facts straight before I hit “publish.”

    Thanks JV. The gender error has been addressed.

    Comment by admin — January 27, 2012 @ 4:10 pm

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