Deborah Biancotti is the author of over 30 short stories (her first published story won an Aurealis Award!), five of which appear in her new collection, Bad Power, the most recent volume in Twelfth Planet Press’s fantastic Twelve Planets series. Her first collection, A Book of Endings, was shortlisted for the William L Crawford Award for Best First Fantasy Book and her work has been nominated for — and won — a slew of awards. In short, Deborah writes awesome stories. Gripping, visceral, engaging pieces told in a unique voice that you just want to keep reading.
This week, Deborah shares some advice that, seriously, we should all print off and keep beside our computers (or notebooks, if you prefer).
Run your own race.
You’re a writer, so I’m just going to assume you’ll be hearing a lot of advice about how and when and what to write. This will often appear be based on your success/pending success/unlikehood of success as perceived by the advisor – or it may just be random. Something you’ve come across online, say. Either way, you may find yourself tempted to take it to heart. ‘Oh, I’m not talented or disciplined or smart enough, I’m too derivative to be respected or too lyrical to be popular.’ You know. Stuff like that.
But here’s what you have to remember:
You’re running your own race.
This means you set the pace & the direction. YOU do. Both. Pace AND direction.
Your starter’s pistol was that thing inside you that called or pushed or lead you to write (left you to write, maybe, when nothing else was going right). Writers call it a compulsion/ache/need/ambition – or voice. ‘Something spoke to me’ or ‘I had to, for the sake of my sanity’. That’s how it’s often described. Whatever you call it, it’s uniquely yours, & it’s going to be your coach.
So when you find yourself rubbernecking, looking at all the writers who are “passing you by”, remember: they’re not in your race. Whatever they’re doing doesn’t affect what you’ve been called/forced/pushed to do by that internal starter’s pistol. Your race is still your own & it will always be your own.
And even if you’re just minding your own business, putting one foot in front of another, someone will come along – someone always does – to advise you that you ‘should’ ditch short form & only write novels, or you ‘should’ forget novels & build a career in shorts. Or should write only what-you-know, every-day, the-next-big-thing, something-for-Hollywood (twice in two months I’ve been told this), screenplays, literature, ‘something that someone might actually want to read’ (I’ve had this one, too), ‘some REAL writing’ (i.e. ‘not what you’ve been doing’) – or the ever popular ‘something else’. Someone will tell you, ‘I can’t see you succeeding at that’.
They think they can foresee the shape of the racetrack you’re on.
I’m not even sure WE can see the racetracks we’re on.
All we can do – all we HAVE to do – is run our own races.
And, for God’s sake, keep running.
Deborah Biancotti is a writer based in inner-city Sydney, Australia. She is currently working on her first novel. You can visit Deborah online at her website, and she blogs (and offers insightful reviews and more great writing advice) here. She continues to write short stories and refers to herself as a ‘tired idealist’.