A Taoist’s Guide to Staying Sane in the Writing Business

Feel like one more workshop on promo might send you over the edge?

Anne Lamott famously noted that while writing, as difficult as the process may be, delivers gifts publication makes people crazy. Many writers get into the business first out of love, however, love doesn’t pay the bills and it can take a while for writing to pay a living wage. The writer who has no other financial support often has no choice but to work one or more “day jobs” to keep the money coming in. The dream, of course, is quitting that day job to make a living entirely as a writer. What can happen, however, is that intense focus on bringing in money from writing – from scrutinizing the marketplace, to constantly checking Amazon rankings, to jealous obsession with other writers’ sales figures – can suck all the joy out of what was once a dream, and even reduce the art of writing into an algorithm. The Taoists believe that focusing on monetary gain instead of on their concept of virtue “maddens the mind.” Jeffe Kennedy, a comparative religious studies major who did her honors thesis on the Tao Te Ching, and a practicing Taoist for most of her life, will discuss these concepts and encourage round table discussion of people’s experiences. It’s not that money is the root of all evil, but that the love of money is. There’s nothing wrong with plying our art to gain wealth, but there are ways to refocus our attention on the core values that truly matter, such as telling a memorable story while navigating the tumultuous publishing world.

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