As you know, I’m reading 12 survival books to get ready for my new show this year, the JR Pomerantz Survival Book Show.
Speaking of great works of art to get excited about, have you read Deep Survival yet?! Incredible book, really makes a person reflect on all the stupid things they’ve done across their lifetime and how or why they didn’t die. I’m in the middle of it now, just finished the chapter that analyzes a terrifying accident on Mount Hood, reminiscent of all the times I say, “I wanna try ice climbing!”
Takes me back to my time at “how to be outdoorsy” class, when I woke up in the middle of the night, accidentally pissed on a snake, flipped out about it, and ran off into the rainy nighttime woods to inevitably die.
I didn’t die.
But anyway, that’s a story for the show, and not the book I’m talking about today. And, these tips aren’t even for survivalists, they’re for you, writer, and for surviving your own writing career. Which can be tough.
Tip #2: Don’t let them take your dog.
Can Everybody Swim? by Bruce S. Snow is his first person account of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, fighting for his life with his extended family and their chihuahua in tow.
I don’t have any Katrina memories or visuals of my own; I think I was outside the country and away from televisions or newspapers at the time, but Bruce makes up for it and then some with his lived experiences. He’s a great writer.
Here’s the part of the book that I need you writers to keep in mind when trying to survive the bloodsport of writing and publishing.
Bruce and his family make it through the horrors of the hurricane, losing all their food and water, getting rescued from the attic of their ravaged family home. Bruce’s mom’s just had an operation and she’s prone to seizures, for crying out loud, and they’re all slogging through raw sewage to get to the Superdome. When they finally get there, and they’re about to take cover from the deadly sweltering heat, an armed National Guardsmen tells them THEY CAN’T BRING THEIR DOG INSIDE.
This is the family chihuahua. He’s, like, a rescue or something. And he’s a freaking chihuahua. He shakes with fear randomly, not even in response to anything. And this armed, sleep-deprived, irritated military man says no, gotta tie him up outside. And leave him ALONE. Things were already pretty Mad Max around town at this point. Can you say no to a guy with a handgun who is above the law? No. Can you leave your family chihuahua outside in a hellscape?! Also no.
Same thing happens to writers every day. The establishment intimidates you out of some pivotal thing in your work. You love that thing; you do. But you want to get in, you want Simon & Schuster Random Penguin Collins to usher you inside that Big 5 Publishing Tent, to save you from obscurity. So you re-write the character you love. You throw away a passion project. You make it and yourself more commercial.
You let them take your dog. Whatever that is, the central thing that makes your writing undeniably you, you toss it. Some writers never recover. I met a successful indie publisher who’d been told by either an agent or a publisher, I can’t remember which one, that he was too Black to write Space Opera. And he stopped writing Space Opera. Years later, he was publishing other authors, but he wasn’t writing anymore.
Writers, don’t let them take your dog. It might look like the way to survive in publishing at first, but over time, it’s a slow death in disguise.
Go get the book to find out what happens to that dog!
Up next: Tip #3…Man of action, man of action.