A Book Review and a Pep Talk for Writers

Book reviews are generally not my forte. It’s not that I don’t like reading books and telling people what to do. I immensely enjoy both those activities. It’s just I’m usually reading some random book I bought at Goodwill that was published over a decade ago. We already know the Twilight books sucked. It’s too late to warn you.

But this book, the one I’m going to review, is actually current. And, bonus points, it’s really good. It’s good and useful and kinda fucking sweary. You know how fond I am of foul language. The book is How I F*cking Did It: From Moving Elves to Making Over Six-Figures on the Internet and You Can Too, by Jen Mann.

Jen Mann is the author of the hilarious blog, People I Want to Punch in the Throat. I first heard of her when I went to a book reading of her anthology book, But Did You Die?: Setting the Parenting Bar Low. The book was really funny and of course that made me want to seek out the mind that gathered this collection of humorous and relatable parenting essays. Now we’re friends. Well, I’m friends with her on Facebook, just like a few thousand of her other fans.

When I saw last year that she was writing a book on blogging I knew I wanted to buy it as soon as it came out. I’ve always admired Jen’s blog hustle. And, as a fellow middle aged foul-mouthed broad, I was curious to know how she found the holy grail of blogging, making money while being completely true to who she is.

In How I F*cking Did It she tells you exactly how she did it. There are no broad generalizations, no hokey platitudes. It isn’t like all those other books on blogging where you finish it and think to yourself, well that was a waste of my damn time, then you donate it to Goodwill where I buy it for less than a buck and still feel cheated.

This book is full of useful information. It lays out all the steps she took to capitalize on her viral elf blog post. Then, carries on throughout her career showing you how she’s made a living off publishing books, both through traditional publishing and self-publishing, and writing for her blog. Aside from loads of information that you can actually use, this book is funny, poignant, and seasoned with the perfect amount of obscenities.

I bought the book last March, but I stopped reading after a few chapters. I didn’t stop reading it because it was a terrible book. I stopped reading it because of a terrible incident that obliterated my confidence as a writer. This is where we start the pep talk, folks. Gather ’round.

Awhile back I had someone that I really admired tell me they didn’t think my writing was very good, that I needed something. They weren’t sure, an editor, someone to show me where I was falling short. Because, according to them, good writing follows a simple formula and I was not following this formula.

I’m sure this person thought they were being helpful. I’m sure they felt their criticism was constructive. But I’m here to tell you it was not. And this ‘help’ I was offered crushed me. It completely broke my spirit. I didn’t write for a long time and, when I started again, everything I wrote looked like garbage to me.

I can’t tell you when it happened or how, but at some point I got mad, real mad. Not mad at the person, mad at myself. How in the holy hellballs did I let someone tell me I wasn’t a good writer? How did I let someone convince me that there is only one way to write?

Writing is hard and blogging even harder. You can spend years churning out good content and still never turn heads. You put your blood, sweat, and tears into submissions and they get rejected one after another. You have a hit, you think you’ve made it, and then you find yourself in a slump again. You question if you have what it takes, if you’re as good as the bloggers everyone knows.

The thing is, you don’t need to be like those other bloggers because what you have to be is you. The internet already has them. Now the internet needs you. And honestly, so what if your content isn’t going viral? That doesn’t mean it won’t. But they only way it can is if you keep writing.

I know how it feels, being a tiny lifeboat in the endless ocean of other blogs written by all those other writers who seem to be making it work. It’s daunting. It’s maddening. It’s lonely. But you’re writing for a reason. The words are calling you to tell your story. And every time you hit publish you’re that much closer to being so much better than you were the last time you did.

And when I finished reading How I F*cking Did It, that’s what Jen Mann reminded me, that I’m doing this writing thing for a reason. I love it. It’s what I do. And hell, even if maybe that person is right and I could be better at this writing thing, I’m only going to get there by writing more stuff.

So, buy the book. It’s worth it. And keep on writing the stuff you love. Also, totally worth it. But most importantly, don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re not a good enough writer. You are, even if right now you think you’re just an okay writer. You’ll get there, but the only way there is if you keep going.

*Featured image courtesy of Pixabay