As a columnist, I’m often asked what it takes to survive. While this is often a rhetorical question posed by my editor, usually in conjunction with a “possible assignment” in the middle of the Mojave Desert, it got me thinking about the parallels between traits needed to survive the writing world and the world following a zombie apocalypse. As you will see, there are some eerie similarities. And not just between agents and brain-eating zombies.
First, you have to accept the fact that, like zombie apocalypse survivors, writers are in the minority. The odds often seem overwhelming — because they are. Only the strongest writers survive the hoards of unsympathetic editors and publishers, many of whom have an unquenchable appetite for the next serving of hot… intellectual property. As a writer, you must arm yourself with the resources necessary to survive the threat and also surround yourself with a support network you can count on.
Owning a crossbow doesn’t hurt, either. Especially when it comes time to negotiate your book contract.
But let’s say you don’t have a crossbow. Keep in mind that whether your support network is made up of other writers or simply people who have your best interests in mind, what matters is that someone has your back whenever you put yourself at risk as a writer — someone who can dress the wounds and be willing to tell you if you’re beginning to turn. And by “turning” I mean losing your “humanity” to a writing world that can harden you over time. Usually without you even knowing it. Once that happens, it’s only a matter of time before you begin to rot from the inside. Oh, and wear really outdated clothes.
Finally, as with any true zombie apocalypse survivor, you must make time to revel in the small victories and appreciate the things that make you a writer. In the same way the characters of The Walking Dead have come to recognize and savor the smallest things that define the living — warmth, a heartbeat, aromas, tastes and a thoughtful whisper — writing world survivors must remember to do the same.
The joy of turning the perfect phrase, communicating an idea in a unique way, discovering something about yourself or a character you hadn’t anticipated — these are just a few of the pleasures that define the writer who lives in all of us.
Whether it’s the zombie apocalypse or the writing world, being a survivor means never losing hope; it means always believing in tomorrow; and surrounding yourself with people who share those notions.
And again: a crossbow is never a bad idea, just in case…
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