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Guest Post: Making 2018 Your Writing Year: Practice Self-Compassion by Stephanie Vanderslice, Author of The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life

Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Stephanie Vanderslice and her inspiring (and helpful!) memoir-cum-writers’-guide, The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life.

Many people dream of making money as a writer. In fact, I’m sure that the 81% of Americans who want to write a book also all want to be the next best-seller. But, like turning any dream into a reality, there are invariably things standing in your way. The writer’s life is no exception. And while some are actual roadblocks, many others are only myths that would-be authors turn into excuses. And that’s why Stephanie Vanderslice has published The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life: An Instructional Memoir for Prose Writers. To shatter all the myths in the writing world. There are plenty. There’s the ridiculous idea that writer’s block is a myth. And, the eyeroll-worthy idea that all the writers currently publishing betrays the craft of writing. The reality is that unless you have no talent, or you are truly pushed beyond the end of your bandwidth, you can write, publish, and, in fact lead a satisfying life. After all, writing doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. It takes work, but doesn’t have to be all-consuming. And Stephanie is the real deal. A novelist herself, she is also a Professor of Creative Writing and Director of the Arkansas Writer’s MFA Workshop at the University of Central Arkansas. With 25 years in the industry, she’s encountered most of the myths first-hand and developed the strategies to move past them.

But you don’t have to take my word for it – read on and decide for yourself!

Making 2018 Your Writing Year: Practice Self-Compassion
by Stephanie Vanderslice

In The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life, I mention often that a writing career is a marathon not a sprint and that if you want to sustain it, you need to take care of yourself and keep your eye on the long game in order to avoid burnout. This is especially true around this time of year, when people are vigorously jumping into New Year’s resolutions like making 2018 the year you start (or re-start) a new financial, fitness or, especially, a writing regime. The New York Times recently published a great essay on the factors that helped people keep their resolutions. In exploring research about whether self-control or compassion led to greater behavioral change, The Only Way to Keep Your Resolutions definitely comes down on the side of compassion:

“What these findings show is that pride, gratitude and compassion, whether we consciously realize it or not, reduce the human mind’s tendency to discount the value of the future. In so doing, they push us not only to cooperate with other people but also to help our own future selves.”

A lot of research has been done in the last several years about the importance of recognizing our future selves in order to create sustained change. Some research has even involved showing people age-progression photos of their elderly selves in order to encourage them to take care of their health or save for retirement today. In terms of writing, I interpret this to mean that I must practice compassion not only towards others, but also myself, my future writing self. For example, in fitting writing into my very full life I often burn the candle at both ends. Add a few more stressors, such as promoting this book, the holiday season, and signs of an oncoming cold, and it was beginning to look like my candle was going to all but disappear. I had planned on putting extra hours into a long-term writing project between Christmas and New Year’s but it soon became clear that that wasn’t going to be realistic. If I was going to be able to sustain my writing for my future self, I needed to put the long term project on a brief hold while I worked on promotion for the book (what you’re reading right now) and got extra sleep in order to keep that nasty cold at bay. I once had a doctor who told me that nothing healed the body more than naps, and so in the last several days, instead of soldiering on with my writing through rheumy eyed-exhaustion, I consciously took a nap every day. And it worked–I never succumbed to the cold and now I’m back to planning a writing schedule that gets me back to my project.

Of course, any writing routine needs to be dominated by writing more than anything else. But as I explain in The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life, there may be times you will not be able to write and during these, you need to practice self-compassion instead of beating yourself up about it. This is a good time to read over recent drafts, to revise, to read other’s work or even to listen podcasts about writing (if you’re really laid flat) while you recover. All of these will keep you connected to your projects and your goals while allowing your mind and body to recoup so that you’ll be able to return to your work with the energy and the attitude to sustain it. Because when you get right down to it, that’s what writing, or any art, is all about. Sustained practice.


About the Author
Stephanie Vanderslice’s was born in Queens, NY in 1967 and grew up there and in the suburbs of Albany. In addition to The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life, she has also published Can Creative Writing Really Be Taught? 10th Anniversary edition (co-edited with Rebecca Manery) with Bloomsbury. Other books include Rethinking Creative Writing and Studying Creative Writing-Successfully. Professor of Creative Writing and Director of the Arkansas Writer’s MFA Workshop at the University of Central Arkansas, she also writes novels and has published creative nonfiction, fiction, and creative criticism in such venues as Ploughshares Online, Easy Street and others. Her column, The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life appears regularly in the Huffington Post. For more information, check out her website at

Check out Stephanie’s other books on Amazon here!

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2 comments to Guest Post: Making 2018 Your Writing Year: Practice Self-Compassion by Stephanie Vanderslice, Author of The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life

  • Thank you Stephanie. I really appreciate this post. Sustained practice (not crazy marathon writing jags, which I must confess, I am prone to) is the goal, and out of that, comes everything else… I need this as a constant reminder!

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