Must-Haves for the Writer: Part Three. 06.18.2012

Must-Haves for the Writer:

Part Three


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis


While your more practical siblings and peers have enrolled in business, accounting, law, and medicine, you decided to travel Robert Frost’s path. So, now that you’ve made this commitment, have worked on your portfolio, majored in creative writing, and became a member of various writing groups, you still haven’t published.

When asked by your family members what it is that you do for a living, you say, “I write,” and they raise their eyebrows, raise their wineglasses, and praise your cousins instead (you know: the med student, the banker…).

In times like these you must have guts as tough as Rambo. The brain is a muscle, too. Don’t fret. Just keep writing, keep submitting your work, keep reading poetry.

If the greats gave up, we’d only be left with a handful of nursery rhymes and smut. If Rambo survived the jungle, so can you.



Stop with the FALSE HUMILITY

How many times have we heard an acceptance speech that starts,

“I can’t believe it! I really didn’t expect to win!” (Gush, gush).

Okay, here’s my problem with that: it’s called false humility.

Every writer desires  his or her work to be published. That’s the point. If not, we’d only be writing in our diaries and journals.

So, let’s not pretend we don’t think we deserve a literary award when we receive one. It’s synonymous with our lifetime goals! It’s an honour we shouldn’t debase by floundering such false pretenses. If we’ve had to be tough as Rambo (as per above), then I say, the very least we can do is be honest with our readers and writing peers.

It would be much better to accept an award with grace and confidence, to look soberly at oneself, and accept that your hard-earned work is being recognized by the literary community. No blubbering. No platitudes. No crocodile tears. Just a grateful thanks will do—and rejoicing! It’s an honour. And it’s yours. So, claim it.

The way to do it: Linden Macintyre celebrates his win of the Giller Prize in 2009 for his book, “The Bishop’s Man.”



It’s important for the writer to not criticize him or herself, but to criticize his or her work before submission. That second pair of eyes should be the internal critic and then the trusted literary friend.

But make sure the number of internal critics you have as a writer does not exceed the number five. Any more than that would only cause self-doubt and writing paralysis.

Trust your writing and editing instincts, but don’t let them demoralize you into not getting any work done. Your work doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to get written. Let your editor worry about surgery with a red pen.

(c) Artwork by Benjamin Bay. From:



Writers can and do fall into wallowing pity-parties after a certain amount of rejection. To consistently hear that your work was not chosen for publication or did not earn a literary prize is a jab to the ego.


(And then some.)

The optimism of the writer is entirely dependent on genetic disposition, a healthy upbringing, daily vitamins, and a great support network (an understanding partner, a loyal dog, a non-competitive writing confidant, and in my case, sour peach rings).

Sometimes all these things are unavailable to the wallowing writer at which point he or she will retire to his or her bed  for an unhealthy amount of time to require bathing, shaving, and all other sorts of necessary grooming habits.

To prevent such a dangerous melancholy state, let the Ego Booster Widget help you out. Just click and you will be complimented on your absolute, unquestionable awesomeness. Mandatory for writers of all ages and all levels of experience and talent.



It’s okay, atheists. We all need a little help now and then. Especially when it comes to writer’s block. Did you know that St. John is the patron saint for writers? Neither did I, which explains why I’m not as famous as Michael Ondaatje or Margaret Atwood—yet! (Why, oh why did I not invest in a St. John medallion sooner?)

If you’re a writer, keep this medallion close by. Even if you’re not a Catholic, St. John might do his duty as patron saint and help you out with the words you’ve been searching for.



In Greek mythology, Philyra (Greek Φιλύρα) was a water nymph, daughter of Oceanus and Tethys. She was the goddess of perfume, writing, healing, beauty and paper. She was also known to have taught humanity to invent paper.

Having an altar to Philyra is not only likely for a writer, it’s also highly recommended.



It’s said that a good friend is hard to find, but once found should be treasured. This is even more true when that friend happens to be a literary one and can honestly critique your work without injury or false flattery.

You don’t need a friend who will spare your feelings. You need a friend who will tell you point-blank just how your writing can and should improve.



And at the same time, as a writer, you should be able to welcome constructive criticism in honour of the craft. If not, best to recall your days as a Boy Scout or Girl Guide and start collecting wood for that bonfire. Better to let your manuscript burn than to publish garbage.


To read other posts written by me about the Writer’s Must-Haves, you can visit here:

Must-Haves for the Writer: Part One

Must-Haves for the Writer: Part Two


Do you have a good friend who’s honest enough to critique your work?

What advice or trinkets keep you motivated during your writing?