The Ploughshares Round-Down: You’re Not That Busy.

just omg so busyMeet the Busy Brag: social media’s hate-worthiest addition to the human experience. I am important, cry the crafted tweets and updates,

because busy. Did you guys happen to notice I’m busy? If not, here are some pics about my busy. It’s a good thing you’re not as busy as I am, or you’d miss my social media updates re: busy. I won’t see YOUR pics or posts, because busy. In demand. Hashtag overwhelm. Hashtag cost of success.

In her recent piece for, writer Hanna Rosin backhands the busy brag with a headline stating simply, “You’re Not As Busy As You Say You Are,” inviting raised eyebrows from “busy” readers everywhere. They rechecked their iCals, then immediately questioned Rosin’s significance as a human being.

Because obvs, if Rosin were truly significant, she’d be busy… and telling us about it. Instead, she’s so UNbusy that she’s actually convinced herself that the whole of mankind is as lax and leisurely as she and her uber-free time.  Insert contemptuous huffs here, because—articles be damned—busy.

Except Rosin’s right. And we know it. “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance,” essayist Tim Kreider wrote in the New York Times.

[It’s] a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.

Writers and those in other creative industries seem particularly susceptible to the notion that Busyness = Significance. This is in part because we feel undervalued by society; we’re often afraid everyone’s looking down his nose at our writing/editing/painting/music-making, wondering when we’re going to grow up and get a real job.Continue Reading

The Ploughshares Round-Down: Why “Do What You Love” Is Bad Advice

find a job you loveIn 2005, Steve Jobs gave a now-famous graduation speech at Stanford University. “You’ve got to find what you love,” he said.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

“Yes! This is the Truth about careering!” Said everyone, ever.

Or okay, most of us. Who read or heard it.
And who also are privileged enough to have lives in which such an admonition has any chance of being follow-able.

Oh darn.Continue Reading

Writing in a Changing World: Craft, Readerships, and Social Media

breaking newsWhat do you wish your MFA program had taught you? How is the literary world—and media in general—changing? How should we change with it?

These are the questions that motivate Stephanie Vanderslice‘s work as a writer, professor, and HuffPost blogger. I heard Vanderslice speak at the International Great Writing Conference this June, where she tackled some controversial issues in the writing world: building readerships, taking ownership of one’s career trajectory, and teaching MFA courses on publishing and social media.

9780867095883_p0_v1_s260x420Vanderslice is the author of Rethinking Creative Writing: Programs and Practices that Work and Teaching Creative Writing to Undergraduates. She’s also the editor of Can It Really Be Taught? Resisting Lore in Creative Writing Pedagogy… And on top of all that, she’s published numerous essays and articles on the teaching of creative writing. Basically, if you’re a writer, an aspiring writer, or a teacher of writing, you want this “Writing Geek” in your feeds.

That’s why I threw some questions to Stephanie, with Ploughshares readers in mind. Take a look—and get to changing!

Continue Reading

“Let’s Get You an Agent”—An Agent’s How-to for Writers

an agent did you saySo—Eric Nelson is an agent with the Susan Rabiner Literary Agency.
His own blog, “How to Think Like Your Agent,” is full of quick, no-nonsense advice. Here, he lends our readers a special dose of it: how to get an agent, from an agent’s POV.

Check out his words to the wise below, then bookmark his blog for regular industry tips.

In which Eric Nelson reveals all. (Or 5 hott tips.)

so i should get one of theseEN: When I first switched from being an editor to being an agent, I Googled “how to get an agent” to see how this world looked from an author’s perspective.  I wasn’t impressed with the results. Most of them tell you to buy a book about agents, polish your proposal, and stay away from scams. That’s “good” advice, but it’s like telling you you’ll need a computer and possibly paper.

So let’s get you an agent the right way. Continue Reading