10 Ways Online Dating & Writing Are Similar

  1. You start out with so much hope. All your friends are doing it and they said it was fun. It seemed harmless. Next thing you know you are setting up a Pinterest board with a plan for your book launch party and you haven’t even written 50 pages. Thankfully, most of the decorations from your wedding Pinterest board, that you set up before you even finished your online dating profile, will carry over to your book party.
  2. You will need to fight against shallowness and cliches. Your profile and your manuscript will require revision after revision. The descriptions of ourselves, or our characters, that seem perfect one day, seem overdone and cliche the next. Everyone loves to laugh, works hard and plays hard, and looks great in jeans or a little black dress. You are more than that, though, and so are your characters. Dig deeper.
  3. You will try to disguise your deep inner issues in both your online profile an your writing. You will fail. They will seep out. It’s okay. If no one had lingering childhood issues – art wouldn’t exist, and we’d all be living happily ever after by age 25.
  4. If you aren’t getting results you want – revise what you are putting out into the world. If it’s your book, check your query. If it’s your profile, revise it. There is nothing wrong with tweaking descriptions, focusing on different interests, or split-testing photos. Revision feels productive and can actually help.
  5. Once you meet someone in person, you realize that they aren’t always the same as they come across online. Just as a match that seemed great can be a dud, meeting an agent in person can sometimes be a disappointment. If you’ve ever done a pitch session, meet and greet, or manuscript review meeting, you might have discovered that the agent who seemed perfect on their website and Twitter doesn’t actually resonate with your book at all. Or you don’t resonate with them. As much as it hurts, it’s better to let go and move on than to try to convince them, or yourself, that it can work.
  6. Not everyone will like you. And that’s okay. You should not want to date someone that you have to convince to go out with you, and you shouldn’t try to convince an agent to take you on either. Resist the urge to send increasingly angry text messages if the person doesn’t want a second date. And if you get a rejection from an agent, resist the urge to respond. File the email, print it out and burn it, cry, text your writing buddies, do anything that doesn’t involve writing back to the agent to tell her how much she’ll regret this.
  7. Comps are important, but don’t chase the market. You should always know the comparative titles for your book, and you should check out the competition when online dating. Not so you can copy them, but so you can see what else is out there. But, just because everyone else on the site is holding a fish, or jumping over a fire pit in a mud run, that doesn’t mean you have to. Be true to yourself. Similarly, don’t try to cram vampires and handcuffs into your manuscript when you see that bandwagon going by.
  8. You’ll have better luck if you skip the booze. Sure, meeting a date for a drink seems like a good idea, since it might cut the nerves a bit. But, it can also make you think the happy buzz is from the person instead of the beers. Meeting for coffee might be more awkward, but you’ll actually get a better sense of the person and they’ll get a better sense of the real you. When writing, drinking can make you think you are more interesting and talented than you actually are. Or worse, it might make you respond to an agent rejection because you forgot about Rule 6.
  9. You will need friends for both endeavors. When you are going on dates, you need the friend you can text from the bathroom to tell her you are leaving in 5 minutes. And because she is such a good friend, she will get off her couch and meet you out. She might not change out of her PJs, but she’ll be there. You will also need your writing friends to talk you up or down, commiserate or celebrate, and bug you about your word count.
  10. We are entitled to our labors, but not to the fruits of our labors, the Bhagavad Gita tells us. All we can do is our work, put out best selves forward. We can’t control whether we will ever actually go on a date, or get the attention of an agent, or get published. If we do get out there, we can’t control how other people will react to us or our writing. But we can keep writing, living our best lives, and being ourselves and hope for the best.

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