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Jane Friedman's Electric Speed newsletter

A note from Jane

One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned: chasing after status or prestige does not end in happiness.

Paul Graham writes, “Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like. That’s what leads people to try to write novels, for example. They like reading novels. They notice that people who write them win Nobel prizes. What could be more wonderful, they think, than to be a novelist? But liking the idea of being a novelist is not enough; you have to like the actual work of novel-writing if you’re going to be good at it.” (His full post is worth reading.)

Years ago, I left a job I loved to move across the country to accept another job that I felt would add to my status in the world. That’s not the only reason I took it, but if it hadn’t carried that patina of prestige, there’s no way I would have uprooted myself.

Within two years I quit that job, for reasons related to the status-seeking nature of my employer. (Achieving and preserving status ultimately gets in the way of good work and good decision making.) But I have no regrets and I learned a valuable lesson.

Paul Graham again: “Donald Hall said young would-be poets were mistaken to be so obsessed with being published. But you can imagine what it would do for a 24 year old to get a poem published in The New Yorker. Now to people he meets at parties he’s a real poet. Actually he’s no better or worse than he was before, but to a clueless audience like that, the approval of an official authority makes all the difference. So it’s a harder problem than Hall realizes. The reason the young care so much about prestige is that the people they want to impress are not very discerning.”

As Graham says, it’s easy to warn against this problem, but hard to avoid. There may be no solution, only acknowledgment that, once in a while, you will do things for the sake of status or prestige. For a deeper examination of this topic, I highly recommend Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton.

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P.S. The most popular blog post at my site this month:
Why Write Memoir Right Now
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Jane’s Electric Speed List

Here are some of the latest things I’ve discovered. (I have not been paid to mention any of these resources.)

Easily copy-paste any kind of symbol you need

Symbololology is a handy tool for accessing symbols that you might need for a website, ebook, or document—including mathematical symbols, arrows, smart quotes, Greek letters, accents, foreign characters, and more. See? → ∛§♠


How to set up an online bookstore (for authors who already have a website)

While most independent authors choose to sell their books through Amazon and other retailers, some indies have very strong direct-to-reader marketing, and prefer to sell direct if they can. But doing so usually means handling fulfillment and shipping yourself—not so fun.

Author Darcy Pattison has discovered a way to sell print-on-demand copies of her work without having to do her own fulfillment—and without letting Amazon or Ingram take a cut of her sales. She uses a combination of LuluXpress and Shopify. Learn how it works.


Word sprinting with friends

Missing out on group writing time with friends? Take a look at Ohwrite for a tool to help you meet your writing goals by word sprinting online, alongside others. Still in beta and free. (H/t to Iain Broome.)

If you’re not interested in word sprinting, but a coworking accountability partner, take a look at FocusMate instead.

Choose Your Plant

Just for fun: Choose Your Plant

With the last six months spent mostly at home and mostly inside, I’ve taken a greater interest in indoor plants and gardens. But I don’t really have a green thumb, and many poor plants have died under my care. I’m hoping this list helps me choose better plants in the future!

How to Research Your Life with Marion Roach Smith

Next online class: How to Research Your Life with Marion Roach Smith

On Wednesday, July 29: Those who want to write memoir frequently make the mistake of thinking they cannot do so because they either don’t remember things or don’t know certain facts. The truth is that neither of these conditions should derail a writing project, because a successful memoirist can draw on a key skill: reporting. Author and journalist Marion Roach Smith will teach you the basics of reporting on your own life. Such fact-finding is essential to providing your readers with a worldview, including the setting and place in time, through which they can make a connection to your story.
Learn more and register

Your turn: Favorite pencils

In the last issue, I asked you to tell me about the pencils you prefer to use. There was an overwhelming pattern to the response:
  • Until I retired, the answer here would have been the proverbial no-brainer: the classic Eberhard Faber yellow pencil, with which I wrote my first story in first grade. But the best retirement gift I received from a favorite colleague: a box of Palomino Blackwing Pearls. —David Hill
  • Favorite pencil? Hands down (fingers down?). Blackwing 602. ‘Half the pressure, twice the speed.’ Indeed. —Dave Malone
  • My favorite pencil is the Blackwing Pearl. My son gave me a box of them for Christmas a few years ago. I keep a few sharpened and at the ready. Do I love it for its feel in my hand? The soft lead? The excellent eraser? Perhaps it’s because he gave them to me as a sign of support for my writing. —Anne Janzer
  • My favorite right now is the Mitsubishi General Writing 9000 HB. I got picky at the start of the year when I began taking Japanese classes. This pencil really holds its point and has a good solid tone on the page. —Todd Sattersten
  • I want everyone to try Palomino Blackwing. It’s an exceptional pencil that I reach for now instead of my favorite pens. The very name captured my heart. ... If you visit the website, be sure to read the history of the pencil. It’s as good as using one. —Donna Moriarty
  • Favorite pencil is easy: a well-worn Bic mechanical pencil with a padded barrel. And .07 lead! —Judy Soccio
  • As an amateur carpenter I’m partial to those thick wooden carpenter’s pencils that you can find at home improvement stores. —David W. Gates Jr.
Next question: Do you use a specific software or app to store and organize your digital photos? Hit respond and tell me about it.


Classifieds support Electric Speed and get delivered to 34,000 subscribers each week. We’re sold out for 2020, but have sponsorships available in 2021.

WRITING THROUGH THE PANDEMIC. Join 7-time author Laura Davis’ weekly international class. Explore, express, grieve, pause to create, record history. Join our safe, sacred community.

There’s never been a better time to focus on your future book. IngramSpark shares everything you need to know in How to Self-Publish a Book: The Complete Guide to Publish Like a Pro.

Are you looking for the ultimate writing community for like-minded female-identifying writers? Join us in The Well, the writing sisterhood you’ve been longing for.

July Sale—35% off! End marketer’s block with The Blog Post Inspiration Deck. 8,000+ unique ideas and endless inspiration for your blog, videos, emails, and social media content.

Upcoming online classes

🔎 July 29: How to Research Your Life: A Memoir Writer’s Guide with Marion Roach Smith

🗝 August 5: The Key to Freelance Success? Focus! with Jane Friedman

🌟 August 12: Effective Book Marketing for Any Author with Jane Friedman

💸 August 26: Becoming a Paid Writer and Speaker with Benjamin Vogt

📖 October 25: The Foundations of Getting Published with Jane Friedman

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Electric Speed is a free newsletter published by Jane Friedman that’s been sending since 2009. More than 34,000 subscribers receive it. You can support it by (1) sponsoring an issue or (2) sharing it with friends and colleagues.
“At electric speed, all forms are pushed to the limits of their potential.” 
—Marshall McLuhan
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