Guest post–The Pillars of Your Public Booklife: What Do You Find Most Important?

By Jeff VanderMeer


More than two thousand years ago, the strategist Sun Tzu wrote that the warrior skilled in indirect warfare is as inexhaustible as Heaven and Earth, as unending as rivers and streams, and passes away only to return like the four seasons. Curiously enough, these classic lines could as easily describe the relationship between you and the Internet, given how quickly a writer must adjust to and take advantage of opportunities. It also reflects the ephemeral quality of the Internet. Because of the vast amount of information and opinion posted every single day, every hour, every minute—supplanting the information posted a minute, an hour, a day before—you need to be fluid and flexible while retaining inner calm and balance.

Traditional strengths like being fleet of foot, working hard, creating something seaworthy and imaginative, and finding interesting opportunities for collaboration still tend to be rewarded in the marketplace. However, the traditional career and promotional models that once helped you to brand and leverage your creativity often don’t work today.

The modern context requires from a writer some combination of the following qualities or abilities to achieve lasting, sustainable career success:

  • Vision. Look five or six moves ahead, like a chess player, and recognize opportunities to diversify while remaining focused on the main goal.
  • Centeredness. Understand that committing to objectives does not mean giving up balance in one’s life.
    Adaptability. Have the flexibility to turn on a dime and reverse course or pursue some new course, depending on new intelligence.
  • Risk-taking. Be able to leap into the unknown, although not without a bungee cord or safety net.
  • Honesty. Have the willingness to open yourself up to self-analysis and criticism from others.

Thinking about and nurturing these traits will be invaluable in your journey toward a sustainable Public Booklife.

This post originally appeared in Booklife Now (Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer)

Jeff VanderMeer

Photo by Keyan Bowes

Jeff VanderMeer has had novels published in fifteen languages, won multiple awards, and made the best-of-year lists of Publishers Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle, the LA Weekly, and many others. His award-winning short fiction has been featured on’s GeekDad and, as well as in many anthologies and magazines, including Conjunctions, Black Clock, and in American Fantastic Tales (Library of America). His nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and hundreds of others. In addition, he has edited or co-edited more than a dozen influential fiction anthologies for, among others, Bantam Books and Pan Macmillan. On the pop culture front, VanderMeer’s work has been turned into short films for PlayStation Europe and videos featuring music by The Church. For more information, visit or contact