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Death, life, and writing

Hey Writing Etc. Subscriber,

I had the February Writing Etc. set to go, but I simply couldn’t hit the “send” button. That’s never happened before. So, I let it sit. Perhaps next time.

Lots has happened since the last time we got together.

Of course, I have this ongoing cancer thing. Nothing’s changed, just the same old doc appointments, mental roller coaster, uncertainty… it’s all in a day’s work from now on.

No. Something else derailed my train of thought.

I had a dear friend, an utterly prolific writer, a dreamer, a lover of words, disappear from my life. She was the first author to step up and take a chance on my then brand new publishing company and entrust me with one of her projects. Today she’s gone.

Her name was Billie A. Williams.

She recently died. Lung cancer, from what I hear. I didn’t know she was sick.

To send out a Writing Etc. without a hat tip to this amazing writer seemed trite.

So today, in honor of Billie, I’m going to indulge my melancholy and share the top dozen writing habits I learned from Billie.

  1. Write early. She often told me she awoke at 3am. Since she couldn’t sleep, she’d write. While I’m never awake at that hour, I tend to make writing my first priority when I awaken.

  2. Write often. Billie always had a pen and pad nearby to jot down ideas. I never felt the need to do this, but since cancer invaded my life, I’ve found my memory isn’t quite what it used to be. I carry that pad of paper now.

  3. Experiment. My goodness, that woman was fearless when it came to trying new markets. She wrote whatever struck her fancy, sometimes using a pen name when she experimented with subjects that conflicted with her primary focus.

  4. Be fearless. Don’t be afraid to try new writing techniques. Play with new subject matter. Approach the familiar from a new angle. Dance with new ideas and splash them on the paper.

  5. Be easy to work with. Billie understood the economics of publishing. She submitted polished manuscripts, allowed our editors and designers to do their work minus any drama, and didn’t second guess every step of the process. I loved working with her… and her projects largely met with success.

  6. Support local literacy programs. Billie often donated her royalties to the local library. I always thought that was super-lovely.

  7. Embrace new technology. Billie was one of the first people I knew who created book trailers for her Youtube channel. They’re awesome. They may not have had a gazillion views, they certainly helped sell her books.

  8. Embrace reality, but treasure fantasy. Billie knew she was dying, yet she never mentioned it. When we spoke, we always talked writing, plans, the future. Living in reality created her life. The fantasies she explored gave meaning to that life. That’s awesome.

  9. She nurtured young talent. Waaaay back when my son was in Junior High School, he created a silly little blog about his dog’s “wacky adventures.” Of course, Billie found it and was his first commenter, encouraging him to keep writing. That’s how we met.

  10. Work with various publishers. Billie had books with ebook publishers, she published some herself, and she had traditional book publishing contracts. I think she was wise to keep her work diversified.

  11. Learn to market. I was delighted when I was asked to critique sales letters for a firm helping writers learn copywriting. I was even more delighted when one of the first letters I got to critique was written by Billie. She was always learning new writing techniques. She wasn’t afraid to stretch her wings and master some persuasion methods as well. I admired that.

  12. Lastly, Billie taught me the importance of sitting still. Writing is a solitary profession, and that’s exactly as it should be. We’re not flashy. We the quiet back ground noise that nobody notices, until we’re gone. We’re the documenters of our age. We’re the quiet social commentary whispering, “Why?” “What if?” “Are you sure?” We probably spend too much time wandering our own heads, but that’s who we are.

Ah, a life well lived is certainly something worth celebrating, eh?

My hope for you is that as you ponder Billie’s life, realizing what you just read was written by someone whose life could very likely be cut short due to cancer (mets are fairly common), that you take your own writing seriously. Please write today. Please write tomorrow.

We live in an age when we need thoughtful communicators more than ever before. After all, writing isn’t a profession. It’s who we are. And no matter how hard you try to “fit in” with polite society, the fact that you are a writer will never change.

Onward and upward,


P.S. If you want to jumpstart your marketing efforts, check this out: “Advice to Freelance Writers: Insider Secrets to Effective Shoestring Marketing, Managing a Winning Mindset, and Thriving in Any Economy, Volumes 1 – 3” is available as an economical ebook. Get the scoop here:


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