by Cynthia Herron
Twenty years ago, the world of writing was a much different scenario. Writers had fewer irons in the fire and more time to create. The internet was still new, a “social media presence” unheard of, and snail mail the order of the day.
Today, we have the ability to research from anywhere at the touch of a keypad or keyboard. We can step into whatever forms of social media we’re comfortable with. We can even upload our manuscripts and email them directly to our critique partners and agents. Because of advancements in technology, writers’ lives are easier now.
To a degree.
Like with most positives, there are bound to be a few negatives, too. The grass isn’t always greener as most of us know. We still have to work our socks off.
I wish I’d known two decades ago what I know today. I would have saved myself time, trouble, and energy if only I had the knowledge then that I’ve learned the hard way in recent years. But alas…sometimes, our mistakes (and beginner-itis) really are the best teachers.
(And let me just say, too, when we’re forced to put our writing on hold for a season – or several – the state of things change. Not the actual writing so much as the many hats we now must wear. Our need to stay afloat presents us with daily calls-to-action.)
But I digress.
Here are some things I wish I’d known sooner:
1. Take writing classes. Read craft books. Join writing organizations. Go to conferences. No matter how well-read you think you are, there’s always room for growth and improvement. These things are necessary in your learning curve, and rarely, are there short-cuts.
2. You can’t rush the process. Don’t try. Savor it like a fine wine. Get to know your writing voice and take the time to study the ebb and flow of your own writing style. What works? What doesn’t?
3. Don’t worry so much about what others think. Yes, DO be professional. DON’T sweat the small junk. We’re all human – we’re gonna make some blunders. (Someday, I’ll write a blog post about the minor boo-boos I used to stress over.)
4. Put away your self-comparison hat. We all know that, but yes, sometimes it’s hard. Especially when Dynamic Dan brags about cranking out 11,401 words a day. Or when Super Sally gushes about her 295th manuscript she just wrote. And edited–already. But – Dynamic Dan or Super Sally aren’t you. You’re unique and you’re doing your own thing – on God’s timetable. No one else’s matters.
5. There WILL be sacrifices. Housework may have to be delegated. Outside activities may require some forethought. You’ll have to choose a work schedule that best suits your needs and then stick to it.
6. Develop the art of saying “no.” Yes, it has a negative ring to it, but where your work and time infringements are concerned, “no” is a necessity. “No, I can’t walk your dog.” “No, I don’t polish silver.” “No, that committee isn’t for me.”
Over the years, I’ve learned to say “no” quite gracefully. As in, “I appreciate you thinking of me, but I’m afraid I’ll have to pass.” OR “No, thank you. I’m writing during that time.”
7. Don’t burn bridges. Harsh words or ugly attitudes scream “difficult.” If you feel like you’re about to grab the match, eat chocolate instead!
8. Reward yourself along the way. When a writing goal is met or a career milestone accomplished, celebrate! Take a few days off. Call a friend. Do something special that marks the occasion.
9. Ask for help. While busy professionals may not have time to read your 600 page manuscript, perhaps, they might critique the first 3-5 pages. Use good judgment when asking, and be in tune to “no, thank you” cues. Critique partners in a mutual give-and-take relationship are a great resource (not to mention, encouragement). And mentors are priceless!
10. Limit your social media time. Don’t sit on Facebook or burn up Twitter, Pinterest, or some other platform with your precious writing time. DO blog regularly and engage in maybe one or two other things you’re comfortable doing.
11. WRITE that book! Get going! You can do it!
Cynthia loves Jesus, sticky notes, and Starbucks. She’s a member of ACFW, Vice-President of MozArks ACFW, and RWA. Besides penning Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction, Cynthia revels in old movie classics, gingerbread men, and all things apple. She’s represented by Mary G. Keeley, Books and Such Literary Agency. Cynthia loves connecting with folks at http://www.authorcynthiaherron.com or Facebook or Twitter.
I totally agree with all of your “regrets” but especially #1.Great post.
I love this list, especially the part about delegating housework! As a newbie writer, I appreciate when experienced writers share their wisdom. Thank you 🙂
Patricia and Angela, glad you found my post helpful!
Oh…and about #7. I never burned bridges, but I wanted to use that as a “caution” because, tragically, it can happen. I’ve seen it.
You are a wise woman. And I’m parking my brain at #2 and #3 because if anything is going to trip me up along the writing road, it’s worrying about what others think and comparing myself to others. Instead, I choose to celebrate others, not measure them (and myself) with a performance ruler.
Sweet Beth, you are my hero (or make that, heroine!) 😉
What a good list to be aware of! Very insightful and inspiring 🙂 Thanks!