It seems like eons ago, as my teenagers were toddlers, and we’ve lived in four different houses and two different states since then. Not to mention, I was in a different age decade (and, sadly, a different weight “decade”). I’ve had various day jobs in the past ten years, including part-owner and code monkey of a website design business, a bookseller, and owner of a copyediting business (www.blueotterediting.com), and I also had a brief stint where I was able to write “full time,” although during that year, I was homeschooling my older son as well. Through all these life stages, one thing has remained constant: Writing is a never-ending learning process.
While I’m far from knowing even half of everything there is to know about writing, (or even a quarter of a half of a third, for that matter), in the past ten years, I have, in fact, figured out a few things. Without further delay, I bring you:
Ten Things I’ve Learned about Writing
- Writing is hard. No, really.
- No matter how many books you write, writing does not get easier. Truly. It’s one of those the more you do, the less you know kinds of things.
- It’s best to write for yourself. You can’t please everyone with your writing, and you’ll always have someone who doesn’t like this or that, so there will be less crazy-making if you don’t even try to write what readers want.
- Even after writing nearly 20 stories, I still hyperventilate at the mention of story structure and turning points. Sometimes I get it. A lot of times I just write, squeeze my eyes tightly closed, and cross my fingers hard.
- Having a good, thorough, sometimes harsh editor, though painful, can make you a better writer. (Thank you, Victoria Curran. :))
The shower is still the number one place to find story clarity (with those two minutes just before you hit a sound sleep being the number two place/time). And to that end, I recommend investing roughly $8 in an Aqua Notes waterproof notepad. My family knows when I’m making progress on a story (or a blog—this one was 75% created in the shower) because there are four-inch pieces of scribble-covered paper stuck all over the shower walls. (see pic above)
- Every writer has his or her own writing process. About 97% of us detest our process.
- Part of my process is, when I get about 2/3 of the way into a story, I get stuck on the plot, decide there’s no way I can make this one work, have a loud, monumental meltdown, and threaten to give up writing FOR GOOD THIS TIME. I rant and rave and freak out and sometimes even cry like a baby. And then my ever-so-patient husband calmly, from the other side of the room, points out that I always go through this. Every. Single. Book.
- Every single milestone is worthy of celebrating. Finishing the first draft of your first book. Surviving revisions. Seeing the cover for your twelfth book. Writing THE END on your fortieth book. Whether it’s dinner out with the family, a new charm for your bracelet, a bottle of champagne with your critique partners, or a vacation in the Bahamas, treat yourself and celebrate your accomplishment! Because, did I mention? Writing is hard.
- Writing is a solitary pursuit, but one of the most important things I’ve learned is that the people you’ll meet on your writing journey, once you put yourself out there, will likely become some of the best friends in your life. So if you haven’t yet connected with other writers, do it. Now. Join a writing group or chapter. Go to a writing conference. Or find an online critique group or partner to start. And if the first connections you make aren’t “right,” keep searching. Because writing soul mates make the whole frustrating, crazy-making, hard endeavor worthwhile.