Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lessons Learned

We're not even half-way through January, but I've already had a few wake-up calls when it comes to writing. Some were timely reminders, other sharp slaps in the face, but all of them worth sharing, I think, because I have a feeling I'm not the only one who's been here, done that.

1. Love what you write

This is not to say "Believe everything you write is perfect". If you did that you'd probably have a first draft riddled with typos, grammar errors, and major plot inconsistencies and think that it was oh so lovely and will you accept it? That would be a different kind of wake-up call. No, what I mean is be passionate about what you're writing. If you don't like where a plot is going, then maybe it's time to reconsider it. If you're not getting along with your characters then maybe it's time to figure out where you and them have split and try to find some common ground. A friend told me yesterday that generally "something you hate to write is something others won't want to read", and based on his reaction to my short story...that's very likely true

2. Write for yourself

A common rule, but one I felt I should share again because it turns out that sometimes it's very hard to follow. If you're writing for a deadline, or for a specific project that's fine - but don't get bogged down with the "when and for whom". As much work as it is, and as stressful as it can be, writing is fun. If you're not having fun, then it means that something is off and you need to sit back and look at your motivations.

3. Learn to say "No"

Colin F Barnes wrote an incredible post on this subject recently. I've taken on quite a few editing tasks in the last little while and it's giving me added stress that doesn't help my writing. On the other hand, it could eventually lead to a profitable little side-business, so I don't want to give it up entirely. The trick is to find balance. Between my day job and my writing, I'm always "on", always at work in some form or another, and the tasks for others just adds to that ever growing to-do list. It's been ages since I've been able to relax and read without feeling like I should be doing something else. Priorities need to be sorted, and the things lower on the list need to be dropped ASAP. No questions asked - it's for the sake of sanity.

4. Develop your thick skin!

I felt the exclamation mark was needed here. In my opinion - cancer crab that I am with the very soft, sensitive underbelly - this is the hardest part of writing. Not everyone is going to like what you have to offer, not everyone will read your work and think it's "ohmigod, like, totally the best thing over." You will get rejected, you will get not-so-great feedback,  but what's important to remember is NONE OF IT IS NEGATIVE. It may feel that way when you first get the news, but all it means is you've learned something new.

I know all of these have been written/suggested a million times before, but honestly this post is just for me. It's for myself to go back to when the days are rough and the rejection letters keep pouring in, or when something I've spent good time on can be used for nothing more than fire fodder.

Any other rules of thumb you live by to get you through?


  1. Important lessons to learn, and occasionally we have to re-learn them. Thanks for linking to my post, I'm glad it was useful to you.

    As for other rules of thumb, well sometimes I think it's good to ignore advice if it means changing the way you write. So many critiques or beta readers give comments on how 'they' would write it rather than looking it at objectively. So, sometimes it's good to rely on betas who aren't writers. After all they are the ones likely to be your audience.

    Also, something I've learnt lately is to ignore the careers of other writers. There are so many ways to achieve success in this industry and it seems each writers has a unique way of achieving it, so one has to focus on themselves and try not to emulate to closely our peers. Instead, we should just concentrate on writing the best stories we can and see where that leads.

    All IMHO though, and I may not know what I'm talking about. :)

  2. Excellent reminders! We all need that every now and again. I'm deep into #1 at the moment. And this >>Between my day job and my writing, I'm always "on", always at work in some form or another, and the tasks for others just adds to that ever growing to-do list.<< really strikes a chord with me. Day job, writing, artwork, design, dog training, husband, farm . . . I think my break last weekend was me leaning on the Off switch. LOL Need to pry it back on. But it sounds like both of us could benefit from a dimmer switch to adjust our level of "on".

  3. Hi Krista! I couldn't resist the name of your blog. :) And I agree with all of these great lessons/reminders. Another one that has really helped me is the old "someone else's success is not my failure" mantra, which can help keep me from self-defeating thoughts every time a writing buddy gets good news. Nice post.

  4. Very sounds worlds. Being still rather young and inexperienced with my own writing or writing in general, I don't have much to offer for rules of thumb other than this one...Keep Writing.

    No matter how busy, hectic, chaotic your life may be or become there is always time to write. Whether its a note on your smart phone, a scribble on a napkin while at lunch there is always a second or three to jot something down.

    With curtain events that have transpired in my life as of late with family I have been hard pressed to find writing time and have not gotten nearly as much as I would like done in the begins of 2012 but nothing done and nearly done are worlds apart and those nearly's add up, now I just gotta find a place for all these napkins...