At the beginning of a writing career, we’re pumped, we’re dreaming big dreams, we think we know what to expect. Most of us hedge our bets by joining groups and organizations. We study the industry, we debate self-publishing versus traditional, we pour over Twitter feeds of writers we admire. We set writing goals and career plans. We jump in with our eyes wide open. We are prepared.
And then we end up in the trenches wrestling muddy alligators and the rose colored glasses we didn’t even know we were wearing get smashed, leading to a particularly painful realization: we didn’t know squat when we started out and we know only marginally more than squat now.
But this is what I know for sure:
1. Everything takes longer than you think it should. First drafts, first sales, editorial feedback, royalty cheques.
2.There’s never a perfect time to write a book. Unless you’re a hermit living on the side of a mountain (in which case you have other issues to deal with), there’s always something pulling at you – everything from minor inconveniences to major life events. It will always be this way. Always.
3. The muse is real and not as fickle as you think. She shows up when you put your butt in the chair to write. She takes off when you surf Twitter or CNN or get too involved in email. She may not always be at her best but none of us operate at 100% efficiency all the time. Cut her some slack but take a seat. Your presence feeds her.
4. Some days writing is about as easy as using a toothpick to sculpt a piece of art out of a chunk of cement. And doing it blindfolded. Writing is work. Work isn’t always fun.
5. Meg Cabot said, “You aren’t a $100 bill. Not everybody will like you.” Not everybody will love or like your book either, even if it’s well-crafted with loveable, relatable characters and a page-turning premise. I don’t like cake. I don’t need to taste it to know and I hate it when people try to guilt me into eating a piece. Which leads to realization 5 a) If somebody doesn’t want to read my book, chances are they know best.
6. People your real world with a range of characters. I’m blessed with a number of writer friends who get this gig, but I also have friends who don’t write, can’t relate, and couldn’t care less about sell through figures, contract issues or option books. They care about me. And they care enough to help me stay grounded in the real world. Which leads to this:
7. Breathe fresh air once in a while. I need to recharge away from my desk regularly, and I do it best outside when I have nothing more pressing to do than stare at the clouds and daydream or maybe dig in the garden. A trip away helps too, though that hasn’t been possible lately (see number two).
8. Control comes down to 26 letters. All I can control is how I arrange the letters on the page. That goes for my tweets, my Instagram or Facebook presence, and anything else I say on social media. The rest of this gig is pretty much a crap shoot and out of my control. Wishing it were different is a waste of energy.
9.The best promotion is a good book. And as Bob Mayer added, “Better promotion is more good books. Everything else is secondary.”
10. Finally – reading is never a waste of time. Without readers, we wouldn’t need writers. And that would put me out of a job.