Writing Discussion

Three Years. Three Lessons.

Three is a magic number by Alan Levine (CC)

It hasn’t been exactly three years to date, since I started this blog, but it’s close enough πŸ™‚

In three years I’ve seen some writer’s vanish from the internet. I’ve seen some writers give up writing entirely. I’ve started seeing a couple of the people I’ve met, or followed online, start to get agents and book deals. I’ve seen some writers shift their focus from fiction to non-fiction. I’ve seen some writers quietly chug along all the while. Some friends have had babies. I’ve seen reviewers come and go, and self-publishing start to become a viable option. None of it is bad. Just different paths for different folks.

And, maybe mostly for my own benefit, here are three things I’ve learned so far:

1. Writing is not an occupation for the impatient. There’s always something to wait for, whether it’s a short story response, or an agent reply. If you sell a story there are still multiple passes that happen afterwards: editorial passes, galleys, and more waiting. It’s often difficult to know when you’ll be paid. Writing a novel is not instant gratification, either. It can take months, or years, and sometimes the process is a slog. Sometimes it feels like the end is always too far out of reach. So I’ve had to practice patience. Meditation. Yoga. There’s no rush.

2. Finding a mentor and a good group of writing friends are both invaluable. A mentor should be someone with more experience than you, who can point out your flaws. Β This goes beyond the call of a beta reader. Be choosy though, because listening to the wrong voices can be devastating (been there, done that). A group of writing friends who are at the same stage in their writing journey, who have the same goals, and whose feedback you trust, are also gold. It’s difficult going through this alone. One thing I’ve noticed, reading the acknowledgements in novels, is that cohorts of writers tend to succeed. I think we help each other to succeed.

3. The joy of writing is the thing. Focusing on that keeps me sane. There aren’t always many rewards, at least not for a long time after starting out. It’s easy to get distracted by all the chatter about the publishing industry, and what everyone else is doing. I want to look forward to my writing time, every day, to the story and the characters. Getting lost in a story, in the writing, is what makes all this worth it.

I guess this is a counterpoint to the bad advice I wrote about last time. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer?

19 Comments to “Three Years. Three Lessons.”

  1. Well, I think it’s important, if you’re going to write, to figure out what YOU want to get out of it. Every sentence I’ve ever read that started, “Every writer wants” was false. If you know what you want, you increase the chances you might get it.

    I really agree with #3, by the way. As for #1, serial self-publishing on the Web is good if you’re impatient. πŸ™‚

  2. Those are three very good lessons. I’ve definitely learned that I have to be patient. I can’t make up time I don’t have, so I have to make do with what time I do have, and write what I can while I can. Whether I’ll ever have anything resembling a professional writing career, I don’t know, but I do know that it won’t be happening any time soon, so I should do the best writing I can with the time that I have until I reach a point where such a career is a viable option.

    I also certainly hope that your second lesson proves to be of some truth. I don’t have a mentor, yet – I haven’t the foggiest how to go about getting one, at least not the one where you have an actual two-way relationship and/or an on-going relationship. (I can do a sort of one-way mentorship by following the blogs and careers and reading the works of others who have gone before, but it’s definitely not the same as a two-way relationship.) But I do hope that those of us who interact with each other online and who have sort of formed into a cohort of aspiring (and some neo-pro) authors can help each other rise to success.

    As to the third: that’s what I have to hold onto when I get the chance to write. I have to let the anxiety about publishing and having a career go, because right now there’s nothing I can do about that.

    1. T. S. Bazelli Author

      A one way relationship is still something. I think some people can find mentorship, through reading about writing, or just reading books (and picking up on style)… but if you can, getting personal feedback is amazing. And I do consider you part of my cohort πŸ˜‰ One day I expect to see your books for sale, sir!

  3. I think those are the three biggest. My patience has been stretched to the limits and beyond; my mentor and my crit partners are worth their weight in gold; and more recently I’ve come back to the joy of it all. I’d lost my joy for awhile because I was so focused on the goal. I’ve re-prioritized myself and am finding the joy again. The goal is still there and I’ll keep working towards it, but it is second.

  4. Yes yes yes. If every writer lived by these 3 things, there’d be more good writing and more happier writers. #1 is the hardest for me but I learned early on. #2 I got lucky with. And #3 is the one I know in my heart but am still working to remember and apply every day.

    “One thing I’ve noticed, reading the acknowledgements in novels, is that cohorts of writers tend to succeed.”

    SO TRUE. And I know it will be for me too, when the time comes.

  5. One of the many splendid things in the collected edition of Jeff Smith’s Bone is that the entire last page is devoted to thanking the individuals and organizations that made publishing it work. It is a crammed page; more words there than on any other in the book.

  6. My lesson has a lot to do with what you have said, nut goes in a different vein. I have become convinced that you have to move at your own pace. It just wrecks your brain to compare and wonder why you are not getting ahead, so just do the best you can in any given situation. Give yourself crap, when you know you have screwed up, but write on your own terms. After all, joy has to come first.

  7. Happy Three Years! πŸ™‚

    I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said here. They’re all such important lessons to learn, and ones that truly make this journey better and more enjoyable. If I had to choose one thing I’ve learned, I think it’s the significance of living in the moment – yes, there is always going to be another goal line to cross, but if we’re always looking to the future, we can lose sight of today. Better to embrace the joy of whatever we’re doing – whether it’s brainstorming, drafting, revising, querying, etc – than to push it aside in favor of the next step.

  8. Oh god. Yes to all of this.

    A couple things I’ve seen — even well-known writers get rejected. (I’ve been hanging out on Codex lately, and watching writers I recognize and respect report long waits for responses and even form rejections has been an eye-opener for me.)

    And what Bear says — any process that gets the job done (and leaves both you and the work in one piece, I might add) is a good process.

    1. That’s reassuring isn’t it? We all have to go through it, and it never really ends. It’s just how this business is. I used to think it meant I was a horrible writer, but not anymore πŸ™‚

      And yes, I completely agree!

  9. In three months, it’ll be 8 YEARS I’ve been blogging. 1% of the bloggers I started out with are still around. The good news is, those old buddies are REAL friends of mine. I love getting to meet them in person too.

    Writing is tough – nothing is guaranteed. That’s why so many that try it aren’t really cut out for it.

    1. That’s an eternity on the internet! My other blog has been going for 5 years so this isn’t my first go around. Who knows, maybe in another few years something will replace blogging…

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