10 Things You Should Know About the Writing Life

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Original Image Credit: Engin_Akyurt/Pixabay

 

Recently, a friend mentioned that she was thinking about writing—as in pursuing it as a career.

“I mean, how hard can it be, right? I like reading books and I’ve always wanted to write one. I believe I can do it.”

Should I tell her? Should I prick that golden bubble of innocence with a cold, hard dose of truth?

I knew by the stars in her eyes she envisioned something far different from the nitty-gritty, day in, day out, nuts and bolts thing we know as writing.

“And I know it’ll take work, but I don’t mind work.”

The more she talked about the written word, the more animated she grew.

As it so often goes with conversations like this, my friend went on for several minutes, espousing her lifelong wish to pen the novels of her heart.

“Sounds like the writing bug’s bit you, for sure.” I remembered those feelings.

And then I remembered others. The bittersweet ones that are tough to swallow, but necessary in the learning curve.

I tempered my thoughts with some polite niceties, but then my friend pressed.

“Okay, Cindy. Tell me. What are you not saying? What’s something I should know about the writing life?”

“It’s a unique calling…”

“But?”

“No buts. That has a negative connotation. Let’s say andAnd writing’s something that will always matter.”

Here are 10 more things I eventually told my friend about the writing life.

1.      Writing will consume you. You’ll learn to juggle your passion through trial and error. There’s no shortcut around experience.

2.      Writing will test your mettle. Emotionally. Physically. Spiritually. Professionally. Rise above pettiness. Seek wise counsel. Stay the course.

3.      Writing will challenge your comfort zones. Expect it. Accept it. You’ll write best beyond those zones.

4.      You won’t always love writing. Some days you may hate it. Don’t worry. That will pass. If it doesn’t, rethink writing.

5.      Writing with publication as your goal demands time. Sometimes lots of it. Months. Years.

6.      Writing is lonely sometimes. Align your troops—those go-to souls who get your art.

7.      Realize writing is a different medium. One size doesn’t fit all. In fact, the writing life rarely makes sense to those who don’t live it.

8.      Writing is an honorable calling. When naysayers tell you otherwise (and they will), remember who you’re writing for.

9.      Writing will shred your self-confidence. God will restore it.

10.    The writing life will change you. You won’t live with what if. You’ll write it.

Melissa Tagg once said this and I asked permission to quote her.

“It’s so true that writing is a lot of work. It takes research and dedication and so much stubbornness it’s not even funny. But man…it is also soooo fun and so filled with magical moments. And there’s a divine mystery to it. Because for all the craft books and classes and conferences that help us grow as writers, we can’t force those perfect nights when the story starts telling itself…the characters start breathing…and the plot comes alive. That’s when I know there’s something more than my own brain at work. That’s when I know I’m not doing this storytelling thing alone.”

 

*This post first appeared on my blog.

What have you discovered about the writing life?

Does your current career path align with your heart’s desire?

If not, what steps are you taking to correct that?

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Cynthia writes Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction from the beautiful Ozark Mountains. A hopeless romantic at heart, she enjoys penning stories about ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances.

“Cindy” has a degree in psychology and a background in social work. She is a member of ACFW, ACFW MozArks, and RWA.

Cindy loves to connect with friends at: http://www.authorcynthiaherron.com/

She also hangs out here:

http://www.twitter.com/C_Herronauthor

http://www.facebook.com/authorcynthiaherron

http://www.pinterest.com/cynthia_herron/

For love, fun, and encouragement ~

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The Joy of Writing

I’m not sure what surprised me first — the fact that my business coaching client turned non-writing friend answered the question intended for me, or how he responded.

Lake Superior Anita Brooks Photographer

Anita Brooks’ Lake Superior Reflection

From the dining room table, I glanced through the picture window at the full moon reflecting over Lake Superior in the distance. After finishing three days of intensive review with the four partners of my latest business coaching project, the mood was relaxed, while the five of us savored plates piled with steak and king crab. It was in this moment of celebration when one of my coaching clients leaned forward and asked me, “Do you enjoy writing?”

My mouth opened, but his partner’s voice sounded before I had the chance to speak. “Not anymore, now that you have to work at it. It’s different when it becomes your profession.” A sheepish blush crept across his rounded cheeks. “At least, that’s what I imagine.”

An awkward pause followed his interjection, but I didn’t allow it to languish long. I smiled to let him know we were okay — after all, I’ve made the mistake of answering for others.

Then I turned my attention to my other client. “Actually, it is different now that I write professionally, but I still enjoy it very much. I’d be lying if I said every minute felt good, but it’s like any difficult thing we accomplish. There are times I think about walking away, when things aren’t going smoothly, when I get bored, when I feel overwhelmed, when I despise the way my words come out on a page, and when I think about the investment cost of time, energy, and money. But the negative emotions don’t last. I can’t imagine doing anything else. A soul-deep, intrinsic drive pushes me to write, I’m compelled to do this, despite my finicky feelings. And reader responses make it all worth while.”

Intrigue was obvious on my client’s face. “So people actually contact you?”

I chuckled, but it echoed off as my thoughts turned to some of the specific readers I’ve heard from. I could feel a hot glistening around the edges of my eyes as I began to answer. “It has surprised me at how many people have emailed and sent private social media messages. Nothing compares to the power of knowing words you penned touched another human being.”

“What’s the best thing a reader has told you?”

Anita Brooks Plane Wing in Flight

Writing and Reading Are Uplifting Experiences

I dipped a piece of crab in melted butter and slipped it in my mouth before answering. “Probably not what you think. A lady emailed to tell me she bought a copy of Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over in an airport on the east coast. She started reading on the plane, and said it hit some tender spots, so she closed it and vowed not to finish. But when she got home, she said, “That book kept calling my name.” That’s when she picked it up and began reading again.

In her email she said, “PLEASE forgive me, but a couple more chapters in I threw your book across the room, but only for a few minutes, because I couldn’t help myself, and had to go get it. I just finished reading the entire thing for the third time. THANK you! Your book saved my life.”

As I heard myself telling this story to my clients, I realized something afresh.

Goodreads Review Getting ThroughYes, the writing is hard at times. There is no doubt my emotions can lead me temporarily astray. However, as a professional author, I DO still enjoy writing as well as having written — because I understand the impact my words can make.

The greatest joy of writing comes from knowing I was made to do this, and that others are helped because I act despite my fears and insecurities. Many think, dream, and fantasize about writing books, but there is no greater joy than realizing I am an honored member of the club that says, “I did.”

Have you discovered the joy in writing?

12 Do’s and Don’ts for a Successful Long-Term Writing Career

1. Do have something in the hopper to pitch at all times. While you’re querying your next book or series, keep your creative mind active by brainstorming, jotting down notes, and organizing research.

Share Your Gifts2. Don’t try to write like someone else. No one else thinks like you, has your life experiences, your collective information, your communication style, or your voice. Copying someone else’s approach means your unique offering is lost—and the world misses out.

3. Do share yourself authentically with the public. Masks don’t work. Allow the truth of who you are to resonate with readers and listeners as you speak from the page and the stage.

4. Don’t let someone else’s negative opinion of your writing stop you. No published piece is loved by everyone. Editors, agents, and readers will often view your work differently. Accept positive encouragement when it’s helpful and honest, but don’t disregard unbiased criticism—it will make you a better writer.

5. Do get out and live life on a regular basis—otherwise you’ll have nothing fresh to write about.

6. Don’t let resentment over another writer’s success distract you from your own work. Instead, celebrate their achievements with them. Not only will you feel better, but human beings are drawn to help positive people, not those who are jealous, jaded, or jerks.

7. Do focus on improving your writing—constantly. Read and re-read books on honing your craft until you develop a master’s degree worth of knowledge on writing well.

Round Hole Square Peg8. Don’t be afraid to let a word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, or even an entire project go. Sometimes, a piece doesn’t work, and you shouldn’t waste time and energy trying to force a square concept into a round career. Allow yourself to move on if you feel like you’re pulling splinters to make things fit.

9. Do take care of the people who support, encourage, and follow you. We are all in this world together, and readers are more than people we get something from, (sales), they are people who need the same things from us that they give—support, encouragement, and attention.

10. Don’t expect publication to heal all your hurts and provide lasting happiness. The real you will always hide behind the public persona. Learn to like him/her, then no matter what happens with your writing, you will be okay.

Getting Through What You Can't Get Over Endorsement11. Do understand the power of influence. The greater the number of people who like your book(s) and are willing to say so publicly, the more other people will like what you write.

12. Don’t nit-pick, condescend, attack, grumble, or fight with others on social media forums. Followers don’t forget, and often their memory shapes future decisions to support you or not. Breaking the Golden Rule can become a deal-breaker for some of our readers.

Which of these twelve points are the most difficult for you? The easiest? 

 

You Still Haven’t Fill-in-the-Blank?

1327383_64930133In case you haven’t noticed, it’s that holiday time of year. You know the routine. Parties and calories galore. Crowds and credit cards smoking from overuse. Getting together with relatives you haven’t seen for an entire year.

And—worst of all—having to answer the inevitable, “How’s your writing going?”

Oh, on the surface, it’s a harmless enough question. Much less in-your-face than a glitzy-gaudy Christmas sweater gone wrong. Don’t misunderstand, either. I’m not dissing the genuine interest that others hold in regards to the writing journey. In fact, the question shows care and concern from loved ones.

Still, why in the world do those four simple words, “How’s your writing going?” always drop me to my knees?

Because this question is like a bag of potato chips. You can’t have just one, folks. It’s the follow-up questions that sucker punch a writer into a drooling idiot . . .

“You still haven’t finished that book?”

“You still haven’t been published?”

“You still haven’t gotten an agent?”

“You still haven’t heard from Publisher X?”

“You still haven’t made it to the NY Times Bestseller list?”

The definition of insanity, according to Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting different results. This year, stop the madness. You know those questions are coming, so writers, let’s be proactive. How? Plan ahead.

Share an interesting bit of research you’ve uncovered.

An engaging tidbit of information oftentimes turns the conversation in a whole new direction. And who knows…you just may have found someone who can add to your knowledge base on a particular subject.

Prepare a fun and snappy comeback.

You don’t have to feel defeated because you “still haven’t.” Lighten up the situation with a quippy reply. Don’t just grin and bear it. Really yuk it up.

Flip it.

No, not your finger. Flip the question back to the questioner. Be honest and admit you haven’t whatever-they-asked, then ask them if they’ve accomplished one of their goals yet. Only use this tactic, however, if you really care. Otherwise, you’re going to come off as a sour grapes connoisseur.

Remember, ‘tis the season to be jolly, not crabby. Instead of cringing in the corner at the next holiday gathering, go out there and have fun!