I’ve been writing for a long, long time. I didn’t get serious about it and work toward publication, however, until a few years ago. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot. The terrific thing about writing is that there is always something new to learn, and we never stop discovering things. I’d like to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned with you. And, I’m borrowing a little help from the coolest cartoon character ever… Bugs Bunny.
(1) Contrary to popular belief, writing is not a solitary occupation. You need friends along the way.
Yes, you write the stories, but without support from other authors, your editor, your publisher, and some loyal fans, you don’t have a writing career. Take the time to cultivate relationships. Not only to promote your books, but so that people know you as a person. It will make them want to read your work. No one likes that author who does nothing except promote. We all know someone like that. She pops on Facebook or Twitter just long enough to post mass messages about her latest release, and then she disappears again until the next one. Or, she posts all day long about her books and nothing else. Ever. Sorry, but I’m much less inclined to check out her books than books by the authors who take the time to interact with others. It’s called “social” media for a reason. Bugs Bunny had a lot of friends, and he wasn’t above interacting with them.
(2) No matter how well you write, and no matter how glowing some of your reviews are, you will have enemies.
And by enemies I don’t mean people who swear to ruin you, although at times it feels as if that’s not far from the truth. I mean not everyone is going to love you or your work. That’s simply human nature, and it’s reality for each of us. Some may even try to make you look bad, but that’s a reflection of what’s going on inside their head, not a reflection on you or your work. Even other authors may try to knock you down. We all love to talk about how we build each other up, but not everyone practices what they preach. Just be prepared for it. And, the best way to handle it is to ignore it. Trust me on this one. If you don’t believe in yourself, neither will anyone else. Why was Bugs able to outsmart Elmer Fudd time and again, even though Elmer had the gun? Because Bugs Bunny kept his cool.
(3) You’re going to have dark times. You’re going to have days when you’re ready to quit.
This can be scary stuff. Sales are lower than you’d like to see, a reviewer trashes you for some obscure reason that apparently only she understands, no one comments on a blog post that you spent hours writing, or your editor just ripped apart your latest manuscript. Welcome to reality. This is hard work. It’s long hours, and constant dedication, and consistently working to improve your craft. This isn’t a cakewalk. It may seem that way when you see other authors posting about their latest 5-star review, or crowing about their Amazon rankings – a ranking you can only dream about achieving – but you don’t know what deep, dark fears they harbor when they step away from their keyboards and are alone in the real world. We all have fears and insecurities. And psychologists even tell us that the more creative you are, the more likely you are to have doubts about your abilities. Even Bugs Bunny was afraid at times.
(4) Don’t be afraid to get silly.
This goes along with what I was talking about earlier. Don’t be afraid to let people see your goofy side – your human side. I’m not comfortable being up on a pedestal. I’d rather be right there alongside my fans, cutting up. That attitude might not ever elevate me to superstar status, but oh well. At least I know who I am and I’m not afraid to be that person, even if others look down on it. And someone will always look down on what another author does. But if you’re true to yourself, and you work hard to produce the best work you can, at the end of the day you can look in the mirror and have no regrets.
(5) Learn your craft and produce the best work you can.
I don’t have a picture for this one. It’s just plain and simple advice. Keep working, keep improving, and don’t give up. I’ve been writing since I was eight years old, banging away on my mother’s portable typewriter. That progressed to carrying around a notebook stuffed with hand-written stories, all through junior and senior high school. Writing is as much a part of who I am as having brown eyes is. I couldn’t stop doing it even if I had to. I once read that passion is that thing which, even if you never got paid to do it, you would still keep pursuing it. That’s how I feel about writing. The fact that people are buying my books is a bonus, but I’d be writing regardless.
Thanks for joining me on this journey. I hope to see you out there in cyber land soon, and I hope to meet you in real life one day.