Life is messy. This has never been so evident for me as it is right now. We have had a hectic year with grown children coming and going, grandkids introduced to the household then ripped away, gas prices, food prices, and prices in general, raising so much that, there are times when I have to make decisions between my medicine and food for the family. It’s enough to make you scream, and not write.
There is a silver lining too. This year has taught me a lot about myself and my writing. I believe that, for all the strife, I am also a better person and creative. There were lessons and I am finally at an age where I am actually taking note of those lessons. (When you are younger and in the, you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do mode, let’s be honest, the lessons often fall on deaf ears) I wanted to share some of those lessons, or realizations if you will, as they relate to my writing. Here are 10 things this year has taught me so far and how they have made me a better writer.
1. Perfection cannot be obtained -Trying to be the perfect writer takes something away from the process. It makes us feel inferior and desperate to “do better” instead of always doing our best. There is no perfect novel in the terms set forth by the industry, there is only unique and unique is good; it’s what we should all strive for.
2. Writing is an individual thing- There is also no perfect process to writing either because it is a very personal thing. While I might enjoy writing at 5 a.m. after a breakfast of Mountain Dew and Twinkies, you might not and that’s okay. (Although my cardiologist might disagree) Writing is an individual thing and sometimes you have to fit it into an already busy life…that’s okay. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
3. Other people will judge - Doing our best is what it is all about but, as a writer, we also have to accept that people will form opinions and some of them we won’t agree with. Judgment of others appears to be a condition of human nature and often times those judgments can be hurtful. We writers just have to accept the idea that people are people and they will judge; sometimes harshly. The key is not to allow their judgments to take away from who you are as a writer. Don’t take bad reviews or opinions personally; often times it’s the other person’s problem but, because we put ourselves out there by writing, we are easy targets.
4. No one else knows what’s right for you – I hate the word “should”. There is always someone else out there who thinks they know what we “should” do. “Should” is often another way of saying, do it my way. If you have a person telling you what you “should” do, use your noggin folks; think before you traipse into “should-land”. Once you get there, you may just find that you need to be in the land of I-knew-better-than-that” instead.
5. Tomorrow isn’t promised – My grandmother used to say this all the time and, I have to be honest, as a kid, it was annoying. She would see one of us putting off something that we were supposed to do and then she would smile knowingly and say, “you’d better do it now, tomorrow isn’t promised” and we would feel instant guilt and go do whatever chore it was that we wanted to put off. When I was a kid this was a tactic to get me to do chores, after my grandmother passed away it became a reality that couldn’t be ignored. I now apply this to my writing too. I write every day, even if it is for just a few minutes because tomorrow isn’t promised and once it is gone, it’s gone…no redo’s.
6. Learning isn’t a process; it’s a lifestyle- You’ve heard people say it throughout your life. Everyone from Oprah to Nelson Mandela has proclaimed it, learning is important and something you should never stop doing. I agree. As a writer learning is not only necessary but imperative. The day you stop learning, you may as well stop writing because writing is a process that becomes a part of who you are. Stop learning and you’ll find yourself with nothing to write about…guaranteed.
7. We are worthy- Value in one’s self is one of the most important parts of writing. Sound strange? It’s shouldn’t, because it is true. If you have no self-worth how are you expected to write anything that you believe someone else will want to read? Belief in ones’ self is step one to being strong enough to tell your story. A confident writer is a good writer. You are worthy of the respect you should get for doing what you do.
8. We are going to age and redefine ourselves- 365 days; that’s what we have to work with, every year. As the years pass we age, hopefully we mature, and along with learning to accept the fact that some guys never learn to put the toilet seat down, our writing should mature too. That doesn’t mean that a 50 something writer can’t write young adult novels, it just means that, as we mature, so should our understanding of what we do. We will also redefine ourselves throughout those years over and over again…and that’s okay. Today, I am not my 20 year old self, nor would I want to be and when I look back on my 20 year old writing, well…I’m glad that has grown up too. Embrace the changes that come with age; they are awesome!
9. We always have a choice on how we respond – I tell my kids that although I have raised them to the best of my ability, they always have a choice as to whether they go left or right, and that applies to every decision they will ever make. We writers will also have that choice in our writing life. We dictate how we respond. Just as no one can “make” you feel something; the term you make me mad is inaccurate, you “choose” to be mad. Mad is a reaction to what someone has done, how you react is on you. When someone is critical of your work, how you respond to that can make all the difference. Will you use it to be a better writer or will you allow it to stop you in your tracks? The choice is yours.
10. What we do matters- I watch this show that comes on Sunday nights, it’s called Prophets of Science Fiction. It is one of the coolest shows I have ever seen. Although I am not a sci fi writer, the show speaks to the writer in me. It showcases some of history’s greatest sci fi writers and how their writing could often be considered prophetic. Writers like Jules Verne and Isaac Asimov wrote about technology that wasn’t even in existence during the time of their writing. We could go into the whole art vs. life debate but I relate this to my last point, what we, as writers, do matters. People read what we write, whether it is articles in the local newspaper, a snippet in a newsletter for the Elks or a novel, write it and someone, somewhere, will read it and be affected by it. This is why being a responsible writer is so very important. Just as parents have to be conscious of what they do because there are little eyes on them emulating them, we writers have to be conscious of what we write too, because the eyes of the world are often on us. What you do matters folks…..
These are just some of the lessons 2012 has taught me and I’m sure there will be more to come. (That’s part of the whole “learning” thing) I welcome the chance to soak up the lessons in life and I would encourage you to do the same. While we enjoy our writing, it also has a lot to show us if we will only listen…….
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