Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Some things I've Learned as a Writer



I started writing when I was around ten years old. That means I've been writing a very long time. Sometimes with success. Sometimes without success - at least in publishing that writing. But the actual writing was always successful because words spilled out on paper. Perhaps not the best words. But words were written. 

In those childhood days, writing was simply for fun. The words bubbled up with joy and spilled out all across the notebook paper. The ink tracing of words somehow magically made a story. It was only later that I began to desire readers. The stories hidden away in notebooks were no longer enough. I wanted to write stories that not only came to life in my mind, but that would wake up readers' imaginations too. And so began my career as a writer.

Along the way I've discovered a few things about writing.

First and early on I learned that everything I wrote was not going to be golden. Writing was a learning process. I could improve. I could find ways to write better.

Second, I learned that writing better didn't guarantee that what I'd written would turn out to be what others wanted to read. 

Third, I learned that even when what I wrote found no ready readers, it was not wasted effort but instead practice. I had to write those words to get better at writing so that when I did find the right story to write, then my words might be so well written they would disappear before a reader's eyes as the story sprang to life in his or her imagination. 

Other things I've learned:
...that talking about writing is not writing. 
...that if I don't apply my fingers to the keyboard, nothing gets written.
...that I can't talk too much about a story before I write it or I lose the excitement of writing said story.
...that persistence is as necessary as imagination in getting a book on a store shelf. 
...that rejection, although painful, is not fatal unless you let it be. 
...that writing is hard work no matter how much you love writing.
...that even on the days when the winds of creativity don't blow on your writing sails, you can still write words that turn out to be not half bad.
...that it is easy to get distracted and do anything but write even when you badly want to write.
...that the most important person to believe in your writing is yourself. You are the one alone in front of the blank page. 
...that the most important thing I did to prepare myself to write was read and that even now after all these years of writing, reading other writers' stories is still as necessary as when I began writing.
...that even when I thought I should give up on writing, I couldn't. 

I am a writer. That's what I do. Thank you for reading some of my words. 

What lessons have your life or work taught you?

18 comments:

  1. Very inspiring, Ann. I have to remind myself of many of these things often, especially since I'm unable to write full time as I'd like. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

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    1. Believe it or not, Pat, most writers do have to have a day job and can't write full time. I have been - if you don't count family obligations like taking care of my mother who suffers from dementia - since around 2008. I could do that because I had saved up some money to give myself a year to write and see if I could make it full time. But I was older and my husband had his income to keep us afloat. We've never really had to depend on my writing income, but when I did sell some of my work, it made lots of things easier. So keep in mind that most writers have day jobs but keep pushing those words out there too. Wishing you success with your words.

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  2. Great advice, but I'm a little bummed. It seems like no matter how experienced you are, you still have to deal with rejection.
    I'm curious: Have you ever considered print-on-demand for your unpublished books? It would drive me a little crazy to work so hard on something just for practice and never see it in print.

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    1. Melissa, I see what you're saying. When I began writing, I said I would never go with what was then called "vanity presses." Things were a lot different then with none of the more affordable print on demand ways to get into print and now with e-books, you can get a book out there for very little money. But my dream was always to traditionally publish. Actually two of my multi-rejected manuscripts have been published years after they were written, so some of my practice is out there for readers. Plus, I did put one book out print on demand - Angels at the Crossroads, a nonfiction life testimony of a friend that my agents didn't think would sell. I had promised my friend I'd see his story in print one way or another if he'd let me write his story and so I had to fulfill my promise. Now, I am considering putting some of my young adult books, long out of print, up as e-books but as yet have not had the time to work on that project. I'm always ready to pin my hopes on the new book. The new story. And even multi-published authors sometimes face rejection if their genre falls out of favor or their sales aren't high enough. It's sometimes a name game. If your name is famous enough and familiar to the readers, you probably won't have to worry about rejection. But there are a lot of us writers not quite that famous. Maybe I need to write another blog post about your curious question. Great food for thought.

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  3. I've been writing since I was seven, and trying to publish for over three decades! Yet a lot of what you said applies to my journey, too. My first novel (Summer's Winter--I'm not proud! :) ) came out on Amazon just this week, so I'll get to see a different part of the journey. Thanks for sharing, and for the encouragement.

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    1. And you should be proud, Robin. Congratulations. An interesting title. I'll have to go to Amazon and check it out. May your new journey be one with more ups than downs.

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  4. Ann, I have been writing all my life too, but am new to the publishing arena. Your words have given me encouragement. Thanks.

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    1. So glad you dropped by, Regina. We all need words of encouragement at times. I'm glad the post encouraged you in your writing venture. Keep on keeping on!

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  5. I am not a quitter, but lately I have felt like quitting. I have breezed through life until recently, and I have encountered many positive rewards. I was never the person who also seemed to have one bout of trouble and then another--until now. I am hoping for publication in the young adult market, and I've had many positive reviews of my work and have been recognized. However, my dream hasn't been fulfilled. I'm old, but I'm still and only child. I lost both parents within months of each other in 2011, and I'm still struggling with grief and other life problems. When I think about the importance of getting my life back on track and taking care of my children, writing doesn't seem to be a priority any more. And then I become sad, wondering if I should just leave my dream by the wayside. I really enjoyed your post, and I needed some encouragement today. Your words are good medicine for a weary writer's soul.

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    1. I've been in those wonder if I should quit writing valleys too, Teresa. It's good to have those encouraging reviews, but sometimes it's hard to get over that final publishing hump. Life problems can make us doubt our directions and losing your parents had to be tough. But then again, sometimes those hard times is when you store up more to use when you do get back into writing. Hope you can hang onto your dream and move into easier days ahead.

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  6. I am not a writer, although I admire the talent. I am a CPhT (Nationally Certified Pharmacy Technician). I have worked in pharmacy for 26 years. I have learned so much over the course of those years. I think the main thing that I have learned is that every person just wants to be heard and wants you to listen and understand them. Every person wants to feel that they are important to you and what they are going through matters.
    Karen C
    sweetnessnlight@comcast.net

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    1. I'm sure you have learned a lot over the course of your years working with people in a pharmacy, Karen, but you sound like a person who has figured out what makes people feel better. We do all want to be listened to and receive some kindness. I used to work for an insurance claims company and answer the phone. When you're talking to people wanting their car fixed yesterday, you learn to listen with patience even though they don't have any. :) Thanks for your comment.

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  7. I've been writing for a long time, 34 years. The first story I ever wrote was published in Woman's World 33 years ago. I thought surely I would have a book in print within two years. lol. Now, 33 years later my first book debuts with Revell next month. That's a lot of years of rejection. :-) But I kept on. Will my early books ever see the light of day. NO. But they were learning experiences. A few years ago, I realized God had a plan for me and when I was published was up to Him. Made it easier to enjoy the journey.

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    1. We can have high hopes when we're young, Patricia. So glad that you persisted and now will see that book come out. Everybody, her book is Shadows of the Past and releases next week. Sounds very exciting. Have fun with it, Patricia.

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  8. I never thought about how talking about a story could steal from the excitement of writing it. But so true! Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us!

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    1. I don't know that that is true for everybody, Natalie, but it is for me. I have to let the story build inside me so that I can write it. So glad you dropped by to read the things I've learned as a writer.

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  9. Ann, I am odd, I guess. I didn't realize I had a writing talent until I was 67. I knew I loved to write sporadically in a journal, and I wrote long, detailed, descriptive letters to friends and family, but that's about it. It was only when I asked God to show me a talent that He had given me that I began writing novels. I've finished my third manuscript, put it through a critique group, and I'm now fine-tuning it. I sometimes get caught up writing short stories for my local writer's forum, blogs, and contests (which I also love to do), and I get away from the novel too long, but it's coming along.

    I've learned that dust-free furniture, no rings around the toilet bowl, and home cooked meals have fallen to the bottom of my priority list. When I write, I enter into another world with my characters, and time slips away. No, it flies! After all, I have a lot of catching up to do. Writing out the rest of my life is the most fun I've ever had. :)

    I enjoyed your article, as well as all the comments.

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    1. Dust free furniture has always been over-rated, Linda. So glad you've found your writing calling. And starting late the way you did, you have lots more experiences to draw from. Wishing you success and fun. Thanks for coming by to check out my blog post and for leaving a comment. Always fun to hear what other people are thinking and doing.

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Thanks for joining the conversation. I like hearing what you have to say. Thanks for dropping by.