But choosing to have a writing career is, like all other creative careers, very demanding and time consuming. And if I could snatch a Tardis and travel back in time, there's a few helpful scraps from some proverbial and no doubt very ancient advice book I would give myself with greater gusto, having now published three novels.
#1 SLOW DOWN
There's no rush. There really isn't. By chance, I recently heard the quote: "there's nothing in life worth rushing over" - to which I immediately snorted and thought "oh, yes there is." But then I began to think about it a little more deeply - mainly about the definition of the word "rush." Rushing a process usually isn't a good thing, in fact the very practice has given us these great quotes like "haste makes waste." I began to look at the things in my life I would normally deem worth rushing for, putting in all the extra hours, cramming late at night, and all to make it happen when I think it should happen - doing all that I can to expedite a thing just so that I can plant my proverbial flag when it's all said and done and declare that I got it done within the timeframe that I wanted to. Just reading that sentence makes me cringe. The best things, the true things, the most creative things, they cannot be rushed, pushed, shoved, and expedited - and often when we do this, we lose a whole lot more than we gain. So don't rush your writing; let it happen...unless you're actually working under a hard deadline that is actually being imposed on you with consequences attached, then what's the big hurry? Write good, slow-cooked stories. Let them come as they will; write them as they reveal themselves and publish them when they hang heavy on the cognitive vine like a ripe, fragrant piece of fruit - and not before.
#2 PROTECT YOUR REASON
Being a published indie author is a very demanding and time-devouring career. Think cookie monster and you've got the right imagery going. Telling stories takes a lot of time and energy, and in order to tell stories well you need to make sure that you're preserving your time and actually carving out that space for yourself regularly. And that's a lot easier said than done, because nearly everything will attempt to come between you and your writing - things like networking and marketing and so on (all such blasted dull words). Don't let them. Delegate time to do the things you need to, yes, but don't let it all edge out the one thing that actually made you choose this path in the first place: writing. The art of using language to hitchhike your way through the hearts and minds of your readers, and impact their lives in a positive way. This is why we do what we do. In Hollywood portrayals, it's when they publish and get busy that the storyteller completely loses track of why they started, takes to heavy drinking, and proceeds to chase futile goals. Don't let that happen. Remember why you started and protect the reason: keep writing stories no matter what. No matter what, find a way.
#3 ENJOY IT MORE
This one tags along well with the first on this list - not rushing it. While you're taking your time, try your utmost to enjoy it. Savor all the little things: the quiet afternoons of pounding out words over a cup of tea, the conversations you have about the book with family or a close friend. Enjoy the flavor of your story, the characters. Ask yourself questions about your story - press it from all sides and see how each little moving part holds up; ask what truth, what mystery, what kind of an impact your story brings to the table. Enjoy the experience of writing, of making a new world, having the ability to make up people and places, invent new planets, technology, animals - geez we can do some INCREDIBLE things through the art of telling stories! Enjoy it more for goodness sake!
#4 LEAN INTO THE EDITING PROCESS
This is where the crooked paths straighten, and the unfocused bits come in crystal clear and technicolor. If ever there was a time not to rush things...this is it. Edit like there is nothing else that needs your attention; shut off from everything else, eliminate distractions, and really lean into this beautiful process of getting more in tune with your own voice to ensure that your story is actually communicating what you truly desire to communicate. This is where your dream really begins to spread its wings: this is a vital time. And if you embrace it, it will teach you more about your writing than anyone or anything ever could. It will shape you, speak to you, and take your hand as you continue on this path. It will become a disciplined, warm-hearted companion in the craft. Though editing your own work may sometimes seem endless and grueling, it's worth every moment and every ounce of effort, and your writing will thank you for it. Your next book will thank you for it.
#5 WRITE MORE.
Whenever I'm asked what kind of advice I would give a writer who is just starting out, I say the same thing that was said to me quite some time back. A dear friend told me to keep writing, and I listened. And it's one of the most important things I've ever done. If you feel stories burning inside of you, it's really not that big and complicated - find ways to tell them. Write them down. Even if you're busy, even if your life is a big up, down roller coaster, find a way all your own to tell that story. And then, just like that scene from Rebel in the Rye, "write another one, and another one, and another one." Just keep writing. That's the most important part of all of this, without which nothing else matters: the marketing, the blog tours, the community, the fans, the blog posts, the social media - it's all swirling vagueness. It's meaningless. The writing is the electricity that powers it all. It's the lifeblood. So no matter what, no matter what...keep writing.
Now it's YOUR turn...what's a piece of writing advice you wish you could give your starting-out self? I would LOVE to hear about it below.
stay stoked...and keep WRITING!