Sunday, January 17, 2016

Five Things I'd Tell My Newbie Writer Self

This is our neighborhood roadrunner. She comes by fairly frequently and checks things out. Not easy to get a good pic of her either! This isn't the best shot I got (too much background, not *quite* in focus), but I love how it captures her purposeful stride.

Speaking of purposeful, our theme this week is: What I wish I knew when I started writing. 

So. Many. Things.

But, as with a lot of life, I think we learn things when we need to. Sometimes we're simply not ready to absorb a lesson that's staring us in the face. Everything below I heard many times over the years. All of them didn't sink in until much, much later.

Like, yesterday, even.

Still, if I could go back to my twenty-something self, on the day Past-Jeffe decided to be a writer, this is what I'd tell her. Even knowing full well she won't really understand.

1. Agents are just people.

Frequently they are crazy people. When they tell you that they didn't love the book enough to represent it, they really mean that. These are people who fall in love with books. They work on commission, which means the younger ones (the ones who will actually consider your query) are living on ramen, handouts from their parents, and love. Not people love, book love. They really do want to love your book, but if they don't.... well, it's not you, it's them. When you find the agents who do love your books - and actually they'll find you - they'll do great things for you. You waited to find true love in life. Wait for this, too. It will be worth it.

2. Having a regular writing ritual will make all the difference.

You're going to fight this, Jeffe, for far too many years. Yes, I know you're crazy busy. I know that a lot of the time you don't know what to write and often feel a creeping dread about sitting down to write. It's crazy making because you really WANT to write, so why do you hate the idea of doing it? Don't worry, this is totally normal. The only way around it is to write anyway. All those people advising you to prioritize writing, to try to do it every day at the same time? They're right. Things won't really kick into gear for you until you do this.

3. It will take a long time before you can make a living at it.

I know you think you know this - but you're young. You think a long time is maybe three years. It's going to be a lot longer than that. And that will be okay, because you need that time. Over the years, you'll learn many skills from your day jobs that aren't being a writer. You'll learn to juggle projects, to manage deadlines, to work with difficult people. All of this experience will be useful.

4. Your writer friends will be your salvation.

Ultimately these are the people who will help you the most. Yes, they will come and go and you'll mourn the loss of the ones who drift away. It's a tough business and jealousy can take its toll. But those friendships will sustain you along what can be a difficult journey. There are things only your writer friends will truly understand. The ones who stick with you will be the most generous, supportive and encouraging people you'll know.

5. Despite the rejections, set-backs and many tears (and there will be a lot of all of these things), you will never regret this decision. 

Seriously. Every time you wonder if this is the right decision, know this. Being a writer is every bit as wonderful and amazing as you hope it will be. Even with the many uncertainties, it will feed your soul as nothing else ever has.

Hmm. I've kind of choked myself up here.

Anyone else have things they'd tell their younger self, if they could?

Also, if you haven't yet read THE MARK OF THE TALA, it's on sale at Amazon for only $2.51. Great time to pick up a copy!


  1. In Mr. Chase's room back at Overland, he had a poster which said, "Experience is a comb that life gives you after you've lost all your hair." I always thought that was kind of dark and bitter for a high school, but it stuck because it keeps coming back to mind every time I see it borne out.

    1. Also, you know who might be able to help you get better photographs of this particular subject is the nice folks at Acme...

    2. You know - that poster always stuck with me, too. so much truth in it!

  2. A wonderful list, Jeffe. And yes, you know how to write moving words. ;)