I'm going to give you the greatest gift I can.
Think of it as The Twelve Days of Christmas--but not really that.
It's more like the Twelve Gifts of Writing Wisdom for the aspiring author,
or the author who is always aspiring.
Basically, it's for everyone who's a writing nerd like me.
So, here it is.
The Twelve Gifts of Writing Wisdom.
Perhaps, in no particular order...
1. Your writing will always improve with practice and education. When you're stuck, it's often because you do not know how to successfully execute the thing you're trying to create. Don't be afraid to take a moment to learn what you need know. It will help you to move forward.
2. Reading counts. It's part of that education I just mentioned. Reading books will not mysteriously make writing occur on your lap top or notebook. But when you read broadly--in genre and outside of it--you are learning a million different things about being a writer. Good books will teach you and so will poorly written ones. READ!
3. Know what goes on in the business of publishing. The information net is deep and wide and you can not get away with claiming ignorance. Do your due diligence. Think of this as your opportunity to stop yourself from stepping out in public with toilet paper sticking out of your underwear. Dress for success.
4. Don't get so fixated on publishing that you can't write. And before you ask, this is not me telling you two opposing things. It's about moderation. You must learn to balance business AND art to be an incredible writer. You must learn when and how to turn off the business voices in your head to make room for the creative ones. They do different jobs and you need them both. I believe we are capable of managing all the voices in our head.
5. Jealousy happens. It doesn't make you a bad person to feel envious of someone else's success--especially when you've been working really hard. But how you handle your jealousy can make you a rockstar or it can make you a butt head. First of all, just because you work hard doesn't mean someone else hasn't worked hard, too. But let's just say, someone else got a little lucky. It happens. Vent your frustration in private. Eat as much chocolate as you need. And then redirect your energy to where it will be productive--your writing. And if you're capable of it, give an offering to the writing Gods. Go do a good deed for someone else who's writing is under appreciated. Leave an unsolicited review. Donate a copy of someone else's fantastic book. Recommend someone else's work to people who appreciate your recommendations. This may not do anything for you in the moment, but someone day, all those karmic acts of kindness may come back to you in unexpected ways.
6. Write what intrigues you. Write to answer the questions you have about the world. Write to discover who you are and what you're about. DO NOT write to fix someone else. No two people are exactly alike, but there is a great commonality between so many of us. If you write for yourself, you can't help but create a genuine connection with the right readers for your work. If you write with yourself as your most important reader, you will bring an authenticity to your work that can not be denied.
7. No matter what you write, someone is going to dislike it. The best strategy I've ever seen to combat harsh criticism has become a kind of time honored tradition with writers. Go to the review pages of your most favorite and cherished authors and read all the bad reviews. Then digest, exactly how crazy pants, those reviews sound to you. Understand that those reviews in no way change your passion for your favorite authors and their writing. Then pick yourself up, get back to work in the hopes that a fraction of those people will one day hate what you write, too.
8. Social Media is both a gift and a curse. Use it wisely. It's like any other tool--it can be used for good or for evil. You must discover how to have a healthy relationship with this tool. And be aware that it's okay to change up your usage as needed. The reality is, this great social experiment is far from over and the unknown can be a tricky thing. Go boldly and tread with caution.
9. Be a mentor for a less experienced writer. Do you remember what it felt like when someone in the writing tribe did this for you? I do. It was the most incredible feeling ever. I felt like I became a real writer that day--included. I still tell stories of incredible people who went out of their way to share their knowledge and encourage me. I always hear how the KidLit world is exemplary in this way and it's one of my favorite things about this job. I believe passionately that a high tide raises all boats. I believe that when you welcome someone into your tribe, you create a powerful, positive bond. I believe that we all want to be accepted. Be a giver and then watch what you receive.
10. Let's talk about luck. You can be very lucky or very unlucky at any given moment. And you can't control it. Yep--it kind of stinks--doesn't it? But what you can do, is choose how you respond to your luck. It's important to remember that luck isn't always what it appears to be when you're standing close to it. "Good" luck can bring later complications and "bad" luck can be a blessing in disguise. My advice is to avoid taking credit for the good stuff and to believe that the bad stuff has a long term gain attached it, one that will become visible at a later date. Don't depend on luck and certainly don't let it determine your success.
11. Listen. This is hard. And it does not require you to take all the advice that is give to you. But give yourself the time to digest the information you've been given. Allow yourself the opportunity to be a learner. Try something BEFORE you rule it out. Learn to understand why we cling to the things we do. Fine tune your intuition by running advice through a series of checks and balances. I always ask myself one last question when I'm sorting through advice...Do I want to be right, or do I want to be a better writer? Listen to what is offered to you carefully, then discard what you don't need. And if you're smart about it--even what you push to the side will have given you some kind of wisdom or experience that you can use to your advantage.
12. Embrace your own journey. The truth is, there's not just one way to be a writer or a bang-up human being. There are a lot of stories out there and I'm excited about that. I'm a bit addicted to finding my own way forward and how I travel shouldn't alter your own unique trajectory. Be intrigued by your own journey and let the process be part of the reward.
These Twelve Gifts of Writing Wisdom mean something to me--that's why I shared them with you. And because they resonate with me, there's a chance they might be the right thing for you to hear in this moment.
Often, like attracts like. And sometimes coincidence is something more than we can imagine.
If these bit of my experiences are helpful, then I'm happy I got to share them with you.
But, don't forget that you have more gifts then you realize. And please feel free to share at least one of them in the comments.