Probably Not The Worst by Sydney Salter

On my desk I keep quotes -

Mark Twain: I've had many troubles in my life, most of which never happened.

Truly terrible things do happen, but more often our seemingly "worst" troubles turn out to be opportunities to learn something.

Several times in my writing life, the thing that I've feared as the "worst" outcome has actually happened - things from Agent issues to ZZZZ interest in my new release. Here's a bit of what I've learned from my so-called worst experiences:

1. It's okay to retreat.

After one particularly low point in my writing life, I realized that I needed to find the fun in writing again. I joined a pen pal club, I spent time doing writing exercises, and I wrote a series of short stories just for me. My writing friends didn't understand me during this period. I felt awkward and weird. Secretive. Sometimes I felt sort of like a failure as others spoke about their more flourishing careers. Yet I pushed onward and found the joy in writing again.

Anais Nin: Then the time came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

2. Write what you want to write.

I have never regretted the time spent on a story that I really wanted (needed?) to write. But I have regretted those times I twisted my writing to please someone else - to chase the elusive market. No one really knows what the next big book will be about, so write the story that excites you! Otherwise, you'll keep thinking about the story you'd wished you'd written.

Erica Jong: Everyone has a talent; but rare is the courage to follow the talent to the place it leads.

3. Don't let others define you.

Critique partners, teachers, book reviewers, editors, agents, readers - all of them come to your work with their own issues, needs, prejudices, experiences, and personalities. The things they say reveal more about themselves than the writer. Only you know what you can do, what you want to do.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Others will underestimate us, for although we judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, others judge us by what we have already done.

4. Writers write.

I call myself a writer because that's the part I actually do. I write. The term author implies publication, and not all that I write gets published. Does that mean those works are failures? No! My unpublished work has still satisfied my curiosity, taught me things about myself and the world, and I don't regret any of it.

Dan Millman (an athlete): It all comes down to what you actually do.

Keep working toward your biggest dreams, even when you think the worst has happened to you or your career.

Happy 2017! 


  1. I love the one by Anais Nin! I thought about this one a lot in 2013, when I was both trying to get pregnant and trying to get my first novel published. (Baby and book arrived within two weeks of each other!) It was how I felt about both impending motherhood and going for it with my writing.

  2. Excellent observations. I'm sharing this one on Facebook.

  3. Great post. Your four point journey was essentially what I went through in order to (finally) write my best work. After unplugging from social media and retreating from a group that had their own definition of worthwhile fiction, I was able to tune out the white noise and hear which ideas/priorities were inside, struggling for a voice. And that turned out to be MY voice. Just had to go somewhere quiet enough to hear it whisper. Thanks for sharing.


Post a Comment