Most of us will never forget what it felt like when we began writing. Whether it was terrifying or exhilarating, or a little of both, it holds a special place in our hearts. And most of us who’ve been at it a while, now look back on that with a laugh or shake of our heads at our own naivety.
There are things you can research, classes you can take, entire conferences on the subject, but there is nothing like time and experience to show you how little you know when you start. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned as a writer, and some I’ve heard from author friends.
Writing is not a destination.
Though it may feel like you’re taking a road to the end of a book, writing (or learning to write) is not a point A to point B journey. Writers never stop learning. Even if you’re a pro and have a mastery of plot and structure, can spot grammar errors from a mile away, or hit the bestseller list with every book, you will still grow as a writer. You will learn better methods of turning a phrase, superior words to say what you mean, and improved ways to hook your reader or deepen the plot. Nothing but practice and experience can get you there, and every book is another step farther into your skill.
Other writers are not competition.
I remember a lot of author friends who were paranoid about someone stealing their ideas or work in the beginning. They were terrified to share it with anyone. Accomplished authors would seemingly roll their eyes at this, but usually not call them out. I understand now that the ideas you hold so dear as a newbie are not really that special. Not only are there very few that are as original as you think, but reader favorites are often the same general concept retold in a unique way. It is not the premise that sells the story, it is the way the author tells it. And that–what is you and your way of weaving the tale–cannot be taken away. Make other writers your friends. Find your tribe. Learn from them, lean on them, and be their support. When one author does well, we all do well. Despite the rumors, someone buying from a similar author does not steal book sales from you–it only makes them more likely to buy your own.
It’s as fun or hard as you let it be.
If you follow authors on social media, you’ve probably noticed we’re an anxiety-riddled, procrastinating, revision-hating, deadline-dreading bunch. I don’t know if writers tend to be more anxious or anxious people gravitate toward creative work (it’s a chicken vs. egg kind of thing), but I do see a lot of correlation. And there’s so much you can let yourself be stressed about: can I get this finished, will anyone read it, will I have money to pay rent… But chances are you started writing because you loved it, and even if it was a challenge, it was something that satisfied you. So, every day, you have to choice to face it as such, to make it either something you enjoy or something that fills you with terror and dread.
Writing day to day seems like a set of small goals (finish this chapter, finish this book, work on this series). A lot of the work you put in isn’t ever shared with readers, and the final book is sometimes available only months later—when you’ve moved on to other things. It can sometimes feel like an uphill battle, like you’ll never reach “success” and your ultimate goal. But that’s because time passes, years go by, and your idea of success shifts each time you reach it. Someday, you’ll look back on your work and see that you’ve written dozens of books, that you’ve received recognition, maybe awards, and countless readers have enjoyed your work. You’ll have done things that beginner you could not have ever imagined. And yet, you’ll still be at your keyboard, wanting to finish this latest project.
There will be other things.
The great thing about being a creative, is that you are not stuck constantly in a factory-style job doing the same repetitive motion until the end of time. You can change your characters, your plots, your genres. You can even bang out a few blog posts on writing here and there. Nothing stops you from trying new things, because whatever you do off the page builds your experience level, gives you fuel for writing, and opens up new doors. I dabble in illustration and photography, friends of mine have part time jobs, or have kids and sports. We all leave space around our writing (not that we could write 12 hours a day if we wanted) and that space allows us to explore. To live life.
You’re still going to love it.
Seriously. No matter how much time passes, stories and books will forever be a part of you.