I used to feel envious of those who followed their passion. That is, until I finally accepted mine and realized loving something—wanting it—carried another set of burdens.
I never knew what I was getting myself into when I jumped into my writing aspirations full steam. There were no warning labels listing toxic ingredients or harmful side effects. I had to find it out all on my own through trial and error, a few Jack and Cokes, and a tear or two. But I’m not going to leave you dangling like a participle, I’ll share the wealth.
Here’s my list of warnings.
1) Once you release the voices in your head, you will never have a private conversation again. The voices will always there, lurking and eavesdropping on everything you do or say. They want to be heard and will stop at nothing to make that happen. They will summon the heir of Slytherin, call on the Gods, whatever they must to do find their way to paper. I wouldn’t tell my husband this, but half the time he is talking to me, my characters are shouting over him.
2) Your little feelers are going to be hurt. Don’t bother developing a thick skin, but don armor or a wet suit—something that is impenetrable or so slick the negative slides right off. Don’t get caught up in what’s great about your writing, figure out what stinks and try to fix it. Search out ways to improve yourself, not fluff the ego. If you like fluff, you’ll wind up with lackluster beta readers who respond with a simple “I like it” instead of critical hard-nosed readers. Rewriting and editing is where the real writing begins. If you want to be good, you have to pay the price with some crappy writing. If you’re reading this thinking, My stuff is good. Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout? Let it simmer for a few months while you write another novel and read books on writing.
3) You won’t read a book the same again.
One of the things I miss, pre-writing days, is reading indiscriminately. It's harder to just read for the pleasure of it. Your write-brain will see a typo or a weird sentence and file it away. You’ll continue in the book finding more mistakes, loopholes in the plot, unlikable characters, or whatever else and wonder how in the heck the author became published while you’re filling up a binder with rejections. I know some writers who don’t see the faults as they read, but I don’t understand how. I’m editing my own stuff and a handful of others all the time. My mind is in constant edit mode.
4) Your spouse/family will resent the computer.
My husband knows I work hard, but sometimes the hard work I’m doing takes away from the family. I am a stay at home mom, so I can’t lock myself in an office and write for a certain amount of hours a day. I find the time when I can. Twenty minutes here or there. Whatever I can while still managing the household. Your thick armor will help as you battle through this section. Now, my husband’s snarky comments slide right past me. He can’t even throw me off with an eye roll anymore. I’m like a ninja—a couch ninja with a laptop of fury.
*My husband is one of my biggest supporters, but sometimes my writing gets in the way. It’s my fault, not his.
5) You need to start a blog.
This one killed me. I’m a reluctant blogger. I’m doing it because I want to hobnob with other writers, learn, grow. But writing a blog is a bit like a raid on my panty drawer and I don’t like y’all peeking at my unmentionables.
Since I’ve been blogging, I’ve learned to get passed my privacy issues (a bit) and learned to actually like blogging (a bit). I still don’t get the twitter stuff #ff, @,or the followers who say they are following and then immediately delete you. Whatevs to them. Seriously?
6) Can’t go it alone. It takes a village.
I wouldn’t be where I am without my critique group. They keep me in check while respecting my voice and creativity. If you can find a good group do it. My group is probably different than most. Half is comprised of beta readers who write and don’t like to share their work until they are finished. The other half emails chapters as they go. Find a group that works for you, establish goals, and get rollin'. It helps.
I could probably go on, but I don’t want to make this blog too long; so what are on your writer’s warning label? Gas? Irritable bowel syndrome? A twitchy e-y-e? What advice would you offer to a wannabe writer hungry for a publishing contract?