Sunday, April 21, 2013

My First 6 Years as a Would-Be Novelist

This February marked the sixth anniversary of my dive into novelling after a very long hiatus from writing for career, marriage and motherhood. I've been thinking about what I learned from this ordeal, which has spanned three career changes, a divorce, and the first six years of my son's education. He is starting middle school next fall, I'm starting life over as a single mother, and my book still isn't done.

So what have I learned? I thought I'd have a ropeful of pearls of wisdom for you. I don't. It really just boils down to three things.

1. It's okay not to know what you're doing.

 People kept telling me to trust my instincts and my own process. When you're starting out, you HAVE no instincts nor process. You're watching everyone else and trying to learn as much as you can. That's good! Keep doing it. Eventually you will develop the skill and the know-how to do what you need to do. The writing community is extremely supportive and if you are active on Facebook and comment on blogs, you will make friends who will gladly help you.

2. It takes money, but not as much as you think.

Although you can learn a lot from blogs, networking, writer's groups and such, the broke writer is going to struggle to compete with those who take classes, attend big conferences, and so on. BUT... there are some inexpensive ways to learn. I started out with an adult education class at our regional high school. Later I took a $95 online fiction writing course through the community college that was the best hundred bucks I've ever spent on writing. There are inexpensive local conferences to attend, and even some online workshops you can join for free. Keep your eyes and ears open!

3. Writing is not your life. 

People will tell you that it is, but it's not. Your family, your spiritual life, your day job, your home, your friends, your health... all of these things must be taken care of and are essential to a healthy, productive you. Your novel is not worth losing your marriage or your job (because you stay up till 1 a.m. every night and then screw up at work, for example), nor missing your child's soccer games, nor being so isolated you never talk to anyone IRL. (In Real Life.)  Writing is an essential part of your life, but it must never, ever take over completely. At the end of the day, a fictional hero will not hold you and you still have to do the dishes, the laundry, and cope with piles of tedious work for your boss. Embrace it. It will keep you real and give you more fodder for authentic writing.

Health is the first muse and sleep is its requirement. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have a healthy, productive, restful Sunday, my friends.