I saw this comment on FB the other day. I have no idea who it was about, nor, really, does it matter. It made me think about writing and at what point you do know…well, not everything, because that’s impossible. But you know stuff. Maybe it only took that other author two books to figure it all out. I’m writing my third and want to tear my hair out.
Writing well is hard. It takes time, sometimes a lot of it, and dedication. It means not watching that great program because you need to plonk your ass down and write. Or edit. Or research. It means your loved one staring at you like a puppy who desperately wants you to come out and play. It means too much coffee, too many nibbles, and rarely enough gym to offset them.
And then your first book comes out, and it’s terrifying and wonderful. Then you ride the review roller-coaster, which alternately makes you want to throw up and sing with joy. And on it goes.
I hope to hell my first book isn’t my best. I hope I learn and grow with every book I sweat out. With time, maybe I’ll know more than I do now, which might just cover the bottom of an espresso cup.
I’ve taught and played with words for over a decade now, and I’ve had the pleasure of talking writing with a lot of authors. I’ve also done a little writing of my own, and these are the main lessons I’ve learned:
1. Rules are good. Break them when you understand them fully. Do it well.
2. You write what you want to write because you want to write it, critics be damned. Still, do it well.
3. Humility is sexy.
4. You must earn your stripes. You should earn them. Expecting the world to drop at your literary feet after your first book is like expecting breakfast in bed with a winning lotto ticket on your birthday, delivered by Angelina Jolie. Possible, but rather unlikely.
5. Remember how much you love words. They are pliable and textured. Play. Mold them into such beautiful sentences people mull over them well after they’ve put down your book.
That’s the sum of what I know so far. How about you?