I just spent my sixth anniversary as an author! It was a pretty good day to have cake and celebrate as I also decided to release my book, I Miss my Friends: An Illustrated Poem, the very next day. As I reminisced on my last six years as an author, I’ve come up with some of the things I learned and thought it’d be great to share it with you.
Six Things I Learned from Being An Author for Six Years
1. Save your work.
I wrote my first novel five years before it got published. It was just sitting on my inbox’s sent items, waiting to be picked up again. Imagine if I attended the Author At Once workshop without a manuscript ready — it would have taken me longer to finish or worse, I could have given up before I finished anything! So anything that I start now, even scraps or things I might consider as crap then — I keep. It’s true, a finished draft is better than no draft, but a draft is better than nothing at all.
2. Show up.
As an introvert, attending social gatherings is such a huge thing! But…there are things that are worth going out for (not these days though, stay at home!). Go to (online) events. Attend workshops. I started with not knowing anyone and just took a chance on a workshop. I liked the first workshop, knew I needed to learn more, so I kept attending, kept introducing myself and eventually…found people who liked the same stuff, wanted to create the stuff, and knew how to create the stuff (or you know, would attempt it and report back how it went haha). Writing is a solitary experience, sure, but you don’t have to be alone for all the other things. If you are ever so lucky to find friends and a community in this industry, treasure that. Show up for others as they show up for you. 🙂
3. Don’t sell yourself short.
aka Imposter Syndrome, what’s good? When I was starting out, I do this all the time. When people comment, “Oh you write books!” I will say, “Oh, it’s nothing, *insert throwaway comment*” I would avoid that topic as much as I can, and if I could hide from the people who kept bringing up my books (apart from my writing community), I would. But here’s a secret: no one is judging you or minding what you do as much as you think. I’ve learned now to wait for the person to finish their sentence before I respond. Sometimes they won’t even say anything particular about it, so there’s no need to get defensive, or to even sell yourself short by belittling what you do. Just smile. Let people tell you what they think, and not what you think they’re thinking of you.
4. Establish boundaries.
I get it, whatever we write — it’s an extension of ourselves, our thoughts, and what we feel. When I was a baby writer (so am I…a grade schooler now?), I would read every comment and every review. Of course, I wanted to know what people thought of my work. But also…I wanted to please everyone. Make sure everyone likes it! But we all know that not everyone will like you, or your work. So over time, I have learned to separate myself, as a person, from the work. I also stopped reading all of the reviews all the time. I filtered my messages (but also thanks IG for updating your DMs!), and learning that not everything requires a reaction. It’s hard work, but establishing boundaries has greatly helped my mental well being.
5. You will have writer’s block that can last for days, weeks, months, (years)?
And that’s okay. I used to mourn about these days and ask myself, what did I break? Why am I not writing anymore? Why can’t I do it? Why don’t I have a next book out? How are people still writing? I needed it done like yesterday. And that’s fine, you can mope a little bit, but you can also try to do other things. I had to remind myself that I used to write for fun, and not to make money. I can enjoy my life the way I used to, before I had planned release schedules and the building pressure of delivering all the time. Other hobbies are cool too, and again: rest is part of the process. Not everything has to be about the next book. It can just be about you, creating for you even if that means not being good at it. Sometimes it can be about being the audience instead of being the presenter, and receiving as much stories as you can from other creators.
When I started, I wanted to write Young Adult Romance. The number of YA romance I wrote? 1 out of 9 books. I wasn’t even thinking about poetry. I was afraid of poetry as a child, didn’t think it was something that I could do. But then I started reading more and more of it, wrote some in pieces and felt it out for a while before I took the plunge and asked an editor (I needed help, obviously) to check it for me. It’s still crazy to me how The Last Time I’ll Write About You performed because as much as I knew what I was doing when I wrote that book, I also…didn’t know what I was doing. It was an experiment! And a successful one at that. So ever since then, I told myself to not be afraid of trying out things. And hopefully that would be encouraging for you, if you’re ever thinking about trying out something new. Who knows? It might turn out to be one of the best things you’ve done. Or you know…it could go the other way, but make sure you had fun, anyway.
Phew, this is a long post! I hope you haven’t dozed off yet. But that’s okay, you can come back to each item at your own pace.
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