If you’re like me, you find that wanting to write and actually writing isn’t quite the same. There’s no shortage of ideas, there’s no lack of love or passion, heck, there’s even enough time to write if you truly want it. And yet, the excuses overflow so much that when you finally finish a manuscript, you’re in awe of yourself. Not because you’re a genius, not because you’re about to break into the bestseller’s list, but because . . . against all odds, you actually freaking finished a book. (The two of you, over there, frowning because I haven’t published a book in a while, SHUSH IT. I can hear you rolling your eyes!)
Back to the important stuff. Writing can be incredibly terrifying. There are so many things that can go wrong. From finding out six months after you published that you wrote the stupidest idea ever to being publicly shamed for not having diversity in your book. Or the exact opposite, have virtual rocks thrown at you AND your puppy’s IG account because you dared write about a race entirely different from yours. There are so many ways you can lose. But is being an author satisfying? Absolutely. Difficult? No doubt. Rewarding? Beyond anything you can imagine. Unless of course you’ve written and published books, then . . . well, you already know that.
There are however some realities about writing (based on nothing but my own experience and mistakes) that I’d like to share. And if you don’t agree—or have your own realities—feel free to share below and enlighten me, because I want to know. In fact, we all need to know!
1. You should only write what you love. It’s for you. No one else. Except, I mean, you ARE going to share it with others to read . . . so how much truth is in that? It’s tricky. I think it depends on what’s more important to you: staying true to yourself and your story or writing things that have higher chances of being accepted by the masses.
I spent so much time worrying I’d let my readers down that I didn’t follow certain storylines. And honestly, I’m not sure if I regret it or not. You want more context? Okay, why not? I have a superheroes series, The Luminaries, and I’ve known for a long time what books three and four entailed. But then a big explosion of TV shows and movies about superheroes happened, and many of the things I wanted to write are now too similar to what’s out there. On the one hand, I’m sad to let go of some of my plot lines, and on the other, I’m glad I knew ahead of time they wouldn’t be “unique enough.”
So I’m still struggling with this one, but I think writing what you love wins. Be mindful of your audience, yes, but write what you love . . . just not only what you love. After all, if you lose the passion and feel like a sellout, then what’s the point? Write for you.
2. Writing can be lonely. Not a problem for me, mind you. I like peace and quiet, and solitude doesn’t interrupt my work calling for “mom” every two minutes. So yeah, I’m okay with it. But if you’re an extrovert and thrive on people-y environments, you’re likely to feel low on energy easily. Of course, you can go write in public places or hang out with people while you try to write, but you’re also likely to get distracted a lot. Either way, you spend hours navigating your own mind, then crisscrossing every single idea path you’ve ever come up with, and—no matter how much you’re enjoying what you’re doing—you’d better like your own company.
3. You’re not just a writer. You’re a reader. Gosh, you’d better be a reader. It’s one of the best ways of learning what successful writers do, and how they do it. Fiction and nonfiction subjects alike should be on your reading list. Read because you love it and read so you can feed your mind. How-to books for your writing profession are important as well as reading for research purposes. It’s the only way you can get all your facts straight for your mind-blowing plot.
I’ve come across writers who hate reading, and I’m equally in awe of their confidence and horrified at their lack of care. Maybe not care, but how can a writer not like reading? You want people to read your book, but you won’t read any? I’m not capable of understanding this.
4. Feedback can be heartbreaking and lifesaving at the same time. We all need feedback. Just because writing is your dream doesn’t mean you’re the best at it. You weren’t born with all the knowledge. Nor does the blood of The Storytelling Goddess (not real) (yet) run through your veins. Feedback can hurt your feelings, but that’s only if you’re not truly ready to learn and get better. If you are prepared for real feedback, however, you’ll appreciate every single note you receive.
An open mind and a positive attitude is super helpful here. After all, would you rather know your weakness now or would you like thousands of reviewers tell you (and their friends) publicly? Please get beta readers, developmental editors, and/or critique partners. You won’t regret it.
5. Failure is part of the journey. This might be the most challenging part you’ll have to face. Just know it’s completely normal and you’re not alone. You may fail to become an overnight sensation (okay, the probability here is pretty high), fail at getting a book deal the first, second or thirtieth time you try, and even fail many days to get one single word written. So, what? Each failure teaches you something.
But no matter the type of failure or obstacle you face each day, the important thing is that you get up and continue with your writing like it’s nobody’s business. Because it isn’t. I know I’ve had amazing days, weeks even, where nothing exists but me and my keyboard, but more often than not, I find myself crushed by my lack of progress.
I have an affair with procrastination, and I’m crippled by my own insecurity. But I’m still writing. I may not have published in a while, but I’ve made a lot of progress with a couple of manuscripts. I’ve failed many days because that’s how life goes, and that’s okay. It’s all part of the journey of me doing what I love.
For fun, here’s what another author learned about writing:
What are some truths about writing you’ve had to face?
By S. Katherine Anthony
S.K. Anthony (Shanny) is a writer, a reader, and make-stuff-up-er who lives in New York. She is an award-winning author and a podcaster. When she isn’t busy with her toddler twins, S.K. finds herself being transported into the world of imagination. Well, either that or running away from spiders . . . she is convinced they are out to get her!