Monday, July 25, 2016

A Few Things I've Learned

A popular post from November 2009

by Annette Lyon

1) While writing is a solitary act, you can't be successful alone.
I must have friends who write, who "get" the writing side of who I am, who can cheer me on, who can sympathize with rejections, and more.

2) I need solid feedback.
That means the good as well as the bad. That also means developing a thick skin, something that took years. But I've reached the point where sometimes I panic if I can't get a certain people's critiques because I just know I might be missing something big they could point out to help me improve.

3) Enjoy the journey.
I must. Because the journey is filled with ups as well as downs. There are fantastic highs and glorious vistas. But hideous lows and gaping valleys separate them, and when you're breathing hot dust and feeling blistering sunburns, it's hard to remember that you might be nearing the top of a beautiful peak again very soon . . . and that you've already had several.

4) Look back at how far you've come.
I used to think I hadn't learned much or advanced very far in my skills. Then I attended a conference where I kept hearing questions from attendees that I thought were so elementary and obvious I couldn't figure out why anyone was asking them. Then it dawned on me: I hadn't known the answers to those same questions five years previous. Maybe I had learned something. And the same thing happened when I suddenly started winning awards and getting a few articles published. And then I could look at another person's work and be able to not only know what worked or didn't but why. Give yourself credit for where you've been and how far you've come.

5) Don't discredit what you do.
If writing is important to you, it's important. It's matters. No, you might not ever win a Nobel for literature. So what? If you are pursuing whatever goals you've set for yourself (whether that's journaling for an audience of one, doing freelance articles, publishing novels, or something else), work toward that. And don't let anyone tell you it's silly.

6) Writer's block is real, but there's always a way around it.
The block is really mental warfare with your inner creative child. It's fear. It's anxiety. It's a bunch of things. Learn what works for you. Usually you can trick yourself out of being afraid or psyche yourself into working around the block using various tools. Sometimes that tool is time.

7) Talent is born within you, but skill is developed.
You cannot teach someone to have raw talent. That is something that you're either born with or you're not. But that talent must be honed into a skill. Someone with a small amount of talent can still develop a great amount of skill if they have enough drive. But there are a handful of people who have zero in-born talent. Those people will never develop the skill. They can't "get" it no matter how hard someone tries to teach them and no matter how big their drive is to learn.

8) Time isn't found; it's made.
Everyone has 24 hours in their day. It also appears that everyone has a book in them, and if they "just had the time," they'd write it. Well, time doesn't drop into my lap. I make time. Those wannabe writers will never get their book written. While they're watching TV (or filling their day with whatever else), I'm writing.

9) Ideas are everywhere.
If you worry that you'll run out of places to find ideas, you aren't really a writer. Watch. Look listen. Ideas are everywhere.

10) I love what I do.
I'm a mom and a writer. There's nothing else I'd rather be.


L.T. Elliot said...

Amen and amen. Excellent points, all.

Laura said...

Heaven help me if I'm ever sitting in a class with you and ask one of those elementary questions. Ha ha...

Thanks for validating my life with your post. It's not very often I run into people who understand what it really means to be a writer. But then, I do live in Idaho. That could have something to do with it.

I'm going to go back and read your post again and again, reminding myself that all of this is normal and it's the path every writer takes.

Annette Lyon said...

Hardly, Laura! You missed the point.

Everyone has to start somewhere and learn those things--I had to learn them and ask those same questions. I'd just forgotten that I'd learned the answers.

Heather B. Moore said...

Great post!

Stephanie Black said...

It's fun to look at my very early (unpubbed, of course!)work and think wowie, I've sure learned a lot since then!

Carolyn V. said...

Thanks Annette. Loved your post. =)

Krista said...

Very sensible and encouraging. Thank you!

Amber Lynae said...

These are awesome lessons. Thanks.

onelowerlight said...

That's an interesting point about talent vs. learned skills--that skills grow out of talent, rather than that hard work helps one grow so far beyond their level of talent that innate talent is virtually irrelevant (the view that Howard Taylor espoused at CONduit this summer in his main address, if you were there). I have a question, then: if someone feels that they have some sort of calling to be a writer, does that mean that the talent is there? Or can someone feel driven and compelled to write when there really isn't any hope for them? I want to believe that if you genuinely feel that being a writer is something of a calling, you have the ability to achieve excellence at it--but sometimes, I wonder...

Kim said...

My favorite one is #8. I hate it when I hear people say, "I don't have time for that." You always have time to do the things that are most important to you. If it's important, you MAKE time!

Well said!