Things I Wish I Knew

Every writer probably has had the following experience:

You’re at a birthday party or some type of gathering, when you get asked, “what do you do.” With great hesitance, you take a deep breath and reply, “I’m a writer.” And once you’ve dropped your bomb, you wait for the explosion. Normally, one of two things will happen. Either they manage to insult or belittle your passion, or they respond with, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

There’s something about that phrase that has set my teeth on edge. And I think I figured out why. It’s because it’s usually said with such nonchalance as though writing isn’t work. Everyone likes to fancy themselves a writer. But in all honestly, very few have the stamina and determination to see it through. Yes, writing is fun. If it wasn’t, why else would I be so determined to make it within such a cold and competitive industry? And while I truly believe that everyone has at least one good story to tell, I don’t believe that raw passion is the only sustenance you need in order to fulfill a dream of writing a book.  

There was once a time, many moons ago, when I would’ve said there is only one thing needed to become a writer and that is a story. But after nearly fifteen years of chasing the dream, I’ve learned a few important lessons.

And here are three things I wish someone had told be about writing:

1) It’s Hard

Being a writer is a difficult process. There is always something new to learn about the writing process. Sometimes, it comes with a lot of dead-ends. That story idea you had at 2 am might seem stupid in the light of day. That first draft you loved so much might become a hated work of fiction by the second draft. You will lose great ideas, start on bad ideas, abandon projects, and pick up on others after several years’ hiatus. There is no straight line when it comes to writing. Heck, even a visual plot map has ups and downs to it – it’s no wonder the act of writing itself also follows the same course. But it is in these ups and downs of life that writers are made. If you can stick it out until the end and complete one story in its entirety, then congratulations my friend, you’re a writer. 

2) It Requires Time

Writing takes time. And I don’t mean it might take you five years to finish writing a book. I mean sometimes your social life might have to take a hit. That is because if you are being serious about finishing a book, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. With only 24 hours in a day, many of us fill a large portion of those hours with work, school, and familial responsibilities. Whatever time is left over is where the writing gets squeezed in. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to entirely give up a social life. But it does mean that some weekends will come with the choice between meeting with friends or finishing those last 5,000 words. 

3) You Never Stop Learning

I did my BA in English. I earned my MA in Creative Writing from a world-class institution. I’ve attended various lectures, workshops, and seminars related to writing – and I’m still not done learning. There is always something new to learn. Even if you’ve published a book that still doesn’t mean you’ve crossed some sort of finish line where you know all there is to know about crafting the perfect story. It just means that you made it past the first level, and you’re now onto the next. And that next level comes with its own hurdles and lessons. In fact, the best writers aren’t the ones who are naturally skilled. The best writers are the ones who are constantly aiming to improve themselves. And this doesn’t just apply to writing itself. This can also include the publishing industry as a whole. There is always something to learn about the world of publishing whether it pertains to querying, marketing yourself on social media, self-publishing, etc. Don’t ever think you’re done learning as a writer – you’ll only be setting yourself up for a harsh reality check. 

Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Writer

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. But I have only been seriously pursing it for the last four years since graduating from my master’s program. And in the time that I’ve been trying to be a “serious writer,” I have learned some valuable lessons that I wish I’d been told before becoming a writer. And in case you need a little reminder, here are the five things I wish someone had told me before I took the plunge. 

Time

Writing is very time consuming – especially when you’re doing it with an end goal in mind. And as a result, you’ll probably see a dip in your social life or sleep cycle occur. But that is what caffeine was invented for. While this time consumption can be quite isolating at times, it does help to find some like-minded writer friends who understand your same struggles and can help motivate you when the time commitment just seems overwhelming.

Outlining

This one took me a while to finally figure out, but having a clear outline is everything! If I could go back in time to my eighteen-year-old self, I’d tell her to get on the outlining train ASAP and avoid years of unfinished manuscripts because halfway through, they were so chaotic and riddled with plot holes that they were tossed aside. Seriously, now I even outline my short stories. It makes a world of difference. 

It’s Okay to Suck

Writing is something that takes time to perfect. You will suck at first; there is no avoiding it. I just wish I’d known this sooner. But in order to suck less, you just have to keep practicing your craft, as well as embrace the editing process. All first drafts will be cringy and that is okay. 

Don’t Rush

Patience is a virtue, and you need to be patient with yourself. Writing a book is a long and arduous process. It is going to take time. Don’t get upset with yourself if you’re not writing “fast enough.” Go at your pace, take your time, and remember it’s a marathon and not a sprint. 

Don’t Forget to Live

Yes, writing takes up a lot of our time. But you can’t forget to make time for real life. It’s okay to step away from your fantasy world and back into the real world from time to time. In fact, I have learned that a little break from your manuscript every once in a while is healthy and restores your perspective on it.