Every day, I read headline after headline about all the things writers “should” be doing. From things you shouldn’t do or say in a query letter to the various mistakes you can make when you’re trying to sell your books, I can certainly see how anyone might feel overwhelmed.
Here’s the thing: most people online provide advice as a way to share what they know (or in some cases, what they don’t). I recently overheard a quote that proclaimed “unsolicited advice is self-serving.” Yeah, that’s really true, but without that “unsolicited advice” no one, including me, would have a lot of material to blog about.
Just because there is all this advice out there, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be afraid to make a mistake. I believe that the number one reason that many people stop writing or never submit is because they are paralyzed with fear. Paralyzed by it because someone out there is always better, faster, more connected or more visible than they are. So, if that writer makes a mistake, they feel like someone is going to find out about it and cross their name off the “I am a writer” list with a big, fat “X.”
If you want to write professionally, handling bad news and criticism in a way that doesn’t damage your soul for eternity pretty much comes with the territory. The only way you’re going to learn about this business is by getting out there and hoofing it. Yes, there’s a lot of conventional wisdom out there that is worth listening to, but that is up for you to figure out what’s meaningful to your career and what’s not. Your experience is going to be different than mine is, because you are a different person than I am. That doesn’t mean “you’re doing right” or “you’re doing it wrong.” If you find something that works for you? Great. If you fall flat on your face? Learn from it. Embrace it. Then? Get back up again.
For clarification purposes, please note that I do believe there’s a difference between reality and fantasy. Experienced authors make writing seem effortless, because they’ve got millions of words behind them. If you’re just starting out? You’ll probably need to focus on how to write rather than how to be a writer. In my experiences, writing isn’t about what you do on the first try, it’s a journey that you have to repeat over and over and over again. Yes, you’ll encounter bumps along the way, but who cares? I don’t measure my career by how many times I fall down, it’s about how many times I get back up. Of course, the irony of this blog post is not lost on me because that I’m telling you — flat out — not to worry about always making the “right” decision when it comes to your career. That certainly includes listening to anything I have to say. *smiles*
If you do one thing this week, I would like to encourage you to try something new. Have a hard look at a story you’re having a hard time selling, write something in a new genre, or give your manuscript to a brutal critic. Break out of your mold and be brave! BE BOLD! Become…a writer who isn’t afraid of making a mistake!