Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Writing: Part I

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1. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

This is especially true for the first draft. So many poems, novels, and short stories go unfinished because of backtracking to “fix” problems. My first novel took 5 years to complete due to my constant adjustments. My second novel taught me to just punch out that first draft and then go back in and revise/edit. Rationale: Having the big picture in place makes easier to find and fix mistakes.

2. Too much advice does more harm than good.

That old adage, “too many cooks in the kitchen” comes to mind. Knowledge about anything is powerful, but ultimately it comes down to action. You can attend a million workshops or read every how-to manual on the market, but the best teacher is experience. You have to make mistakes and allow yourself to fall instead of only relying on a knowledge base to get you through the process.

This also applies to beta readers. They have their purpose, but too many opinions can easily sway or muddle your original vision. Like all good things, advice is best in moderation. There comes a point where a writer has to find balance between outside opinions and the muse’s compass.

3. The inner critic is brutal.

One of the first posts on this blog was titled, My Inner Critic Is Trying To Kill Me. Let me tell you, that voice is LOUD. And soul crushing mean. For some writers, the inner critic is so cruel the words stop coming altogether. I wish I had a magic fix for the self doubt the brews inside of every writer, but the one piece of advice I can give is to fight back. The only way to defeat the inner critic is to keep writing and pushing forward. Eventually, that loud, mean voice falls on deaf ears because you’re too busy writing something.

4. Triumphs are small, but incredibly meaningful.

Even though I’ve been writing for most of my life (I have poetry journals from when I was 8 years old), my list of accomplishments is quite small. I’ve won a small contest, been published in a tiny local journal and a local newspaper. That’s about it. Although, I do count my blog as a success as well!  While the list is small and the accomplishments smaller, I cherish every victory. They are few and far between for most writers, so grab onto them and don’t take them for granted!

5. Rejection is a good thing.

No one likes getting that email that says, “unfortunately I am not interested in your work at this time.” It sucks. But it’s also great. Most agents and publications don’t even bother responding to queries at all, so getting any sort of a response is exciting stuff.  Embrace it and give yourself a pat on the back. In many instances it means your work was good enough to spark some sort of attention.

Something else to keep in mind is the fact that the rejection letter allows the inner critic to occupy some prime real estate in your soul if you choose to take it personally. Don’t let the inner critic win. Instead, save your rejection letters as testaments to the fact that you are trying and someone noticed.

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Stay tuned for Part II next week. Meanwhile, I’m curious – What do you wish you would have known before you started writing?

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c.b.w. 2015

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24 thoughts on “Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Writing: Part I

  1. I think your last point is key. Rejection is, unfortunately, a core aspect of being a writer. However, though it sucks to be rejected, aspiring authors should use the experience as an opportunity to learn and grow.

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  2. How important it is to share your writing. I agree with your point about too many cooks in the kitchen, but there was a time when I didn’t show my work to ANYONE. There’s only so far you, on your own, can go; you need other viewpoints and opinions on your work. It does make it better. That being said, make sure the feedback comes from people who you feel are qualified to critique your work.

    Great post!

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  3. Cool. You’re so right when you say that a rejection is better than none. At least it could indicate that someone even bothered to read what you’d sent, and drop you a note. 🙂

    Good read here 🙂

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  4. This is so good! This covers so much of what I wish I knew before I started writing. I used to be quite the perfectionist and would literally delete an entire draft to start over instead of saving it in my tweens. (Worst idea ever. Seriously!) It’s not about perfection (especially at the beginning). It’s about finding the story that needs to be told. It’ll take time, but that’s okay. In fact, that journey is part of the delight of writing.

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