Wouldn’t it feel nice to look back on your journey as a writer without regret? I may have some words of advice that will help you achieve that goal—not because I’m especially wise or have all the answers, but because I’ve made all the mistakes. Okay, maybe not all the mistakes, but I’ve made more than I care to recall. However, when recalling those mistakes may help another writer, I’m happy to recite my list of blunders.
So, here’s my Do as I Say, Not as I Did list. Maybe it will help you avoid a few of your own blunders.
- Do dare to leave your comfort zone.
Don’t allow fear or discomfort to keep you from stepping out.
Go to that conference you’ve considered attending, even if it means attending alone. And once you’re there, push yourself to talk to others. You’ll likely find someone who feels as uncomfortable as you feel. Offer the companionship or friendship you wish you had rather than hiding in the restroom (now you know where I spent my time at the first dozen writers conferences I attended!)
- Do believe in your abilities.
Don’t allow negativity to whisper its condemning thoughts to your mind and soul. When thoughts like, I can’t do this, I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, I don’t have the right degree, or I don’t even have a degree, vie for space in your mind, fight back with the truth of who you are, and the abilities God’s given you.
- Do make a plan.
Don’t “seat-of-the-pants” your writing career. You’re welcome to write your manuscript by the seat of your pants, but plot your career. Make a plan and stick to the plan, allowing yourself to adjust as necessary. As you research agents, editors, and publishers, determine where your passion intersects with the types of projects they’re seeking. Set specific goals and timeframes. If making a plan feels uncomfortable, reveiw the first point listed above.
- Do connect with a community.
Don’t “lone wolf” your writing journey. Even if you’re shy, ridiculously introverted, aren’t high energy, and aren’t even sure you like people–find your people. Search for them online if you haven’t found them locally. Meet them at conferences. Volunteer for a writing organization like WCCW. Whatever it takes, surround yourself with other writers. You need them and they need you.
- Do continue learning everything you can about the writing craft for as long as you’re breathing.
Don’t let pride keep you from continuing to learn. When I look back over the last thirty years of my writing journey, the one thing I will never regret is my commitment to learning the writing craft. When I look ahead to my remaining years as a writer, I know I’ll never regret my commitment to continued learning.
For some writers, the above list may seem elementary, even silly. For others, it hits close to home. I’ve worked with writers long enough to know that oftentimes the messages we believe we’re called to write are messages born of deep pain. Even trauma. And that pain or trauma may have left us wounded, and afraid to leave our comfort zone, reach out, and connect with others.
If the message you feel called to write is based on a painful piece of your own story, here is one more Do to add to the list, and this is one I did and have never regretted:
- Do take the time to heal. Writing is hard work, but healing is often the hardest work. However, healing is a path to freedom. Once you’ve found that freedom, your words will offer readers true value.
Finally, if you already have regrets, mistakes you’ve made on the way to publication, or post publication, give thanks for those mistakes. It’s often the mistakes we’ve made that offer the most important lessons. Regret offers nothing but despair. You can let regret go.
Maybe you have your own list of dos and don’ts, if so, I’d love it if you’d share them with us in the comments.