Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Fives- What I wish I'd Known Before I Became a Writer (via Paper Hangover)

Song of the Day: If I Knew Then by Lyfe Jennings

As you all know my incredible adopted sis (Pam) is a contributor of the blog Paper Hangover. Their Friday posts are awesome and will definitely get you either blogging or writing. Today they ask the question: What are five things you wish you'd known before you became a writer? Here's my list.

1. I wish I'd known that you had to have thick skin.

When I had my first writing workshop, I got so emotional after all the comments. I took it VERY personally. I had to learn that comments (most of the time) are actually beneficial and only make the work that much stronger. Even if you don't take all the suggestions people give to you, at least it gets you thinking about what works and what doesn't.

2. Being a writer is no cake walk

Between the rejections, the editing and re-writing, the critiques, the blank stares, I've discovered that being a writer is hard work. I decided to be a writer in the fifth grade (I was nine) after my teacher told me "you have a way with words, you should be a writer." I had already been reading since I was three and had already written several stories, complete with illustrations (all on construction paper, of course.) Writing had always come naturally to me. I whizzed through writing assignments, while my friends struggled to write a single paragraph. I never thought that would only be acceptable for the time being. I had to learn (fast) that the first draft wasn't going to be the final draft.

3. Getting your hands on every piece of information possible is essential

I wasted so much time! I went through phases when I didn't want to be a writer. My AP English teacher would literally rip my papers to shreds. After high school I figured that writing was probably not for me. I decided to be a pre-optometry major (I don't know what the heck I was thinking either) when I became a freshman in college. That wasn't working out because I was struggling in Chemistry and Calculus but excelling in English. A professor pulled me aside and told me that I should consider a major in writing because my work was good. That's when I decided to stop fighting my love for words. But I still didn't take it as seriously as I do now. I should have done internships, started attending conferences, reading more and making genuine connections with other writing students. I did none of that. I wish I'd spoken up more in class and formed relationships with those around me. Maybe then I would have had other writers to relate to that live close by.

4. You won't get it right on the first draft

I touched a little on this in #2. I still struggle with this. When you're a writer, you are destined to feel self-doubt at some point. This is my constant battle. I have to always remember that it's okay to get the words down on the page and then go back and fix it. National Novel Writing Month actually helped me with this. I finally stopped making excuses and realized that I can in fact write a novel.

5. You need writer friends

Whether you have friends that live near or you rely on twitter, you NEED people around you who are also writers. Who else is going to understand your pain? Having a writing buddy encourages you and keeps you sane. Rejections may suck, but at least you're not the only one getting rejected. When you see success stories, it motivates you to press on with your own writing goals. Thank God for technology. It makes this one a little easier.

If I'd known all of these things before I became a writer, I would have still chosen to be one. The only thing that would have changed is that maybe I'd be a better writer now. I love being a writer, heartache and all.


  1. I def. agree with all of your five. I agree about the thick skin comment and writer friends the most. We are the ONLY ones who understand how hard this writing thing is--but we also are the only ones who know that going through the lows are incredibly worth it for doing what we love. Good list!

  2. Yes, yes, yes to everything on here, especially #4 -- because it's important to give yourself permission to suck on the first draft so you can go forward.

  3. Great list. Writer friends really are essential. Nobody will understand you quite like another writer.

  4. This was so lovely to read, sis! I was nodding at all of the points you made--but I DEFINITELY agree about the thick skin. A year after craft and form, I was looking at a certain graduate director's final comments so that I could revise this month--and boy, did it bring up some bad memories. I was on the verge of tears until Quita calmed me down. I just have to keep reminding myself to push myself further, especially if I know this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. :)

  5. OMG, yes to everything. Especially 1 and 5. The first real crit I got I went home in tears.

  6. Writer friends are SO important. They can save your sanity.

  7. Great list! I agree with all your points, especially #5. Writing is hard and writing friends helps you stay sane.

  8. You are so right on the thick skin and hard work! And the writer friends. It's fun to "geek" out over one's passion for words. :-)