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