Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013: What I've Learned This Year

I'm sadly not one of those helpful authors who give all sorts of advice about how to live this writer life. Frankly, most of the time I feel like I'm doing it wrong, so who am I to tell anyone else how to do it? But 2013 was my debut year and I do have some things I learned and hopefully some of this will help you all too.

1. "Write every day. Write 10k on the weekends. Write only when you feel like it." There are a million pieces of advice out there for how to do this. And that's because we're all different human beings and work differently. Do what works best for you. If deadlines work, give yourself one. If NaNo works, do that. There is no answer. There is no "way" to do it. Give yourself the time to figure out your own system. Try different things. Allow yourself to fail.

2. Find a community of other writers. Your rejections will sting less, your hurts will heal faster, your shitty reviews will be less of a big deal, everything will go better when you have people lifting you up and telling you that you are lovely and amazing. I got to know spectacular writers this year. Everything is better because of that.

3. Let go of GoodReads, Amazon/B&N rankings, blog reviews, number of FB fans, number of Twitter followers, etc. Or don't, it's really your call. But for my part, I breathed easier when I stopped checking on these things. The same with Google alerts and piracy. These are things I have no control over. Every time I got involved with them, I ended up prickly and ready to fight windmills. To what end? If I'm going to be prickly, I at least want to be mad about something I can do something about.

4. Have something other than writing in your life. Do this for your own sanity, so you don't end up engaging in shenanigans that you shouldn't. It is super easy to get sucked into a vortex of writerly/Internet drama. No good comes out of this. It's a bad reenactment of the elementary school playground and who needs to go through that more than once?

5. Do something fun. Try something new. This will make you a better writer and a better person. Earlier this year a good friend and I sat in the vibrating massage chairs in the O'hare airport oasis talking about his book. The chairs were "enthusiastic" and we ended up having this serious plot talk with our voices shaking and this constant pounding on our backs. It was hilarious and fun and stupid and I won't ever forget it and I'll probably write it into a book one day.

6. Go on a writing retreat or to a conference if you can manage it. They're fun. They make you feel like this is what I do. They allow you to commune with other people who do this too. They force you to wear clothes that aren't your jams to work. They allow you to meet the people you talk to on the Internet and decide if they're really your people.

7. Volunteer. Do something good without asking for anything back. Help other people. It doesn't matter if it's other writers or other people who are in need, just say "yes" to helping. Example: I hate asking people for money, it is way out of my comfort zone. And yet this year, more than anything, the organization that I'm a founding member of needed me out there raising funds so we could do a writer's workshop for rape survivors in New York City. So I pushed past my comfort level and did it. And now we're doing a workshop in May, and everything else about my book and my life seems less of a big deal knowing that 25 survivors are going to participate in a workshop where they learn how to tell and share their stories.

8. Approach things with grace and humility. No matter where you are in the process, someone is ahead of you and someone is behind you. That's the way of it. Remember that it's a journey not a race. If you win, it doesn't mean that someone else loses, and vice versa. Recognize victories for what they are and acknowledge yourself for them ("I finished my WIP"), but don't do this at the expense of others. No one gets EVERYTHING they want. Just like no one ends up with nothing. There are no losers here, just different stops along the way.

9. Forgive others and yourself. Everyone has days of being an asshole. Everyone has a worst self that they sometimes unleash on the world. If you say something stupid, apologize for it. If you see someone else doing something stupid, assume they're having a bad day and give them the space to later apologize for their own assholery. That's not to say I'm giving R. Kelly a pass anytime soon, but there's a difference between being a sexual assault perpetrator and saying a dumb thing on the internet about romance novels.

10. Make good choices. Support local bookstores, support libraries, support authors, buy books for gifts, tell authors you like their books, encourage kids to read, etc. You are part of a community and in my mind, the best thing you can do is to work toward the continuation of this community.

I hope you all have an amazing New Year's! Thanks for being in my life, supporting me, believing in me, and making this community awesome.


Anabellynn said...

This was so beautifully and thoughtfully said; AND it applies wisdom to Life in General, not just Writing Life. Loved it!

Steph Campbell said...

Best year end post I've seen, pal. Which I know, is exactly what you were aiming for. ;) Love you and your authenticity. xx

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

Whenever I read someone has gotten an agent, sold a manuscript or debuted a book, I feel left behind. I better work on my fun skills.
Lupe F.

Loretta Nyhan said...

Great advice. Happy New Year, Christa!

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Great advice, Christa. Thanks!

M.J. Fifield said...

Wait...There are clothes other than pajamas?

Love the story about the vibrating massage chairs.

Thanks for the advice, and have a Happy New Year!

Jessie Humphries said...

This is so what I needed to hear as I embarq on my debut year (already feeling like I'm doing it wrong). Congrats on all you were able to do and accomplish in 2013, and cheers to 2014 :)