For what I think will be my final post for the Class of 2k12 blog, I decided to take a page from Robert Fulghum’s book, “All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” (or borrow a page, see number 4,) and equate everything I’ve learned about my debut year, (and writing in general) to what I learned in kindergarten.
These are the things I’ve learned:
1. Share everything: Find a group of authors like the Class of 2k12 who understand what you’re going through and then share your successes and failures, your joy and your frustration. EVERYTHING. Chances are someone in the group is going through the same thing and they thought they were the only person who ever felt that way. When your dream becomes a reality and sometimes a nightmare, you’ll need the support. A word of caution though…Do not share everything on-line. Sometimes you need to vent. Sometimes you need to scream. Do so in a safe environment. The internet is not a safe environment, no matter how many friends you have there. (Or maybe because of how many friends you have there.)
2. Play fair and 3. Don’t hurt people and 4. Say your sorry when you hurt somebody. The publishing world is a small and very interconnected playground. If you don’t play nicely in the sandbox, it will come back to bite you. No matter what stage of this business you’re in, BE NICE!
3. Clean up your own mess. Whatever you write will eventually need to be edited (no one is perfect) and you’re the one that will have to clean up whatever mess you put into your first draft. (Your editor is not your mother). Maybe your historical-dystopian-fantasy-vampire-mystery novel should have five main characters and be written from six points of view, maybe you should spend page after page with a poetic description of your heroes abs, or maybe you need to curtail your out of control creativity and just write a good story. (Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.)
4. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Writing a book takes hours and hours and hours of the author’s life. Yes, we want people to read our books, but pirating is stealing, pure and simple. Now that I know what feels like to have pirated copies of the book I spent two years creating floating around cyberspace for anyone to steal I’m much more careful about how I acquire music, books, photos, and other forms of art.
5. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. They are vital actually. (Especially for an author like me who doesn’t drink). So is chocolate and cupcakes. The virtual ones sent by friends when you’re in a crisis are thoughtful and calorie free, but sometimes you need the real thing.
6. Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Writing and promoting a book can and will take up all your time. There will always be another story to write/revise/edit/submit/revise again. There will always be more promotion/social networking/advertising you can do. There will always be another conference/book signing/library visit that you think will push your book sales over the top. But if you’re spending all your time on your and with your book, your world will shrink, your friends and family won’t want to be with you anymore, and you’ll start to hate writing. Besides anything you try to write in the future will be boring. (No one wants to read about a middle-aged woman who lives in her pajamas and spends her days hunched over a laptop with her imaginary friends.)
7. Take a nap every afternoon. This is especially important if you write at night because you work during the day or if the only time you have a quiet house is after everyone goes to bed. Naps are REQUIRED after you’ve stayed up all night finishing a deadline. Creativity thrives in a well-rested mind.
8. When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands and stick together. Back to the author’s group thing, the road to publication is scary and confusing road to travel alone. Find friends and mentors who have been there before you, people who can hold your hand and walk you through it.
9. When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
10. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the plastic cup. The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. Don’t just write what you know. Write what you want to know, write what you’re excited about it. Don’t be afraid of research either, no time you spend learning something is wasted.
11. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice an even the little seed in Goldfish and hampsters and white mice and even the little seed in the plastic cup – they all die…So do we. Someday I will be gone, but everything I write will live on. (Apparently even what I post on facebook when I’m in a really bad mood.) Make sure the legacy you leave behind is a good one. Some of this goes back to number 2 and the BE NICE thing.
12. And then remember the story book about Dick and Jane and the first important word you learned, the biggest word of all: LOOK! Story ideas are everywhere. Keep your eyes open. Always see life from a writer’s perspective, every moment could be the beginning of a great story. Never stop enjoying that part of the writing process.
13. And it is still the truth, no matter who you are or how old you are, when you go out there into this world, it is best to hold hands and stick together. Thank you to my fellow members of the Class of 2k12, the Apocalypsies, my family, friends and other writing groups who have helped me learn from, enjoy, and survive this crazy year.