By Henry McLaughlin
After several years on this writing journey and from talking with others on the same path, I’ve found six things I wish I had done differently. Maybe you share some of them.
1) Following trends instead of my heart
We all have stories in our hearts. Stories that we need to write. Sometimes it’s for our own inner healing. Sometimes it’s to share something we’ve learned with others. It’s that story that simply won’t let us go. It’s the story that keeps drawing us even as we write something else.
And there are trends in the marketplace. The temptation to write what’s trending is strong because it seems like a sure pathway to success. One thing about trends is they change. That’s why they’re called trends. Related to this is by the time we finish our novel set in the current trends, we’re out of date. The trend has passed.
If our story is compelling and well written, it will sell no matter what the current trends.
2) Not investing more time in my writing dream
There are times in our writing journey when we can’t invest more time in our dream. Family, health, finances and a slew of other things can plunge us into crisis, and we have to step away from writing to deal with it. These are those times when we must adjust our priorities.
Once it’s resolved, it’s time to reconnect with our writing dream and reconnect with the writing community. This means investing time and sometimes finances. Making time to write is crucial. We also must invest in improving our craft through books, classes, conferences, and writing groups.
One of the benefits of this investing is we build our network. We meet people who instruct us, who become our mentors, who become friends and encouragers, who share this writing journey with us, who are there when this journey is at its loneliest.
3) Letting others define success
Success is unique for each of us. Finishing a book is a success for some. For others, it’s a multi-book contract or a NY Times bestseller or a movie deal. And, in reality, except for finishing the book, we have no control over any of these. In essence, we let others define our success. We need to define success for ourselves and put all our energy into it. If we allow others to define success, we’re sunk. Their standard isn’t ours. We’ve been given a dream and a calling. And a responsibility to fulfill them. Chasing someone else’s definition of success will cause us to lose our way.
4) Not stretching my writing muscles
We have to grow as writers. It’s part of learning our craft and developing our talent. I write in different genres because each challenges me to tell my story in a unique way, using techniques special to that genre. Now I write contemporary and science fiction and fantasy. I’m also writing flash fiction, short stories and novellas. Each provides insights into how I write, insights I can apply to all my writing and to how I mentor and teach others.
5) Listening to negative voices in my own head
I don’t know about you, but negative voices in my head are a fact of life. Voices that tell me I couldn’t write a line of dialogue if my life depended on it. Voices that tell me my plot is crap, my characters are stereotypes and my story world is unbelievable. Voices that tell me I’ll never be published again.
There are other voices in my head as well. Voices that tell me I’ve been called to this writing journey. Voices that tell me I’ve been gifted with talent and ability to write and to write stories that will impact people for the better. These are the voices I need to ensure I listen to.
6) Letting others derail me
We’ve met these people. And not just in our writing. They could have been the coach or dance teacher who told us we’d never make it. The teacher who treated us as the dumbest kid in the class. It could be a parent who told us we’d never amount to anything. They sowed the seeds of a negative self-image. An image we sometimes reinforce with our own negative self-talk.
On our writing journey, these are the people who never seem to have an encouraging word for anybody. They seem to find some flaw in our writing and pick at it until we bleed. Their motivation is not to help, but to cast themselves as better than us. Jealousy drives them. They have to win, even if it means putting others down. down.
They’re like the negative voices in our heads.
We decide who we’re going to listen to.
What’s on your list of regrets?
(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Stuart Miles, and Cooldesign.)
Tagged as “one to watch” by Publishers Weekly, award-winning author Henry McLaughlin takes his readers on adventures into the hearts and souls of his characters as they battle inner conflicts while seeking to bring restoration and justice in a dark world. His writing explores these themes of restoration, reconciliation, and redemption.
Besides his writing, Henry treasures working with other writers and helping them on their own writing journeys. He is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. He regularly teaches at conferences and workshops, leads writing groups, edits, mentors, and coaches.
Visit him at http://www.henrymclaughlin.org.
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