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If I Could Do Things Over:What I'd Change & What I Wouldn't

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

A couple of weeks ago I read a guest post on Chip MacGregor's blog titled, "What I'd Change About My Writing Journey."

After reading it, I couldn't keep from analyzing my own journey and trying to figure out if there was anything I would or wouldn't change about my writing past. I've been writing for over twenty years. So I've definitely had my share of struggles and mistakes.

Of course I wouldn't change some things because they helped strengthen me and made me a tougher more competent writer. But then there are other things that I wish I could go back and do over.

Here are just a few of my thoughts:

What I WOULD NOT change about my writing journey: 

1. I wouldn't change that my first five books didn't get published. In hindsight, I'm SO relieved that my earlier manuscripts were rejected. They were the books I needed to write to foster my creativity and unleash my storytelling abilities. But they were not of publishable quality. In addition to lacking structure and technique, they didn't have the depth, passion, and complexity of my current work.

2. I wouldn't change that I took a writing hiatus when my kids were little. I took a seven year break after my twins were born. And even though at first it was hard for me to lay aside my writing, I can see now that break enriched me. When I finally started writing again, I brought a wealth of experiences and maturity to my stories that I didn't have before. I learned that breaks are okay, that sometimes we need them, and that we shouldn't beat ourselves up for them because the time away can help us be even better.

3. I wouldn't change that I wrote in solitude for many years. I already touched on this in my post: Why I'm Glad the Internet Didn't Exist When I Was a Beginner. In addition to not having the internet, I also didn't worry about writing conferences or writing groups or critique partners. During those first few terrible but necessary books, criticism and pressure from others would have zapped the joy out of the learning process. Instead I insulated myself and didn't have to play the comparison game.

4. I wouldn't change all the studying and learning. After writing those first few books, I began to sense that I had much more to learn and so began to delve into studying the craft of writing with zealousness. When I wasn't writing, I immersed myself into every fiction how-to book I could get my hands on. It was at that point that my writing really began to improve.

What I wish I COULD change about my writing journey:

1. I wish I hadn't worried so much about my future. This is a really tough one. Because I think it's natural for us to be excited and nervous when we send a manuscript to an agent or publisher. But in hindsight, I realize all my fretting didn't make the process move faster or make things turn out better. It didn't change what happened. But it did make me more tense. I'm still learning to work hard at the things I can control (like continually striving to improve my writing), and to let go of the things I can't (like how quickly I achieve success).

2. I wish I would have stressed out less about social media. Yes, social media is important for the modern author. But it's all too easy to get swept into the social media tidal wave and let it drown us. If I could go back and change things, I'd take the pressure off myself with blogging. At first I blogged five days a week. Eventually I moved down to three, then two. At some point I may even reduce to once a week. But for now I've found a system that works with my busy schedule.

3. I wish I'd been able to set better boundaries for my writing time. I've gone to both extremes over the years, not giving it enough importance and relegating it to "hobby status." Then there were times when I gave it too much weight so that it made my family feel second-rate. I'm finally beginning to find a balance, partly by setting aside devoted chunks of time to focus on writing, so that I'm not constantly have to squeeze it in wherever I can.

4. I wish I could learn more patience for where I'm at in my journey. This is one I'm still struggling with. It's still too easy (especially with the availability of reviews and rankings) to compare ourselves with other authors, especially those further ahead. I have to remind myself that they were once in my position, and they had to persevere to reach where they're at today. I need to keep hanging on, enjoy where I'm currently at, and stop wishing it away for the glories of tomorrow.

What about you? What are some things you WOULD NOT change about your writing journey? And what are the things you wish you COULD change?



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