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How to Drive Yourself Crazy as a Writer


 By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Here are four simple ways to drive yourself crazy (or to drive other writers & readers crazy!):

1. Think the very first book you’ve ever written is ready for publication.

This is a very hard truth for beginning writers to swallow. No one wants to believe they’ve gone to all the hard work of writing a book for nothing. But if you ask most published authors how many books it took them before they were ready for publication, likely you’d get a range from 4 to 6. Sure there are exceptions. But the large majority of authors have to write multiple books before really honing their skills.

It took me five books (not to mention a couple of books that I started but never finished). Those five books are stuck in a closet and will never see the light of day.

Fortunately, all the work isn’t for nothing. In fact, those first unpublishable books are incredibly important. Without mine, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. The practice books—combined with studying fiction techniques—are the building blocks for a successful career.

We’ll only drive ourselves crazy with potential rejections, poor sales, and crushing feedback if we attempt to put our books out there too soon.

2. Think you don’t need time to grow.

I save my kids’ writing assignments. They date the papers and put them in their writing folders. Every year when they add new paragraphs, essays, and stories, they invariably go back and read what they’ve written in previous years. Now in fifth grade, my daughter giggles over what she wrote in second grade.

But, boy, in second grade she thought those stories were wonderful. And they were—for a second grader. However, the time, distance, and growth has helped her to look back and see how much deeper, richer, and more complex they’ve become. She can objectively see just how shallow and simplistic her earlier writing was.

Even though there’s no set number of years someone needs to write before being ready for publication, there’s something to be said for giving ourselves plenty of growing room. If we’re studying hard, over time we’ll begin to see improvements in our writing skill. And someday we’ll even look back at our earliest attempts and giggle (at least I do!).

3. Think you can catch all your own mistakes.

No one can edit his or her own manuscript perfectly. That’s a little bit like trying to give yourself counseling. Usually we can’t see our own issues and faults (or we’re prideful or in denial!). We need friends, family, and therapists to help us see the issues.

And the same is true in our writing. No matter how many times we read our manuscript, we can’t view it as objectively as someone who is reading with a fresh perspective.

Even with twenty plus years of writing experience, I still can’t catch all my own mistakes. I absolutely need editors who can give me their honest, careful, and detailed critiques (of both big and small problems).

4. Think you can make a go of the writing journey alone.

In this modern age, it’s pretty tough to go solo. Although writing a first draft of a book is a solitary endeavor, the road beyond that is not.

The longer I’m in the industry, the more I’ve come to realize just what a team effort the process of publication is—everything from the editing to the marketing. Yes, it takes a team effort to take a book in its somewhat rough state and to polish it up so that it can really resonate and shine.

But then once we have it sparkling, it also takes a team to help us market our books. With over one million other books vying for the reader’s attention, we have so much more of a chance of getting our books to stand out when our friends and online connections help us spread the word.

Plus, we need writing friends to help us through the difficult times. Yes, our non-writing friends and family can support us too. But other writers can get it in a way that others often can’t.

We can drive ourselves crazy, sometimes even to the point of wanting to quit when we fall prey to any of the above.

How about you? Do you agree or disagree with my points? Are there exceptions to the above that you’ve seen?


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