One thing I am terrible at is taking the time to glance back. You know, pause and think about how far I’ve come on this writing journey of mine. Usually my gaze is fixed ahead on whatever is next and figuring out how to juggle the load. But today I want to take a minute to do this because there are some important lessons there.
I started just like anyone else…green.
I didn’t know it of course; I thought my writing was awesome…but okay, maybe it needed a touch of polish. So even though it terrified me, I stepped outside my comfort zone to find other writers. I made my first investment in my career…a critique group.
Well, it didn’t take too many critiques at The Critique Circle to see I had a loooooong way to go. I dug in, investing my time and energy, losing count of the critiques I wrote online and off somewhere after 1000. Boy, did I learn a lot.
During that time I made a financial investment, moving up from a free plan to a paid one, but it was so worth it because I could submit work quicker and therefore improve faster. The price wasn’t huge but I agonized over it as I wasn’t making any money from writing and so felt guilty spending it. Any of you feel that way? Looking back, I wish I hadn’t beaten myself up so much, but more on that later.
FUN FACT: Becca and I met online at The Critique Circle. Can you imagine if I hadn’t taken the leap to try something outside my comfort zone? We would have never met!
The next big investment came when I reached that magical point all writers reach: you have grown enough to fully grasp just how much you don’t yet know. So, Becca and I took an entire year away from writing fiction to study the craft. We devoured writing books, everything from Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey to Snyder’s Save The Cat, to Wood’s Description. I don’t know how many books we read in total, but it was a lot. Switching gears was such a smart move for us as we grew a ton that year.
Another investment? Attending my first conference. Oh, the GUILT! A stay-at-home mom, I certainly saw no income from my writing. My husband was starting to prod, suggesting maybe it was time for me to try something else. But I knew this was the path for me, and part of that road is seeking out learning opportunities. So in 2005, off I went to SIWC (Surrey International Writers’ Conference) to listen to gurus like Donald Maass and Diana Gabaldon. My hand cramped from all the note-taking. I had to navigate the social events, too. *cue introvert terror* But I had to figure out the networking thing if I wanted this as a career.
FUN FACT: In October 2017, I returned to SIWC…as a speaker. (Donald Maass and Diana Gabaldon were there, too. Life is crazy, right?)
Fast forward a bit, and Becca and I were basically joined at the hip. We’d started submitting our work to agents and editors and this mysterious word, Platform came up. Ugh, MORE to learn? Oh yes…that’s the writer’s life, isn’t it. So, we started a blog. Totally clueless, no idea what we were doing…but we did it anyway.
FUN FACT: Since May 2010, The Bookshelf Muse blog has accumulated 4.2 million hits. In 2015, we moved and became Writers Helping Writers. It’s accumulated 2.6 million more.
The time investment in building this site into what it is now? HUGE. But worth it? Oh yes. This is where we connect with all of you and it allows us to follow our passion of helping others.
Many more investments followed. Paying for online classes, more conferences, books on writing craft, workshops. Taking the time to learn how to build presentations and give them. Spending time with publishing experts to learn the industry to increase my chances of success. Investing large amounts of time to learn how to market, run a business, and self-publish. And finally, a crazy leap into the world of writing software to build One Stop For Writers, which for me, has been the biggest energy investment of all, but unbelievably rewarding. I love One Stop, and love knowing something that I help to build is in turn helping others.
FUN FACT: I started this journey in 2003.
Maybe you think after 14 years, I’d be done with investments? Nope! I’m attending my first 5-day writing retreat this fall with Margie Lawson. I am always learning and strengthening my craft, and this retreat will give me more valuable tools for my toolbox. I’m determined to never stop growing.
NOT-SO-FUN FACT: None of this was easy.
Sometimes I wanted to quit. Especially in those hard, discouraging times. I could have said, No, this is just too much to invest or let the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) suggestions to move on get to me. But I kept believing in this path, and in myself. I kept investing. And now?
So please, wherever you are on the writing road, no matter how frustrated you might be or how unsupported you feel, keep going. Do whatever you need to to learn. Find mentors, read, write, rewrite, work. It doesn’t happen overnight, but if you keep investing, it will happen. Don’t let guilt or anything else stop you!
How have you invested in your writing career? Let me know what some of your best investments have been in the comments!