Monday, June 13, 2011

10 Lessons Learned In 10 Years As A Writer

Ten years ago, I left a stable, successful, stressful career to became a freelance writer. I wanted to do something meaningful. Something flexible. Something that didn't keep me awake at night worrying about employees and politics.  Looking back over the past decade, I'm not sure if I was crazy or visionary.

I'm still learning my current profession, but continuous learning goes along with being a writer. I've never met a writer who felt she knew it all, and I'd be mighty suspicious of anyone who claimed she did.

I have picked up a few things during my time behind the keyboard, however. Many of the lessons I've learned are more about self-employment than writing. Eliminating unnecessary adverbs is easy compared to bidding jobs properly.

Are you thinking about plunging into a writing career? Here are 10 things I've learned during my 10 years as a writer—things I wish I'd known:

  1. Life goes on, no matter when your deadlines are. Death does not care if you have something due.
  2. Publishing is not the only goal of writing. For the most important kinds of writing, it's not a goal at all.
  3. Changing from a person who loves to write to a person who writes for a living is hard. Damn hard.
  4. If you want to be a published writer with an income, learn to write well and fast. Then learn to write faster.
  5. If you want to write for your family and friends, accept that they may not like what you write.
  6. Everyone has a story. Getting published isn't about how great your story is. It's about how you tell it and if you can sell it.
  7. The greater your need for uninterrupted silence, the greater the number of phone calls, arguing children, and sick animals.
  8. Persistence and flexibility are both gifts and curses.
  9. Don't expect anyone you know to understand that working at home actually involves working.
  10. Technology is changing the way we write and read. Writers who ignore this are forgetting that we also had to move beyond carbon paper and mimeographs. 
What lessons have you learned as a writer?

Photograph courtesy of James/Ellesmere FNC at Flickr