Wednesday, March 25, 2009

TEN LIFE LESSONS I LEARNED FROM WRITING

TEN LIFE LESSONS I LEARNED FROM WRITING

BY

CARA MARSI

(AKA CAROLYN MATKOWSKY)

In the years I’ve been writing fiction I’ve learned much about writing, but I’ve also learned much from writing. Below, in no particular order, are some of the things that writing has taught me about life:

1. Affirmation works. Believe it and it will happen. If you want something badly, write it down. For several years before I sold my first book, I wrote these words fifteen times a day: “I will be a published author.”

No, I didn’t sell immediately. And yes, I had to work really hard at writing. Just affirming what I wanted fifteen times a day wasn’t going to do it. But putting voice to my dream kept me focused.

How does this help with life? If you really want something, believe in yourself and keep working toward your goal. Will affirmations help you win the lottery? Let’s get real. If you have a realistic goal, for instance to retire from full time work in five years, you can make it happen. Write your affirmations every day, but do your research and work hard. Have faith in yourself.

2. Don’t listen to the so-called “experts.” If I’d listened to all the nay-sayers I would have stopped writing a long time ago. The “experts” said I would never sell and should give up because: I wasn’t finaling in writing contests; editors didn’t praise my work; I wasn’t receiving personal rejection letters. The only personal rejection letters I received made me cry. It took ten long years to sell my first book. I refused to give up and I refused to let the nay-sayers stop me.

No matter what you want to do in life--move to a new city, start a new career, go back to school, there are those who will tell you that you cannot do it. “Stay where you are,” “stay comfortable,” they’ll say. “You can’t change careers after forty, fifty, sixty, whatever,” they’ll tell you. Do NOT listen to them. Only you know what you want and what you’re willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals.

3. Don’t burn your bridges. This is good advice in the real and corporate world as well as the writing world. Got another rejection? Maybe it’s a rejection from your own publisher. Ouch! That hurts. Smile through the pain and send that editor a thank-you note. You may want to submit there again. Always send thank-you notes when you receive personal rejection letters, even the mean ones. It’s just plain good etiquette to be gracious in defeat. Editors know each other. Don’t think they don’t talk. Isn’t it better that they know you as a professional and not a whiner?

Passed over for a promotion at work? Congratulate the person who got the job you wanted. Smile at your boss. Maybe you’ll need to look for a new job, but don’t burn your bridges at your old one. You never know when you might need that good recommendation from your old boss.

4. Don’t compare yourself to others. There will always be those who are smarter, prettier, more successful than you. There will always be those who are less smart, less pretty and less successful than you. Don’t sweat it. Just be true to yourself.

This is a hard lesson in life and in writing. We all know those people who seem blessed by the fates. They have beauty, brains and money. Life is good. It’s the same with writers. We’ve all heard of that writer who suddenly decides to write a book. She finishes it in six months. Agents clamor to represent her. Book goes to auction and sells for six figures. And then there are the rest of us. We struggle for years. We endure rejection after rejection. But we persevere and we sell.

Life lesson?—Some are just more blessed than others. Accept that and be the best you can in anything you attempt. Each of us has a special talent.

5. Karma—there is such a thing. I personally have bad contest Karma. I never finaled in a contest before selling my first book. See number 2 above. I did, however, have two entries final in a contest after I sold. What did these contest finals get me? Rejections within two weeks rather than twelve weeks. Contests are overrated. Bad contest Karma? Not a big deal. Accept it and go on.

Do you have bad Karma in life? Don’t worry about it. Good Karma is overrated. See above. If you tell yourself that you have no control over your bad luck, you are in trouble. You do have control over your life.

6. “Don’t take life seriously. No one gets out alive.” I wish I were clever enough to think of this. I believe a rock star said this. Write for the pure pleasure of telling stories. Don’t worry about the rejections. I know, I know, that’s easier said than done. You tell a story from your heart and some editor or agent or contest judge rips it apart. Keep writing because you love it. “Do what you love and the money will follow.” Wish I’d said that one too.

The same goes for life. Have fun. Enjoy yourself. Hard advice at times, but remember this: when you’re in that nursing home, you’ll regret what you didn’t do, not what you did.

7. Know the rules. I belong to several email loops. Apparently, I’ve missed the memo on email etiquette. The few times I’ve taken the plunge to post something on a loop, I’ve been ignored or misunderstood. What am I doing wrong? On most loops, when new members join, the moderator “introduces” them. No moderator has ever introduced me. I’ve always had to introduce myself and then I’m ignored. Please someone send me the memo so I know what I’m doing wrong. If I choose to ignore the rules, that’s one thing, but I’m at a disadvantage when I don’t know I’m making a mistake.

Life lesson? You may choose to break the rules, but know them first. You can get yourself into lots of trouble if you don’t first know what’s expected of you.

8. Publishing is a business. Repeat this fifteen times. Sure, you’re a nice person. That has nothing to do with anything. An editor will take your book and an agent will represent you if they think they can make money. That is the bottom line. Don’t take rejection personally. It has nothing to do with you. For instance, you have a great interview with an agent. You discuss your upcoming vacation and her upcoming cruise. She says she loves the type stories you write. Feeling good, you send her the requested partial. In your cover letter you say you hope she had a wonderful vacation. What response do you get? A mean-spirited form letter that doesn’t include your name, her name, or the title of your book. The final punch in your gut? The letter says you shouldn’t darken that agency’s doorstep with one of your manuscripts ever again. Publishing is a business. Don’t forget that.

And life doesn’t always give you warm fuzzies either. Pick yourself up, know you are okay, and go on. Be true to yourself and kind to others. That’s what’s important.

9. NEVER GIVE UP. If you want it, go for it. Have faith in yourself. Don’t despair. See number 6 above. Enjoy.

10. NEVER GIVE UP. See 9 above.

Writing as Cara Marsi, Carolyn’s latest book is LOGAN’S REDEMPTION, a romantic suspense from The Wild Rose Press. Digital release August 2007. Print release November 2007.

11 comments:

Carla said...

Great blog, Cara, and a great reminder today! Thank you!! You're SO right!! :)

Sue L said...

What a wonderful list Cara, there are several points I need to take to heart.

Adele Dubois said...

Fabulous post, Cara! You are so right about so many things. You offered great advice.

Many aspiring authors don't know that the average time it takes to sell a first book is ten years. Determination and the willingness to learn are keys to publication.

Best--Adele Dubois

Daria said...

Carolyn, What a great article. Truly inspiring. You have a terrific way with words, which of course I already knew. It was a great day for them to reissue your blog. Many of us didn't final in the Golden Heart or the Rita and your words put it in perspective. Daria

Carolyn Matkowsky said...

Carla, Sue, Adele and Daria

Thank you, friends, for visiting and posting. I'm glad you liked the article. And Daria and Carla, cyber hugs about the GH.

Carolyn

Ann Whitaker said...

Carolyn,

I've been guilty of most of the things you mentioned we shouldn't do. I agree with all your advice. We sometimes tend to get to fixated on the destination and forget to enjoy the trip.

How could anyone ignore you?! Maybe you should start writing, "I will be a published author again!" fifteen times a day, though I have no doubts you WILL be.

Great post.

Carolyn Matkowsky said...

Ann,

Thanks for stopping by and posting. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. I hope it helped.

Carolyn

Lisa Logan said...

Excellent post! I just saw another blog by a big author who was giving some "standard" and non-encouraging advice that really irked me.

If Stephanie Meyer listened to all the "experts," she never would have gotten a book deal for Twilight. A complete amateur whose sister read her story and thought it was cool...and she made a killing on the bestseller list. It can be done! Thanks for reminding us to accentuate the positive!

--Lisa
http://authorlisalogan.blogspot.com

Lynn Reynolds said...

Cara - I can totally relate to that comment about always getting the rules wrong at the various email loops! It is hard to follow the rules when you don't know them, although I tend to find it very freeing in many ways ;-)

Metonia said...

I enjoyed your blog. I also read about not giving up, that you won't get published if you don't write. It's like winning the lottery, you can't win if you don't by a ticket.
I am only starting out at the young age of 50 with a career change. It was a bit intimidating to see I may have to wait till I'm 60 to get published. Who now's maybe I will have good nursing home stories to write about then.

Metonia aka Darlene Warner

Carolyn Matkowsky said...

Lisa, Lynn and Metonia,

Thanks for reading my article and posting. I'm glad you enjoyed the article and that it inspired you. And, Metonia, just keep writing. You're young yet. I know a multi-published author who is in her 80's and didn't sell her first book until she was 70!