On Writing

Writing Lessons Learned in 2020

Writing Lessons Learned in 2020

I set out for 2020 to be the year I write like it’s my job. I didn’t achieve all the goals and deadlines I wrote down at the beginning of the year. Some changed, some seemed less important or necessary. Some were just not realistic for my life and the year 2020 turned out to be. 

However, I did find great value and reward in taking myself and my writing seriously. After attending the Saga Writing Conference in March, one speaker (I can’t remember exactly who now) talked about how you approach your writing–do you want to write just one book or do you want to build a career?

I want to build a career. That takes time, investment, changes in my routines and priorities, and a whole lot of work, but I can do it. Even if I don’t get agented or people flock to my stories, I need the diligence and practices of a writer who is seeking to be in it for the long haul, not just if an agent loves their work and they become a runaway bestseller.

With that mindset, I decided to pursue writing in 2020 more like a job than a hobby. Here are a few of the lessons I learned:

1. Do the work.

It really is possible to sit down and write and come out with a story on the other side. It may take months to years, but it is possible. Fear and self-doubt are your greatest enemies. Tap into the fear, splinter it, and let the light in. You don’t have to push away or deny the fear, but it can be a motivator. As Stephen Pressfield says, “Fight the Resistance.”

2. The writing community is an incredibly supportive and encouraging place.

They’ll cheer you on for every step, because they know how hard it is. They’ll answer your questions and give you advice when you’re spiraling in your own writing woes. They’ll share the perfect meme and inspiring quote too. What else can you expect of magic makers?

3. Writing is easier and harder than you think.

Easier in the sense that it’s fun and exciting to  create worlds and characters and plot lines–there’s so much potential! It’s harder, because you’re creating worlds and character arcs and you want those things to be deep and coherent and cohesive and those things do take time. You have to find what processes for drafting, plotting, and revising work for you. That can only really happen through discovery. 

4. I am capable to do this work.

You are capable to do this work.

5. There is room for your stories.

There are so many writers and books and stories out there. Don’t set your heart on being a bestseller or on celebrity booklists. (Or do, but know there are elements to becoming a bestseller that are out of your control.) Walk into any bookstore and you will see thousands of books representing the work of hundreds of writers. Some of who you’ve never heard of. All of these books are for someone. They may not interest you, but there’s a reader for them. There’s a reader for you too. Be diligent to do the work.

6. It’ll take longer than you think, but that’s okay.

It’ll take longer than you think, but that’s good. Or, at least, taking time doesn’t mean it’s bad. Good work takes time. It’s layered. Life happens. We have to adjust our expectations, work load, and priorities to what is happening today in our life. Set goals, but know they need to be flexible. 

7. Invest in your writing craft.

Invest in your writing craft. Read a writing craft book, take a class, attend a conference. You can find them for free, low cost, or a deep investment. It depends on what you’re looking for, but if you want to grow as a writer and learn from other writers in your genre or in general there are plenty of opportunities out there.

In 2020, I went to a local writing conference (pre-pandemic), took a fairy tale short story writing workshop online, watched free online writing conferences (Y’all Write), attended a few Wordsmith seminars, and took a five week writing course by one of my favorite authors, Kate Forsyth.

My point is the resources are out there, whatever your budget, that will help you grow in your writing craft and learn about the industry.

8. Shift your mindset from success to diligence.

Shift your mindset from success to diligence. Success is subjective and depending on how you view success, it’s not always within your power. But you can be diligent to show up and write regularly, to make a commitment to yourself, and ask others to hold you accountable. Set your own deadlines if need be. Know that being diligent to the creative process will produce results–they will vary, but knowing you are showing up to do the work is better than wondering if and when the work with be “successful.” If you love it, you’ll do it anyway.

What are my writing goals for 2021? To write like it’s my job.

What writing lessons have you learned?