My book came out eight months ago. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and certainly the culmination of many years hard work. The change from 'unpublished' to 'published' is a strange one, marked on the one hand by a definite date and time, and on the other by changes that are hard to actually notice. In the months that followed publication, as I continue to write and immerse myself in the world of Being An Author, I've become more confident, a tad more cynical, and a whole lot more secure. This post brings together a few thoughts I've been playing with - thoughts Past Simon might have appreciated, if he'd bothered listening.
He probably wouldn't have. Past Simon's such a prick.
So - what shall I call this? A Collection of Calming Thoughts for New Writers, maybe. Or how about Things I Wish I'd Known When My First Book Came Out?
Maybe I'll just call it this: Things About Writing That Might Be True.
Yes. That sounds good.
1. What whatever the hell you want. No matter how many lists of rules, trends, tips and secrets you read, the ultimate limit is your own creativity. You can't write for the market, but you can't really write for other people, either. This is so, so important. You can and should write whatever you want to. When someone else does really well, or when you feel low, you'll be tempted to change. Don't.
2. Social media really doesn't matter that much. It helps if you use it well, and it hurts if you use it badly, but if you ever get to the point where blogging / Twitter / guests posting takes up too much time or stresses you out, screw it all and step away. Writing your book (read: finishing your book) is the only thing readers ultimately care about. If being online stops being fun, stop being online.
3. Writing well is better than writing quickly. Don't put out something you're OK with if you can wait a month / year / five years and put out something you're actually proud of.
4. Cling to other writers and artists. Be proactive in finding them, sharing with them, and following what they do. Writing can be lonely even when you're surrounded by friends. Encourage others. Be kind. Love their work and share it.
5. Fight your own jealousy and stamp down the desire to compare. Others will have success when you fail. Others will be prolific when you're stumped. You can't make good things happen if your heart is on other people's work, and not your own.
6. Get out. Get out your house, our your head, our of your comfort zone (also, get your head out of your arse). Writing is a part of life. Don't be consumed. Ask others how they're doing and remember to be kinder than you need to be.
7. Read. Read for pleasure. Read new friend's new books. Read new friends' old books. Read books from your childhood. Read the big summer blockbuster best seller. Read.
8. The death of publishing (or artists / creativity / the West / the world / hope for our generation) has been greatly exaggerated. Online journalism often prizes clicks and virality over quality, and everyone knows writers love to read about themselves. This applies to articles about the worth / value of MFAs, traditional v. self publishing, the state of advances, 'won't somebody think of the children' pieces about YA, and all articles that set genres against each other. The world's in pretty good shape.
Right. Got that? Good. Deep breaths, everyone. Time to get back to the writing.