Since my first short story was accepted for publication in 1995, I have been writing professionally now for 17 years. I believe that earns me the wonderful title of "Established Writer!" Also grateful I've made it this far.
When I saw the little graphic at the left--and you gotta love the typewriter face, for all of us old enough to have actually worked on one of those things you'll only find in an antique store--I thought about how many times over the course of those nearly two decades that I've written/typed out those words. As a writer, you also have to count the books that never made it past that first chapter, or even the ones that got to page 151 before you, as the author, realized it wasn't a book you loved enough to share with readers.
I consider it an accomplishment that I'm still here, all these years later, and I encourage other writers, especially those newer at this game, to hang in there. One of the best pieces of advice I received as a newly minted writer had to do with perseverance and success.
These are the things that I've learned over the years, the best advice and truths I've received, that have kept me going.
1. PROTECT THE WORK. During a particularly difficult time, a writer friend wrote these words to me in an email, just like that in all capitals, citing Jennie Crusie, who apparently had also received this bit of valuable advice. Here's the essay Ms. Crusie wrote, with a better explanation than I can give. It is one of the TOP words of wisdom that has helped me over the years.
2. WRITE EVERY DAY. This came from Stephen King's book, On Writing, which I think of as the best book on the subject that I've ever read. Since then, I give that advice to everyone. Too, I've learned that could mean as little as 500 words per day. This goes hand-in-hand with the next point...
3. SHOW UP AT THE PAGE. It doesn't matter if you feel inspired or not. The muse will come if you show up. Sometimes she's late. You be a faithful lover and show up for work. That's the way the writer's mind works, though I'm sure psychiatrists will never figure out what makes writers tick.
4. THE ONES WHO MAKE IT ARE THE ONES WHO STAY. This is not a word of advice; this is a truth. It is also incredibly, awesomely true. There are as many writers out there as there are stars in the sky. Here's a hint: The ones who want fame and fortune as their main goal aren't the ones who will be around in ten years. The ones who love to write, who do it because they can't imagine their lives without writing, who thrive on others reading and taking pleasure from their work, are the ones you can count on making it.
5. NEVER LET OTHERS TELL YOU WHAT SUCCESS MEANS. Success, I've learned, is subjective. To some, it's a seven-figure contract from one of the legacy publishers. To others, it's writing what you love and sharing it with others.
6. PUT YOUR DESK IN THE CORNER, AND EVERY TIME YOU SIT DOWN THERE TO WRITE, REMIND YOURSELF WHY IT ISN'T IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROOM. LIFE ISN'T A SUPPORT SYSTEM FOR ART. IT'S THE OTHER WAY AROUND." Self-explanatory and also credited to Mr. Stephen King. Go out and live. All of life is not writing. Life enhances and enriches your work. Go out for a walk on a gorgeous day, have a conversation with your beautiful and funny three-year-old granddaughter, have a romantic dinner with your husband. Your characters will be there when you get back. Guaranteed.
And, last but not least,
7. WRITE FOR YOUR OWN PLEASURE. This is last but not least, the top advice, which came from my Madrina, which means godmother in Spanish, my aunt Consuelo. (Yes, I was named after her!) I remember long before I was published, telling my aunt I was beginning to send out my work and feeling discouraged, how I was thinking about quitting. She said, "Yes, but you'll always write, because you write for the pleasure it gives you." Honestly, the worst thing has to be writing something you could care less about, but you're doing it for money's sake. Writing in someone else's voice, usually for the sake of money, is equally draining. Always write something that YOU love, that moves YOU, that makes YOU laugh or cry. That's the only way to know it will be a work that someone else will love, that moves them, and that will make them laugh or cry.
And there is a lot more advice that I've been blessed to receive over the year, by other Established (and Phenomenal) Writers, but these are my treasures! Keep them in your heart, too.