This month, I enjoyed the privilege of speaking to our local chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women. They asked me to talk about my journey as a writer, which I’m always happy to do—even if feeling somewhat intimidated by the fact that I’ve never earned a degree and even the continuing education certificate I acquired didn’t occur until I was in my fifties. What could I possibly say to these smart women? Would they all be wearing grad gowns and mortarboards? Would I need to learn some high-falutin’ words before they could understand me? Should I make some up?
But then I learned that “any woman who supports the goals of CFUW” qualifies for membership, and that their goals include fostering education and lifelong learning and advocating for women’s equality and human rights. Among their local projects are a scholarship fund for deserving female high school grads and support of our local women’s shelter. Nothing I can’t get behind.
So I shared the things I’ve learned through writing and answered their intelligent questions as best I could. Since much of what I’ve learned is transferable to every area of life, I thought I’d share a little of what I told them here and you can apply it wherever it fits.
You don’t find the time, you make it.
I’ve heard many people say “I’m going to write a book some day when I have the time.” Good luck with that. We’re all given 24 hours a day and if something is really important to you, you’ll somehow make time for it. Two ways I made time for writing? Leaving a full-time job for a part-time one, and not having TV in our home.
Nothing worth having comes easy.
Two guests sit at a dinner. When the first reveals that he is a writer, the other says “I’m a surgeon, but I plan to write after I retire.” To which the writer replies, “What a coincidence! I plan to do surgery after I retire.”
Writing is hard work. Few, if any, write the next great novel without a ton of research, rewriting and revising. It doesn’t happen overnight. Even after my manuscript was contracted for publication, it went through three revisions, and it had been revised many times prior to that.
Perseverance and tenacity are a must.
Author Louis L’Amour said, “If you’re going to be a writer, the first essential is to write. Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow.”
I have found this especially true in cranking out a weekly column for the past five years. Deadlines arrive relentlessly, and the words never simply flow. They must be primed, often with words that will later be deleted.
Humility makes you strong in the long run.
Most writers take several years and receive hundreds of rejections before their first manuscript is accepted for publication. I began my first novel, The Silver Suitcase, in January of 2009 and it will be published in January of 2016. Along the way, I’ve learned that rejection and criticism hurt. But both of these, when done constructively and honestly, can teach you more than any book or course. Rather than wallow in despair, take these suggestions to heart and do something about it. Never stop being teachable.
Passion trumps all.
Some folks assume that writing is a great way to become rich, but I won’t be quitting my day job any time soon. Robert Benchley said, “The freelance writer is someone who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.”
I write from a need to express myself, but also to use a gift given me by my Creator. I want to please him with what I write.
What gift has God given you? How do these lessons apply?