What 2019 Taught Me About Being a Writer

Hi everyone!

2019 is almost drawing to a close, and SO much has happened for me this year. As this blog is largely a place for me to reflect and give advice on writing, this year-in-review will also be focused on that.

I was in the query trenches for a good portion of 2019 and I wrote and revised several books this year. Follow me below as I reflect on some of the things I learned this year…

  • The importance of finding your squad

In late December 2018, I made a call asking for a support group to help me through querying. Thus, the Llama Squad was born, and I’m so thankful to them for the part they play in my writing journey. I had dark, hopeless moments, and they comforted me, and we all had huge victories that we got to celebrate together. Even to have someone to whine about the waiting or the anxiety was a huge blessing, and I’m thankful for every one of you.

  • The importance of finding a non-writing hobby

If I focused too much on querying and writing, I could become withdrawn, obsessive, and depressed. Having another hobby, another part of myself, outside of writing, helped so much. I saved up for a Nintendo Switch and played Breath of the Wild. I started embroidery. I colored. I drew. Having a hobby that kept my hands busy, or listening to audiobooks, helped take my mind off the waiting and helped me cool down.

  • You will always be ahead of one person and behind someone else

A few of my friends who were querying when I started querying now have huge book deals, or have debut dates coming really soon, or got some other victory that I didn’t get. I was celebrating for my friends, truly and eagerly, but my anxiety voice twisted my friends’ victories and told me, You are behind. You are a failure. Even though, according to another lesson I learned, Someone else can succeed and it doesn’t mean you won’t succeed too. My anxiety voice is not very logical and is not very smart. It tells me that because my friend had something I didn’t have, I was falling behind. But that’s not the case. I also had victories that I didn’t have a few months ago; I had victories that other friends of mine hadn’t had. Comparison is a thief of joy. My anxiety voice is trying to help me, is trying to goad me on and help me hustle, but I’m slowly learning to treat it like a dog barking at nothing and just ignore it.

  • Be kind to yourself

Be patient with yourself when you didn’t write as many words as you wanted to. Be forgiving of yourself when you read your crappy first draft. Be honest with yourself when you consider taking on another CP manuscript and your plate is full.

  • Write, and tell the editor voice to shut up

While I draft, I’ve learned to write with abandon. The editor voice in my head is jabbering on about cliches I’ve used and bad metaphors and flat characters and lacking plot points, but I’m a better (and faster) writer when I set those complaints in the margins of my document and just keep writing.

  • Don’t dwell on what’s outside your control 

When I was querying and didn’t get a response from an agent with my full, my stomach was tying itself in knots. But worrying, as good as I am at it, doesn’t do anything to improve my situation. Publishing is, by and large, setting your little paper boat of a book out to sea, and hoping it’ll return. It’s at the mercy of the waves now. Good luck. GOOD BYE. Nothing you can do but write the next thing and write down your whining somewhere (ideally not in a tweet) to get it out of your system. 

  • I work best with writing sprints!

This year, I learned about myself that I can write more efficiently if I work in 15 minute sprints. It makes writing feel more manageable and I feel like I can squeeze 15 minutes of writing into my day. I also have this habit of saying “five more minutes!!” over and over after I’ve started sprinting!

  • You need rest. Seriously.

I’mmmmmmmmm still working on this one. Writing is fun for me. It is my down-time. But it’s also stressful and involves a lot of brain power and a lot of heart-power, too. I’m very sensitive and empathetic, so sometimes I can latch on to the feelings that my characters have, carrying that into the real world. I kind of expect myself to always be producing more stories, and it’s not healthy to be always working. I’m trying to get better at taking breaks, and also listening to my body and my brain when they say “WE ARE TIRED AND WE CAN’T WORK ANYMORE TODAY, PLEASE GO TO BED.”

I hope in 2020, I write a new middle grade book, maintain a better balance with my writing life and my physical health, and that I’ll get to see more friends have amazing, exciting victories in their writing journeys.

Please tweet at me what you learned about this year! I would love to hear your thoughts!