I say it defiantly but reluctantly.
I am one of those people who are used to being good at things. OK, maybe not organized sports, but a lot of other things. Not to toot my own horn, but I always found educational pursuits to come easily. I was perpetually at the top of the class without much effort. I picked up swing dancing in a flash. As a PT in the decidedly difficult field of brain injury rehab, I received accolades from clients and physicians. I throw a great party, make a goood sangria, and raise polite, funny kids. I can dig a latrine and cook in a pit. My hair looks nice without my trying. You get the idea. And despite all of this, I’m easier to like than to hate. My point (before all that tooting started), is that I’m used to feeling competent. And this year, for the first time since graduating college oh-so-long-ago, I’ve taken a big leap into incompetence. I know I can write cute, funny short stories that my kids enjoy. I know I can come up with a touching poem for a eulogy or an engagement card. What I don’t know is anything – absolutely anything – about making writing a career. I had no idea I’d have to promote myself, find a “following,” compete against so many other gifted people! What was I thinking?
I am so grateful for all the technology and communication that is available for those of us new to the writing trade. There are countless websites, blogs, links and videos to inform and educate. How to be creative, how to keep your “butt in chair,” how to get noticed, how to edit, how to network, how to market, how to motivate, how to punctuate. In fact, having started down the road of learning “How To,” I’ve realized there is way too much to know. Even narrowing things down by finding Top 10 lists – best blogs for new writers, best advice for unpublished authors, best books for kidlit authors – leaves me with massive piles of information to download to my computer, upload to my brain, and implement in my life.
And I’m working on this 3 days a week. From 9:15-3:00. While the laundry is running. So when do I actually write?
My decision? To be incompetent for awhile. To get really comfortable being uncomfortable and out of my depth (and to leave the breakfast dishes until dinner time). I just made a to-do list for each work day of the things I think I should do. It goes a little like this:
- Check email, twitter feed, and blog responses.
- Read 2-3 author, writing or publishing blogs. Subscribe to newsletters if they seem helpful. (I like http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/ and http://taralazar.com/)
- Participate in the day’s Start the Year Off Write challenge. (http://www.shannonabercrombie.com/start-the-year-off-write-2/the-challenge/)
- If I have something to post on social media, post it. But then disconnect from the world and
- Get down to the fun stuff! Write and dream and doodle and imagine.
After all, I’m doing this because I feel there is something inside me that I should share with the world. That my writing can bring joy and understanding and laughter to children. I have many gifts, but relating to kids is one I treasure most. The best parts of my days are those times that I make my kids smile, laugh, light up…I want to do that in a bigger way. But all the agents and proofreaders and twitter followers in the world won’t help me do it if I don’t create something amazing first.
Competence will come. Another day.
If you have been in this game awhile, or just know more about it, please drop me advice in the comment section. I’d love to learn from you!