It Takes a Community: Lessons from a Cautionary Tale

Your book is your baby.

your book is your baby

And just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to shape a book.

So here, should you be interested, are the lessons to be learned from “Unhappily Ever After: A Cautionary Tale” (see previous post):

Never shelter or protect your work from outside influences and opinions. Strive to develop a thick skin and to remain open to any and all feedback on your writing. Commit to at least carefully considering all comments and suggestions before deciding whether or not you will take them. Resist the urge to be defensive, as defensiveness vastly diminishes the possibility of growth and improvement – in your writing and in yourself.

Seek out anyone who can teach you anything about the craft. Read books and sign up for classes, workshops, conferences and webinars. Take every opportunity to sit at the feet and learn from those with more knowledge and experience than you. learning to writeFailure to sharpen your skills ensures that you will never produce anything good, let alone truly great, which should always be the goal of a writer.

Employ the services of a good, qualified, objective editor who can dig deep into your work to remove anything that doesn’t belong there. Yes, the treatment can be excruciating. But after you have recovered (and I would strongly urge you to avoid self-medicating as a means to get through the process), I promise that you will be forever grateful for what the surgeon and his scalpel have done for you.

Engage in stimulating conversation – with those who share your point of view and with those who don’t – to develop your ability to think and reason. Find peer mentors. Join or start up a writer’s group. Writing can be a lonely, solitary, discouraging occupation. Do not isolate yourself. Attend writer’s conferences to interact and build relationships with those who understand the highs and lows that accompany the gift. Each time you will leave encouraged, inspired and motivated, knowing you are not alone.

Force yourself out of your comfort zone. Play. Splash through puddles. Make snow angels. Volunteer to work with people whose life experiences are completely outside of your frame of reference. Encourage those in all different occupations or with various hobbies and interests to share their stories and passions with you. Read. Travel. Enjoy new foods. Assuming the adage “write what you know” is valid, determine to increase your knowledge of the world around you so that always, always your writing may grow steadily richer, deeper, more meaningful and more impactful.

splashing3

Climb a mountain to view the sun rise, watch good movies, visit Disney World, stare up at the night sky through a telescope, or sit back and watch children at play (or better yet, jump in and play with them) in order to increase your capacity for imagination and wonder.

Carefully define what success means to you. Understand that a book that moves or has a positive influence on a single reader has accomplished every bit as much (or more) than a book that spends weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list.

If you have never seriously considered spiritual things, open your heart and mind to the possibility that something greater than yourself exists and is the source of the creativity flowing through you. Nothing short of acknowledging and being grateful to the giver will allow you to appreciate and use the gift to its fullest extent, so that it may accomplish the purpose for which it was given.

When you have done all of these things, then, and only then, pack up your manuscript and set off into the world of queries, synopses, proposals, submissions, agents and editors. If you start down this road too early, before you are fully prepared and adequately equipped, you will not survive. You will be beaten down, defeated, discouraged and left sitting in a ditch, alone.

Brace yourself for rejection. View it as an important rite of passage. Paper your walls with it. Remember those great writers who have gone before you and who had to work for every step forward while being pushed two steps back. Allow yourself to feel the sting of criticism and rejection. It will help you to grow. It will strengthen your resolve. It will send you back to your manuscript to make it better and stronger. It will prove that you still care.

And if you learn nothing else from this tragic tale, take this with you: if you believe in your story, and have done everything in your power to make it the best it can possibly be, never, never, never give up until you reach the end of your journey.

end of the road

Press on, my friends. Press on,

Sara

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2 Responses to It Takes a Community: Lessons from a Cautionary Tale

  1. Ruth Coghill says:

    WOW! Sara. Such a seasoned message! Thanks-

    • Sara Davison says:

      Thanks Ruth, but the truth is I don’t feel seasoned at all. I wrote all of that for myself as much as for anyone else. Hopefully there’s some good advice in there somewhere – now I just have to take it 🙂

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