What is the best writing advice I have to offer, you ask?
Okay, well, maybe you didn’t ask, but this *is* a question that I’ve actually already heard a couple times already– most recently in a Goodreads message from an aspiring author (and such messages, by the way, are totally surreal– but that’s a whole other blog post).
So anyway, that message is what inspired this post (well, that and the fact that I had no idea what else to write about). And honestly, I really had to think about it before I could answer this girl’s message. Because A.) I’m not sure I’m qualified to be handing out advice, since really I still have no idea what I’m doing about 98% of the time and B.) I’ve received a LOT of advice over the years–from professors, blog posts, books, writer friends, parents, family…etc. and sifting through it all has proven daunting. Sometimes it feels like there are as many opinions about how to write a book as there are actual books in the world, and my own opinions about what’s good and what isn’t are constantly shifting.
But there is one single piece of advice that lives constantly in the back of my mind, and has less to do with books themselves, and more to do with the whole “becoming an author” thing. It comes courtesy of one of my college professors, who shared it with me while we were hanging out in her office, and I mentioned the crazy amount of guilt I was feeling for spending so much time and energy chasing my publishing dreams instead of doing something more practical (such as flipping burgers at McDonald’s, since, in all likelihood, that would probably earn me more money per hours in the long run).
And her response? Well, this was like three years ago, so I’m definitely paraphrasing, but the idea was this:
“Make time for your writing. There are people who won’t understand why you’re spending so much time on something that–most likely–isn’t going to pay off the way a typical “job” might. Ignore those people. Lie to those people if you have to, if that’s what it takes to steal away from them, to get the time you need to escape and write.”
I thought she was joking about the lying part, but she totally wasn’t.
I still struggle with guilt, with knowing that my husband (who is amazing and incredibly supportive) is shouldering most of our financial burdens right now. That’s been one of the most difficult things about trying to make the leap from scribbling stories to selling those stories and making a career out of this: the fact that it requires a bit of, well, selfishness. You have to say–to yourself and everyone around you– that this is what you’re going to do, and yes you realize that it’s crazy and the odds are stacked against you and there’s a very decent chance that you’ll end up burning your unsold manuscripts for warmth, but you’re going to do it anyway. You have to not be afraid to lock yourself in your room every now and then and commit some words to paper.
Your words are important. Your stories are important. They’re worth the time. So if you really, really want to do this, the best advice I ever received, and that I could ever give you, is to refuse to let anyone (including yourself) ever make you think they aren’t.
After owning and co-managing a coffee shop for several years while simultaneously earning her B.A. in English, Stefanie Gaither left the small business world behind to focus on her author career instead. Now, in addition to penning YA novels, she also works part-time as a copywriter for an advertising agency. Stefanie is represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary, and her debut novel,FALLS THE SHADOW– a sci-fi thriller filled with clones, murder, and sibling love and loathing–, will be published by Simon and Schuster in September of 2014. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and an incredibly spoiled Shih Tzu.