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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

LIFE LESSONS I LEARNED FROM WRITING







BY
CARA MARSI



1. Affirmation works. If you want something badly, write it down. For several years before I sold my first book, I wrote fifteen times a day: “I will be a published author.”

I didn’t sell immediately and I had to work really hard at writing. Just affirming what I wanted wasn’t going to do it. But putting voice to my dream kept me focused.

Life lesson?—If you really want something, believe in yourself and keep working toward your goal. Will affirmations help you win the lottery? Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. But if you have a realistic goal, for instance to buy a new house in two years, you can make it happen. Write your house-buying affirmations every day, but save your money and work hard.

2. Don’t listen to the so-called “experts.” If I’d listened to the nay-sayers I would have stopped writing a long time ago. The “experts” said I would never sell because: I wasn’t finaling in writing contests; editors didn’t praise my work; I wasn’t receiving personal rejection letters. The only personal rejection letters I received made me cry. I refused to give up and I refused to let the nay-sayers stop me.

No matter what you want to do in life--move to a new city, start a new career, go back to school, there are those who will tell you that you cannot do it. DO NOT listen to them. Only you know what you want and what you’re willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals.

3. Don’t burn your bridges. Good advice in the real and corporate world and the writing world. Another rejection? And from your own publisher. Ouch! Smile through the pain and send that editor a thank-you note. You may want to submit there again. [NOTE: You may not always want to send a thank-you. If I get a rejection from an editor who I have a relationship with, I send a thank-you note or email. If I get a personal rejection letter that is constructive with good advice, I send a thank-you. If I get a form letter that says nothing, I don’t bother with a thank-you]

Passed over for a promotion at work? Congratulate the person who got the job you wanted. Smile at your boss. Maybe you’ll need to look for a new job, but you never know when you might need that good recommendation from your old boss.

4. Don’t compare yourself to others. There will always be those who are smarter, prettier, more successful than you. There will always be those who are less smart, less pretty and less successful than you. Don’t sweat it. Just be true to yourself.

This is a hard lesson in life and in writing. We all know those people blessed by the fates. They have beauty, brains and money. It’s the same with writers. We’ve all heard of that writer who suddenly decides to write a book. She finishes it in six months. Agents clamor to represent her. Book goes to auction and sells for six figures. And then there are the rest of us. We struggle for years, enduring rejection after rejection. But we persevere and we sell.

Life lesson?—Accept that some are more blessed than others and be the best you can in anything you attempt. We each have a special talent.

5. Karma—there is such a thing. I have bad contest Karma. I never finaled in a contest until after I sold. See number 2 above. When I finally began to final, what did it get me? Rejections within two weeks rather than twelve. Contests are overrated. Bad contest Karma? Not a big deal. Accept it and go on.

Bad Karma in life? Not to worry. Good Karma is overrated. See above. If you tell yourself that you have no control over your bad luck, you are in trouble. You do have control over your life.

6. “Don’t take life seriously. No one gets out alive.” A rock star said this. I wish I’d been clever enough to think of it. Write for the pure pleasure of telling stories. Don’t worry about the rejections. I know - that’s easier said than done. You tell a story from your heart and some editor or agent or contest judge rips it apart. Keep writing because you love to write. Another sage once said, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” [NOTE: That isn’t always the case but if you don’t get rich at least you’ll have fun]

The same goes for life. Have fun. Enjoy yourself. Hard advice at times, but remember this: when you’re in that nursing home, you’ll regret what you didn’t do, not what you did.

7. Know the rules. I belong to several email loops. It’s important to know the loop rules. Know them and follow them. Don’t give others a bad impression of you. You can break grammar rules though, but only if you know the rules to begin with. In English class, we were taught never to write fragments. I write fragments all the time in my fiction. Lots of writers do. They make a story flow better. If you break any grammar rules, you’d better have a good reason. Nothing kills a story faster than bad grammar.

Life lesson? — Break the rules if you want, but know them first and have a darn good reason to break them.

8. Publishing is a business. Repeat this fifteen times. Sure, you’re a nice person. That has nothing to do with anything. An editor will take your book and an agent will represent you if they think they can make money. That is the bottom line. Don’t take rejection personally. A few years back I had a great interview with an agent. We discussed our upcoming vacations. She said she loved the type stories I write. I sent her the requested partial. In my cover letter I said I hoped she had a wonderful vacation. Her response? An unsigned, mean-spirited form letter that didn’t include my name or the title of my book. The final punch in my gut? The letter said I shouldn’t ever bother them again. Publishing is a business. Don’t forget that.

And life doesn’t always give you warm fuzzies either. Pick yourself up and go on. Be true to yourself and kind to others. That’s what’s important.

9. NEVER GIVE UP. If you want it, go for it. Have faith in yourself. Don’t despair. See number 6 above. Enjoy.

10. NEVER GIVE UP. See 9 above.

11 comments:

Tina Donahue said...

Wonderful post - filled with so much wisdom. I'm glad you didn't give up. Congrats on your writing success. :)

Cara Marsi said...

Tina, thank you. I'm glad I didn't give up either. It's been quite a ride.

jean hart stewart said...

So much wonderful advice. Although it's hard sometimes not to give up, the satisfaction of winning through makes it all worthwhile.

Sue Palmer Fineman said...

Nice post, Cara. You've given me something to think about today.

Lynne Marshall said...

Fantastic advice Cara! So glad you followed your own advice. Congratulations of becoming published.

Oh, btw, I've heard Jane Anne Krentz has NEVER one a contest.

:-)

Molly Daniels said...

I began writing because I thought my head would burst if I didn't write down my stories. Later, I discovered people liked what I wrote, so I decided to try getting published. And like you, when I finally received a constructive rejection letter, I wrote her back THANKING her for taking the time to tell me WHY. Turns out I was targeting the wrong publishers all these years; I had the genre wrong. Really made a difference in who I queried after that!

Cara Marsi said...

Thank you, Jean and Sue, I'm glad you liked my advice. And yes, sometimes it's hard not to give up. Lynn, thank you. I'd not heard that Jayne Anne Krentz never won a contest. That makes me feel better. Molly, thanks for posting. I'm glad you got that constructive rejection letter. It made all the difference.

Paris said...

Very inspiring post. I think your best advice was to never give up because without that attitude this business can eat you alive:)

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Paris, and you're right. Writers who give up never publish.

Katalina Leon said...

Thank you for a great post Cara, this is all good advice.
XXOO Kat

Liz said...

REALLY GREAT ADVICE! WOW. I needed ALL of that today! thanks so much Cara
Liz

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