7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Kate Thompson

This is a new recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where
writers at any stage of their career can talk about seven things
they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at
the beginning. This installment is from writer Kate Thompson.

Kate Thompson is the co-author of It’s So Hard
to Love You—Staying Sane When Your Loved
One is Manipulative, Needy, Dishonest, or Addicted.
She also wrote “Fill it In! A Forms Workbook for
Aboriginal Students.” She is currently working on
her first novel. See her blog here.

1. Your words are like your kids. Love them well, do your best, and then let them go. They may or may not be a huge success in the world’s eyes, but once you release them, they’ll be greeted out there in ways you could never have predicted.

2. Learn everything you can about the publishing business before you try to get published—and then realize you probably won’t really “get it” until you’ve gone through the whole process. Up to that time, it’s mostly just theory, but at least you can ask intelligent questions.

3. Write on a regular basis. You probably write virtually every day, whether it’s a note to your child’s teacher, a letter to the editor, or your current opus. Pay attention to the quality of your writing if you want to build your skills (and your career). Variety is the spice of writing, not just life. Try silly notes in your beloved’s sock drawer, alphabetized shopping lists, a biography of your favorite author, a spoof ad, a horror story. Count them all as worthwhile if you’re enjoying yourself, learning something, and getting the job done.

4. Read on a regular basis. Okay, so variety is the spice of reading, too. Read cartoons, that big fat book you’ve been scared of for years, a thesaurus, a spicy foreign mystery novel, a joke book, a child’s story, your favorite magazine’s website. You get the idea. The more you expose yourself to good (and, I suppose, bad) writing, the better a writer you’ll be. Other people’s words, imagination, and sentence structure will fuel your creativity and help you hone your skills.

5. If you’re not having fun most of the time, something is out of whack. Change your priorities or your career, join a writer’s group, write a silly poem, take a course, take a break, write or read something different, go for a long walk, offer a workshop—whatever. Just do something to get back to enjoying the writing.

6. Love, or at least accept, your finished writings most of the time. If that’s not working, reread #5.

7. Learn when to stop. No explanation necessary.

Kate Thompson

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