I have been writing for a long time. The first time I wrote anything resembling fiction was when I wrote a three page work of terrible fiction in the third grade. I sat down at my mom's blue electric typewriter. It was a device I found fascinating. It hummed when you turned it on and there was just something cool about it. This was before word processors, folks, and computers in the home or that you could carry in your pocket. You had to roll paper into the roller and then the keys made a satisfying clacking sound as you created.
Now, imagine if I had never taken another English class or writing class. What if I had never read about writing or studied other writers? What if I had never copied the styles of writers I loved? Well, I'd still be writing horrifically bad fiction that had no punctuation and was one very long paragraph.
Just this past Christmas, my mother-in-law got me a subscription to Writer's Digest. I wasn't sure what to expect, but now that I have gotten two issues, I can say that they have provided me valuable information. Information about working with editors. Information about contests and how self-publishers need to build an audience and create a platform. Valuable stuff.
That's the thing I wish I could pass long to young writer. Never stop learning. You cannot ever, ever, reach a point where you feel like you know everything. I feel like you can reach a point where you feel you have learned enough you can provide advice (such as this blog), but you must always be willing to learn.
Some of my best friends these days are fellow authors at all levels. They are just a great group of people and the vast majority of them are friendly and willing to talk to you. I have 30 books to my name, but never had a bestseller to speak of, but I have had fantastic private chats with guys who have New York Times bestsellers. Most authors are willing to help out other authors.
I also feel that, as a writer, you need to keep reading. That means reading anything and everything. Read fiction, sure. Sometimes reading just the right piece of fiction, it can inspire something inside of you. Just like listening to a piece of music, seeing a piece of art or anything else creative. But don't be afraid to take a writing class with a bunch of new writers just learning the craft or reading a book about writing.
I find that discussing writing with writers provides unique insight into things. Asking them about how they achieved success has helped me advance my website, increase my presence on social media and helped me find the audience I have. Discussing writing with songwriters, poets and artists has given me insight into the creative process, how to break mental log-jams and overcome other issues.
So, stay humble. Never get so full of yourself you feel you cannot learn. At the same time, never feel so competitive or above other writers (particularly new writers) that you cannot give them advice, post about one of their books or offer some insight into what they do. They are the next generation and a good deed done for another can lead to good deeds done for you.
Thanks to Writer's Digest and thank you to all of the authors who have chatted with me, provided support, cross-promoted my work, offered advice and talked me off the ledge. With each step, I learn and with each step I get better.
You can too.