Okay, so I recognize the hypocrisy in that statement. But stick with me for a minute.
Lately, my reader feed and my social media has been inundated with advice. “Five Things You Should Never Do.” “The One Thing You Shouldn’t Care About.” “Ten Ways That I’m A Better Parent Than You.” (Okay, that last one isn’t real, but it might as well be.) Part of this comes from the fact that there’s a lot of people out there trying to make a name for themselves, and they’ve been told that they have to write with authority. Part of it is that there are a lot of internet savvy people who know how to write linkbait to get you to click through and look at their advertisers. And then there’s that portion of people who really do mean well and want to share their experiences in order to save someone else their mistakes. I hope people perceive that I’m in the last camp.
For writers, there seems to be as much advice as there is for parenting! The self-pub crowd tells you that indie is the only way to go. The traditional crowd tells you you’re crazy for not wanting a contract with an advance. They’re both passionate and convincing. Which one is right? Group A? Group B? Neither?
Here’s the thing I’ve found: in business, in writing, and in life, one size never fits all. We are all individuals, with unique talents, strengths, weaknesses, and situations. What works for me may not work for you. And what works for me now might not work for me in a year. Even I’m coming from a position of bias (admittedly, a bias that doesn’t like people claiming there’s only one right way to do things). It’s our job as writers, critical thinkers, businesspeople, intelligent human beings, to weigh the advice and figure out what makes sense for us. Clearly, some advice is more reliable than others. Your agent’s thoughts on your next steps carries more weight than your next door neighbor’s opinion on your career. But ultimately, it’s not your agent or your neighbor who has to live with your decisions, it’s you.
If you’re thinking seriously about these matters, you are likely an intelligent, capable person. You have all the tools in this wonderfully connected world to make decisions and sift through all the conflicting information in order to find what makes sense to you. Just because your crit partner made it big on one path to writing success doesn’t mean that’s the only path, or even the right path. It’s just one path. So here is my advice. No, let’s not call it advice, let’s call it encouragement.
- You know yourself better than anyone. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
- You own your own destiny. Not your agent, not your publisher, not the marketplace. Make decisions from a place of strategy, not from fear. And once your decisions are made, commit to them. Give them a fighting chance. Then reevaluate regularly. I’ve found that this approach goes far to mitigate the terror that comes along with decision making. Let’s face it, writing is not brain surgery. If you make a mistake, a patient doesn’t die on the table. And a less-than-great decision doesn’t mean failure. It’s just another learning experience on the way to success.
- Cast a wide net. Benefit from the wisdom of others’ experience. Get yourself a mentor you trust. Read every book on writing and business you can find. But don’t take everything you read and hear as gospel (not even this blog). Weigh it carefully. Filter it through what you know of yourself. And if you’re a praying person—and I hope you are—pray about your next steps.
I have a feeling that if you’re diligent and honest, and you can filter out the voices convincing you otherwise, you probably already know what to do.