I know, it's a click-baity kind of title. But I found an old set of notes from a business seminar I attended and thought how utterly apt they were for this industry.
So here you go. Ten opportunities for regret, should you make the easy decision as a writer.
1. Choosing the pain of regret over the pain of discipline.
Want to write that book but can never seem to find the time? Want to finish writing that book, but you keep putting it aside and starting new ones? Lots of people want to write a book. A tiny percentage actually have the discipline to finish one, get painful feedback, learn, improve, and get it to publishable standard.
2. Choosing not to be brave.
As one of my characters (Kett, from the Kalima Chronicles) said: "Bravery doesn't mean being unafraid. Courage without thought is just recklessness. Brave people have just found something that matters more than fear."
Once you've written that story or that book, you'll have to be brave and get thoughtful critiques from people who know the craft. Your mum might love it, which is great. But to know if it's a good story - and to find out how to improve it - you have to put on your adulty pants and get some helpful critiquing. (NOTE: NOT Criticism, critique - there's a difference)
3. Choosing to say "I'll try" instead of "I WILL"
Don't get me wrong. It's important to set limits and guard your precious time so you're only undertaking projects that are important to you. It's ok to say No to things. But, if you're going to take something on, don't half-ass it. If you're going to be an author, learn the craft. No-one's perfect at writing - neither in their first book nor their 20th. But your 20th first draft should be a darned sight better than your first one if you're genuinely putting effort into learning the craft. So don't say 'I'll try to learn to write well.' Say 'I will learn to write well.' It's a slight shift in mind set, but you're a lot less likely to give up.
4. Choosing to try once or twice, instead of many times.
Rejections are inevitable - like death, and taxes, apparently. And almost as painful (well, maybe not quite). Many writers give up after a couple of rejections, unable to believe their work wasn't acceptable. We aren't trained for persistence. In the western world, especially, we coddle our kids by telling them they are exceptional and brilliant. It might be true, but it leads to a (false) belief that they should be perfect in the first attempt and are a failure if they're not. We'd be better off teaching persistence and the value of learning from mistakes. That gives resilience and the ability to get back up and try again. And again. And again.
5. Choosing comfort over discomfort.
Let's face it: a hot coffee, a couch, and Netflix is a lot more comfortable and relaxing at the end of a hard day, than facing a blank document awaiting your literary brilliance. But every time you choose the easy path over the harder one, you're treading water instead of making progress toward your dream of being a writer. By all means, take time off if you need it. Don't burn out. But do something more often than you do nothing.
6. Choosing not to apologise and grow
We all make mistakes. We all do the wrong thing - either to others or to ourselves. Don't wallow in self-hate over it. Acknowledge you did the wrong thing. Work out how you could do it differently next time. Talk it through with the person you hurt. Learn from it.
7. Choosing not to let go
Envy of other writers; bitterness over rejections; resentment for perceived or real slights. They're all pretty poisonous. If you can dial up the compassion - for both yourself and others - you may find a lot of these feelings fall away. If not, therapy does help. We all experience these emotions at some point, to varying degrees. But when they control your decisions and your thinking, you have a problem.
8. Choosing not to throw out your backup plans
Now, I'm the sort of person who likes to have backup plans because I always expect things to go wrong. So this is one I always struggle with. And sometimes it is necessary to have a backup. This advice is more about committing yourself to achieving your dream of being a writer. Given the crap financial incentives for being a writer these days, having a backup for daily income is a wise idea, not a bad one. Just don't let it shunt aside what you really love.
9. Choosing to be too proud/egotistical
Don't be so sensitive that you can't admit to fault. Laugh at yourself. Learn from your mistakes. Arrogant writers are often poor ones because they won't admit their writing needs improvement. Of course, it's also often a deep sense of insecurity and unworthiness (imposter syndrome), which is the other side of the arrogance coin. So some compassion for folks who come off as arrogant might be good, too. We're all struggling in different ways. We all want to be accepted.
10. Choosing not to care/Choosing to care too much
We all get emotionally attached to our stories, our characters, our dreams of being recognised. So rejection comes as a huge blow. And choosing to pretend we don't care is really just another face of caring too much. Feeling like a rejection of our work is a rejection of us as a person. People who choose not to care about something are deliberately cutting themselves off because they feel attacked. It's ok to care. It's ok to be upset when things don't go to plan. Just don't let it stop you trying again. If you cut yourself off from rejection, you also cut yourself off from the thrill of success and achievement.
That's my philosophical ranting for the day. Agree or disagree, it doesn't much bother me.
Have a good one.
I live in Australia - which tells you I have a sense of humour. We're a self-deprecating people, we Aussies. My aim is to, one day, vanish in a blinding flash of enlightenment. In the mean time, I'm doing my best to learn as many