After nine years of outlining, writing, rewriting, editing, re-editing, reading, revising, printing, reprinting, handwriting, and staring at a computer screen for what had to have been hundreds of hours, I finished my first novel! From the first draft started in 2008 (I wrote 1 whole page that summer, then got stuck and sat on it for a year), through many moves, both in-state, out-of-state, and even overseas (and back from overseas), life events, blood, sweat, and tears, to the early morning hours of June 20th, 2017, The Secret of the Codex has finally reached its graduation day. Seriously – it feels like I’ve been raising a child and they’re finally graduating and going out into the world (without the messy diapers and temper tantrums – you parents are saints).
So I wanted to talk a little bit about what I learned along the way, give you some insight into how I’ve grown over the last 9 years. Because every experience can be a learning experience if you let it.
1. Just because a project isn’t finished right away doesn’t mean it will never get done.
This was a hard lesson to learn, and there were certainly naysayers who “knew” it would never be finished, but still I pressed on. Because I knew I had something important to say, and that the story needed to get out of my head and on to paper. We can’t listen to negativity and reject our passions just because it isn’t easy, because nothing worth doing ever is.
2. Every experience is a journey; learn to love the journey.
The joy of writing is in the actual writing, not in the completion of the project. Before my book, my life was built around going from one big thing to the next; anticipation, I claimed, was the whole point of waiting for whatever-it-was to come. Then the “big thing” came, I thoroughly immersed myself in whatever-it-was for however long I could, then I was off searching for the next big thing to anticipate. The problem with this is that life isn’t made up only of the big moments. The day-to-day is where we find strength, character, love, friendship, peace, community, family, purpose, meaning, and truth. How sad to miss all the things that make life worth living when our focus is on some distant point in the future.
3. Doing what you love is its own reward; money truly does not buy happiness.
It doesn’t matter to me whether I make a dime from my writing, really. I mean, yes, it would be amazing to do what makes my heart and soul sing and have it pay the bills too, but that’s not the reason I write. I write because I have something that needs to be said. I write because I have stories that need to be told, characters that the world needs to meet, truths that need to be revealed. And I can do all that with the stroke of a pen (or stroke of a key). That itself is my reward.
4. Life would be much easier if we listened to our inner voice rather than the (louder) external voices surrounding us.
If I listened to the things people said about my writing, things I almost started to believe at times, my book would still be sitting in a file on my computer, unfinished. How sad! I’ve poured my heart and soul into these characters, and I can’t wait for you to meet them! What a shame if I’d listened to the negativity and believed the lies.
5. The tragedy of regret is far more uncomfortable than the daily, sometimes mundane, act of doing.
I didn’t always want to write. And my first draft was done in 2010, only 2 years in. So 7 of my book writing years were actually editing. And if editing doesn’t make you bored sometimes, you’re probably doing it wrong. But it was the right thing for that time; it desperately needed to be done. Editing for 7 years is no cakewalk, but I am so much happier with myself for sticking with it. I proved to myself that I have longevity, commitment, and perseverance when everything else was telling me I would quit. But I refused and stuck to it. The days I allowed myself to think I might not ever finish were the days I were at my lowest. Hope is a powerful motivator; NEVER let hope die.
I’m forever grateful to the authors who came before me, the scores of people brave enough, strong enough, perseverant enough to get their words on paper and out into the world. They have paved the way for writers like me to keep writing when the world tells us it’s too hard, that we’ll never finish. When I’m telling myself those things.
Then I look at my bookshelf and see the names of countless authors on the spines of the hundreds of books I own, and I realize I’m part of something greater than myself. Something that changes the life of not only the reader, but also the writer.
Never give up on your dreams.