During the past two years, I’ve made some big changes in my life.
I quit my full-time job to become a full-time writer.
I co-authored the first book of a fantasy series.
I wrote my first YA novel.
I wrote and sold my first picture book in half a decade.
I climbed Machu Picchu and traipsed Ireland to solve a family mystery.
I moved from a big house to a small apartment with two (large!) teenage sons.
I downsized my possessions to a minimum and donated the rest.
I trained to become a volunteer advocate for abused and neglected children in the court system.
When I write it all down like that, it sounds like a lovely, busy, rewarding time…and it has been. But those two years have also been stressful and hard, and I experienced dozens of false starts, flubs, and failures. Yet in the spirit of learning from my mistakes, I offer you three lessons I learned along the way.
1. Circle the Wagons. Keep yourself surrounded by people who nurture and protect your dreams, the friends and family members who build you up, make you laugh, and give you a gentle yet firm kick in the pants when you’re being a twit or blowing a deadline. These people are your personal defense shield in the world, your very own Dumbledore’s Army. Keep them close, love them back, and GO FIGHT EVIL together. (I’m pretty sure this is the actual key to the universe, friends, so don’t delay!)
2. Toss your Stuff. Baggage comes in many forms: material possessions, people who take from you more than they give, mental clutter and addictions, the inner critic who won’t let you fall asleep at night, the snarky comment or book review that eats you alive. We let all of this “stuff” hold us back, mess with our heads, distract us from our goals and dreams. Ask some trusted friends for help (see “Circle the Wagons” above), and dig in. Or dig out, as the case may be. But always keep your eyes on the true and simple, for there you will find a single perfect gem worth preserving.
3. Trust Yourself. Stop letting other people tell you what to do and how to do it. This advice may strike you as ironic, given the prescriptive nature of this blog post. But I write this list of three mainly as a reminder to myself. When I compare myself to others—to the many more accomplished, successful writers out there, to the mothers who bake rainbow cupcakes for room parties and never miss a PTO meeting, to my gorgeous girlfriends who run marathons in their spare time (honestly, stop it already!)—I’m creating exactly the baggage I just told you to toss.
I can only write and parent and age to the best of my own abilities, not those of anyone else.
The same goes for you.
As Goethe once said, “Trust yourself, then you will know how to live.”
We’re all just works-in-progress around here.
Edit yourself with a tender pen.
Revise yourself with care.