The Confidence to Stand On Your Own

Periodically I hear from new writers asking various questions, and trying to get advice. And for new writers in particular, there is an endless stream of “advice.” You should plot. You should pants. You should go traditional. You should go indie. You should be hybrid. Spend hours a day on social media. Spend hours a day writing. Write every day. Write when the muse hits you. Use a pen name. Use lots of pen names. Don’t ever use a pen name.

It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. So it might seem counterintuitive for me to give them one more piece of advice, but just consider it for a moment: There is no one right way to do this business. Yep. No. One. Way. Because publishing is complex, and writing is personal, and reading is subjective. Your career is just that–your career. And whether you write in the morning or at night, every day or once a week, whether you have a board full of post-it notes or a scrapbook covered in bare-chested men, whether you call yourself Desiree Darling or Anne Smith, it’s okay.

When we start as writers we all see them–the superstars who have readers, fans, money, books, titles, awards. And we want that. Yes, we do. And it’s so easy to think that if we do what they do, or even what they tell us to do, then we’ll get to be them. Yeah, sorry, it doesn’t work that way. So listen to what they’ve learned, they do know things you don’t. And take their advice under consideration, they might save you time, heartache, and money. But IF what they say gives you heartburn instead, IF it’s taking you six hours every time you direct load a book to Apple instead of using D2D, or you’re only getting three hours of sleep a night in order to write every day, then you need to remember this: There is no one right way.

And then the real question becomes: Are you confident enough in your judgement, your abilities, your gut, to decide which advice to follow, which to modify, and which to jettison? If you can answer that with a “yes,” then you’re ready to face the wild world of publishing. If not, then take a breath, sit back, observe some more, wait some more, write some more. Don’t enter the fray without confidence in your own judgement. Because in the end it’ll be the one constant in your career.

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