The premise of the novel I'm working on as I write is, What if you could go back and talk to your younger self?
With that idea peppering my mind, I thought about what I would tell my younger writer self. What would I say to the James of '06 (which is when I dove into the publishing world) with the wisdom of the James of today.
In The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis writes this about Susan: (using the Lady Polly as his mouthpiece)
"Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”’
Getting published isn't silly, but rushing toward it like that's the pinnacle of life, is silly. More egregious is longing so much for that contract, or indie book to launch, that you miss the magic of the moments that are happening right now. Treasure them.
Ask any successful entrepreneur (and that's what writers are) about their most treasured memories, and most will tell you things like eating pizza in their office off of cardboard boxes because they couldn't afford a conference table. I wish I would have cherished the struggling years more.
Take the time to make your first book great. I thought I was ready to publish in 2006. My 148,000 word manuscript was a masterpiece. Except it wasn't. (Yeah, a bit long for one thing.) I seriously considered self-publishing. Nowadays that's a viable option, but back then it was the quick-fix to no publisher wanting to take a chance on me.
Don't succumb to the quick-fix solution. Maybe indie is the way for you to go. Fine. But don't do slap-and-dash publishing. Make sure your craft is honed. Hire an excellent editor; cover designer; etc. Make it a book you'll be proud of two years, five years, ten years from now.
Have the guts to ask a friend (with the necessary experience ) who will be brutally honest about whether it's time to publish, or whether you need to put in a few more years of training before you sign up for the marathon.
Sales, awards, and the praise of men don't matter, so shun them!Yeah, I saved the toughest bit of advice for Young James for last. Inside most of us is a little boy or girl, still wondering if anyone is going to pick us for the playground game. So when the awards and the bestseller lists and the reader e-mails start popping up in our in-boxes, it's hard not to let those things validate us.
But it's vapor. Name me the ten bestselling novelists of fifty years ago. Name three. Not easy is it? We could make a few educated guesses, but that's about it.
I'd tell myself, "James, seek Jesus. Follow the path he's leading you on. Take his yoke on your shoulders every day. Nothing else matters. Nothing else is going to last."
What would you tell you the writer from eight years back?