You're Never Too Old (Or Too Young) to Be a Writer. Lessons Learned During 49 Years of "Honing My Craft"
I wrote my first book before I could, well, write. It's true. Back in my toddler days, when I was still trying to master that pesky task of combining bits of the alphabet together to form words, I'd already deduced that books were the Best Thing Ever, and the world should have more of them.
Confident that I was the girl for the job, I immediately formed my own publishing company. I folded and cut a stack of drawing paper into pages and stapled them together to form a book. Undeterred by the fact that I was still illiterate, I scribbled line after line of gibberish across all the pages and declared myself done (a process I would replicate several times in later decades while participating in NaNoWriMo).
Eager for my first 5-star review, I presented this charming first edition to my father. "Daddy, I wrote a book!" Unfortunately, my father is not a man of refined literary sensibilities. After a bemused glance at the scribble-covered pages, he not only declined my proposal that he fund a series of sequels by giving me more drawing paper, he also neglected to even finish "reading" all the pages.
Once I recovered from the shock of having my masterpiece panned by my own father, I intuited that perhaps for less avid book-lovers than myself it was important for books to contain actual words. So I set about learning some words and soon returned to my publishing ventures. To supplement my limited vocabulary, I also provided crude pencil drawings depicting the subject matter, which ranged from reporting current events (my sister got bitten by her horse, which made her late for school) to more encyclopedic works illustrating all the different kinds of animals at a zoo or circus (despite the fact that I'd never been to a zoo or circus).
Buoyed by the positive reviews these picture books generated among my family members (except the sister who got bitten by the horse), I eventually turned to writing fiction. My love for speculative fiction emerged immediately. In second grade, I wrote a series of illustrated ghost stories. Soon afterwards, I began the multi-part saga of an orphaned horse named Safari who lived in the jungle and battled tigers and elephants. Realism took a back seat to adventure, but I didn't care as long as the stories were exciting.
Lessons Learned from Decade 1
- Raw enthusiasm is not enough. Content matters, so hone your skills.
- Don't let bad reviews get you down. Learn from your failures and do better next time.
- Write the kinds of stories you love to read.
Image credit: By 관인생략 [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons