Authors’ words of wisdom


As the year comes to a close, we’re revisiting our author interviews and finding some common themes among these writers’ successes. 

We’re not claiming that any of this is revolutionary, but it bears repeating — and could just as well apply to other areas of your life beyond writing. 

* Don’t fear mistakes. This is a two-fer. 

First, if you fear failure, you’ll never take the first step — or flying leap, as was the case for Bethany Claire, who literally walked out of college to eventually become a six-figure-earning writer — toward your dream.  

Second, missteps can give you as much as they take from you. C.M. McCoy, who put years (and some tears) into her ultimately successful pursuit of a contract, said she “needed to make the mistakes I made … to discover the opportunities I discovered.”

And as Stacy Bennett pointed out in a conversation about hiring the right contractors, “You will learn something, even if it’s not a good fit.”

* Be creative. We’re not just talking about writing; we’re talking about everything else that goes with it.

One author — Ebony McKenna — went on a national game show to catch people’s attention. Another — Connie Spittler — took a traditional route in that she did a book tour, but made some unique stops like gas stations, trailer court, and interstate rest areas.

It’s all an example of what S.M. Boyce described as the “press this button and see what happens” approach. Absolutely, she and the others research their options and track the results, but the road that’s already been taken can be awfully crowded.

* Just do it. At least every other author told us about being a creative kid who abandoned writing for years, about having “write a novel” on their bucket list, or about constantly hearing that they should write a novel — only to finally start and never look back.

We’ll just quote Gary Schwartz, one of our Renaissance-man interviewees: “The secret to my success is twofold. Never stop trying — and being lucky to be in the right place at the right time. It’s not so much luck if you never give up; eventually things happen.”

* Commit to it. Whether you save up and study for years before quitting to write full time, like JN Chaney did, or whether you take (or are pushed into) the plunge like many others, there didn’t seem to be any half-measures or shortcuts.

David Estes was one of the most prolific authors we spoke to this year, and one of the many whose corporate job and writing gig overlapped for some time. His secret? “It really just comes down to commitment — to my stories, to my characters, to a dream, and to my readers, both present and future.”

We also loved Jessica McBrayers observation about the perception of a writer’s life versus the reality: “We may set our own hours, but we put our blood, sweat and tears into that time. I love my job, but it is work.”

* Read. Yes, so this is our first love and our deepest love, so we’re glad to include this advice on the list. But we’re not jerking your chain — your fellow writers encourage you to pick up others’ work.

Jonathan Fore suggested it as a training exercise: “Read the books you want to write. Make a study of it, don’t do it just for pleasure. … Even the worst books have something to teach you, even if that lesson is how not to do it.”

D.A. Featherling saw it as a source of inspiration, too. “All the words I’ve ever read (and it’s been a lot) have gone into that bucket … and when that bucket got filled up, the words had to spill out into writing of my own.”

Oh, and did we mention that her decision to start writing was prompted by a magazine article asking what profession you’d choose, if you could literally pick any single one?