There are things I’ve been thinking about lately. Sometimes I wish I could go back to that debut novelist, or even further back, to that almost-sold writer, and say, “Here. You’ll need to know these. They will keep you from lying fetal in the corner in a year or two.” But then, it’s most often the bad times that teach the best lessons, and maybe–just maybe–knowing them ahead of time wouldn’t have really worked. Still. If I could, maybe I’d go back and tell myself a few of these little truths:
1) You cannot drive forward by solely focusing on the rearview mirror. You can only see where you’ve been, and what you did, and if you don’t look forward, you’ll run off the road, sooner rather than later. Likewise, you cannot grow in your career or as a person when you’re always focused on what you did before that worked and assume that if you just did it all exactly the same again, everything will be fine. Eventually, the terrain in front of you is going to change. You have to let go of who you were yesterday and look out there to see where you’re going right now to make sure you’re aiming for who you want to be.
2) Life has a funny way of taking that nice, gently climbing terrain you’re ambling on and dropping off into a canyon, without any roadside warnings. Remember, there is almost always a bridge over or a road around or, short of that, a plane. In other words, canyons aren’t the end of the trip… they’re just an opportunity to see something different, learn something new, find a new path, and become a better you. Quit griping, put your foot on the pedal, and head in the new direction. You’ll get nowhere staring at the canyon.
3) There will occasionally be bad reviews. Think of the coconut factor, and let it go. (The coconut factor: coconut, is, and will always be, disgusting, ptui, nasty, awful, horrid, and useless as a food item. Even the smell is unpleasant. But there are entire swaths of people out there who love it, for reasons beyond understanding, and think you’re crazy for not giving it a five star review. Sometimes your book is just going to be their coconut. You can’t fix that, nor change it, nor should you even care. The world needs people with all sorts of tastes… especially the coconut farmers. C’est la vie.)
4) People will astound you. Really, this is the best part about this business — you will have fan letters which will choke you up, friends who stand by you when you’re down, who reach a hand out and pick you up, others who will encourage you and still others who will give you much needed advice. You will realize that this is what makes you wealthy, not contracts, not lists, not print runs.
5) You will come to realize that everything that led up to the first book contract was the equivalent to internship/training, and signing the contract is the equivalent of signing an employment contract. Meaning, that sale is not the end of the road, the “arrival” of success, but simply the end of one phase and the beginning of another: the job. Just like any other employment, there will be good days and bad, things that go beautifully, and things that don’t. No job is perfect. It simply can’t be. Every single job has obstacles and learning curves and opportunities–and writing is no different. Expect those curves and you’ll be fine.
6) Though you’ll still hate coconut.
7) You’ll be faced with obstacles and you will choose to grow.
8) It will hurt.
9) Like hell.
10) But it will be worth it. It’s hard to see, sometimes, when you’re deep in the woods, lost, in pain, but you’ll take that dark and those woods and learn from them, and what you end up with will be so much better, that if given the choice to go back and live life without having had the pain, you’d choose the same path.
11) You will one day be very very sleepy after writing a blog really late into the middle of the night, and you will accidentally splatter toothpaste into your eye. It will really wake up that eye. I do not recommend this.
12) When dealing with staircases, don’t assume the last two steps are merely suggestions and skip them altogether. Trust me, gravity works, concrete is not soft, and purple toes are not next year’s must-have accessory.
So tell me, ‘Rati, what little truth have you learned lately?