What I Learned My First Year as a Published Writer

It’s hard to believe I’m approaching my first year as a published writer. The journey has felt like a roller coaster, with a lot of ups and downs, moments of panic, and wondering if the world will stop spinning. It was a crazy year! Looking back, here are three things I learned during the ride:

1)   Not everyone is going to like your book. Ouch. I knew that, but it is different when you experience it. It took some time to get over the fact that not everyone would enjoy my work, whether because of style differences, genre differences, etc. But I learned to move on. After all, I don’t enjoy everything I read either, and I should allow people their differences.

2)   Don’t read your reviews. That was a hard one for me to learn. I could have 12 positive reviews and one negative one and guess which one I would focus on? Yep. It’s like having a stain on your favorite shirt. No matter how much you try to ignore it and not let it get under your skin, your eyes keep coming back to it. Finally after a couple months, I decided not to look at my reviews at all. I figured reviews were there for the readers anyway, not for me. I had written the book to the best of my ability. That’s about all a person can do. Once I stopped looking at my reviews, I found peace.

3)   It’s not so much about developing tough skin as it is about guarding your heart. I never liked the idea of developing tough skin. It felt like I was hardening my heart as well. And since I write from my heart, I couldn’t let that grow hard or the soul of my writing would suffer. But in letting my heart remain soft, I allowed it to be hurt.

CastleAfter months of hurting, I finally asked my husband how he dealt with all the negativity in his life. As a pastor he receives a lot of criticism and yet I hardly ever saw it affect him. So he shared with me how he guarded his heart. He imagines his heart is a castle. He only allows 2 voices into that castle: God and me (since I am his wife). Then there is a wall, and within the courtyard he allows the voices of his most trusted friends. Then there is a moat and there he allows friends and acquaintances.

When he shared this with me, I realized how many voices I was allowing into the very heart of me, voices that really had no business being there. And by listening to all those voices, I wasn’t hearing the ones I needed to hear.

So I put his idea into action. One day I had someone tell me I wasn’t good at grammar. I’m not. It is one of the weakest areas in my writing. But then I imagined my heart. Her voice had no business inside my castle. Yes, she was right, but I already knew that. What I didn’t need is her voice echoing around inside my heart, reminding me over and over again of that fact. Instead, I needed to acknowledge the truth of her words, but not let her over the moat.

My heart remained soft, but not damaged.

Being a writer is the hardest thing I have ever done (apart from being a parent). I confess: if I knew it would be this hard, I would have probably given up a long time ago. But I would have also missed the joy of being creative, of sharing my heart with people, and seeing a dream come true.

How about you? What have you learned, either from a new job, a new relationship, or a new way of life? What were the struggles? How did you overcome them?



13 thoughts on “What I Learned My First Year as a Published Writer”

  1. That’s interesting. I had always assumed that writers liked to read honest criticism of their work. When I write reviews — less often than I would like to — providing objective feedback is one of my primary motivations, especially knowing that not many people are going to read my review.

    Giving encouragement and praise is relatively easy, and scorning or belittling a work may be even easier. However, trying to analytically criticize a work is very difficult and time consuming, and it often doesn’t feel very rewarding. Knowing that an author doesn’t value the work of the reviewer… makes me wonder whether reviewing is worth it at all.

    Sorry if this seems negative. Your post expresses no ill-will toward reviewers, and I’m not offended or anything. Just thinking.

    1. Hi Bainespal,
      I review books as well. I think it comes down to why you review and who you are writing your review for. When I review a book, it is to let people know why I enjoyed the book and to recommend it. I have come to the place that if there is truly a glaring error in the work, I will contact the author privately. Most readers that I know of do not understand writing terminology, and do not care, as long as the book is good.

      If your review is for the reader, then place the review where readers can find it. If the purpose of your review is for the author, I would recommend private messaging them. Most authors I know do not read their reviews for various reasons.

      1. Okay, thank you. That is good to know. I would only ever review a book that I liked and wanted to support. At least, I can’t think of many circumstances that would motivate me to review a book that I did not fundamentally like.

  2. I, for one, am so glad you are a writer. I would miss having your book (s) (yay!) on my shelf. You are a wonderful reminder that there is light in the darkness. I appreciate what you have shared here and can relate. When I was younger (much 🙂 ) I learned to protect my heart by building a wall around it. It took growing up and into a world of love and safety before I learned to guard rather than protect my heart. I love the analogy Dan gave you and appreciate the idea of that person’s voice having no place in your castle. Thank you for being willing to share your vulnerability with us.

  3. Good thoughts Morgan. I thought of one extension of the analogy: To the people outside of the castle walls who criticize you, that’s what’s boiling oil is for. >:)

  4. Such a good post Morgan. Your hubby’s castle idea is something I think I should implement about my parenting. So hard for me when people think I should be doing something differently when I have chosen my parenting path so carefully. If I ever get published I know I’ll need to refurbish the walls. Grammar is not my spiritual gift either, I think it must be sarcasm ;). And I loved your book, am waiting for your next one to come out. How long of a wait do we have?

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