When I was about twelve years old, my school held a culture fair. Every student had to choose a topic and put together a display to show what we’d learned. We set up tables in the gym so people could walk around and admire our work.
My topic was the Trail of Tears. I got a B+. I remember feeling slighted because in my mind I had worked extra hard on that project. But looking back, all I did was trace a map, surround it with rickrack, and paste a few sidebars on the display board to take up space. In contrast, another girl in my grade made a gorgeous model of a Japanese garden complete with a water feature and hundreds of hand-glued pebbles for a walkway. We were in awe, and not a little jealous, whispering that her parents must have done the project for her.
I knew her all through high school, and I feel pretty confident saying that she did the project on her own. She consistently earned top grades, played sports and the clarinet, and was well-liked and kind to everyone. From a young age she understood the concept of hard work and the importance of integrity, and it showed.
I tell this story because it took me a few more decades to truly learn how to work hard for something. Having a goal I felt passionate about made the difference. I desperately wanted to be published, but I severely underestimated what it would take to get there. Over the next several years I learned a ton of valuable lessons, including:
- Rejection and/or failure is a part of the process that never really goes away.
- Learn what you can from each failure and then find a way to move past it.
- Accept constructive criticism gracefully.
- Even when shortcuts seem like a good idea, they aren’t.
- There is no such thing as fair, and nobody owes me a thing.
- Waiting is the one constant in publishing, and time will pass even more slowly if I’m not actively writing something new while I wait.
- Confidence and perseverance are good things, but without a consistent effort to hone my craft, they aren’t much help.
- A little kindness goes a long way.
- Revise. Revise, revise, revise. Then revise some more.
- Read as much as possible.
- People who love books are, more often than not, wise, wonderful, and worth getting to know.
The list goes on, but you get the idea. Maybe you’ve learned some memorable lessons of your own during your writing journey. We’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Now that my first novel is out in the world, I’m discovering a whole new set of lessons that need learning. But it’s not a problem. Just give me a couple more decades, and I’ll be good to go.
Growing up, Christine Hayes loved reading stories about creatures that curl your toes and legends that send a shiver down your spine. Now she loves writing about them, too. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, was released in June 2015 through Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. Christine seeks inspiration by haunting flea markets and estate sales, searching for cool vintage finds with a story to tell. While earning her degree in music she visited Asia for the first time, and later moved there with her family for several years. She has been addicted to travel ever since. Christine and her clan now live in northern Utah. Find her online at www.christinehayesbooks.com.