I would suspect that this blog, like many others written by professionally published authors, draws a certain amount of aspiring authors, perhaps looking for advice or insight concerning the in-roads to breaking into the business. I know I've been asked a couple times in my career if I have any advice for folks just starting out. Well, as it turns out, I do. I could go on about the benefits of being open, honest, polite, and friendly to absolutely everyone you meet. Not only is that just a good thing to do in your every day life, it can also benefit you in strange ways in your career as you never know who might be in a position to help you one day--and they will most assuredly remember if you were a jerk or not.
I could give other advice about honing your talent and staying true to your story. Both are sound, practical advice.
But, perhaps the best piece of advice I can give you is something that I learned from a small child that I taught one year many years ago at a Vacation Bible School at my church. We had a small group of, I believe, pre-schoolers and we had them for the evening. It was tough going trying to come up with something to keep them all occupied and interested for the time allotted, but one thing we did was hand out mazes. We passed them out and the kids went to work, trying to get from Start to Finish. They took some wrong turns and a few probably even made it through. But my attention was focused on one little boy. I watched with mild amusement, at first, as he took the crayon in his chubby hand, stabbed the Start line, then drew a straight line, cutting through obstacles, to the Finish line. Blank-faced, as though he wasn't even aware that what he'd done was the total opposite of every child, he calmly handed the maze back to me, without a word, to show me he was finished.
For long seconds I stared at that page and, I kid you not, I had an epiphany. The heavens parted, light shone down, and the scales fell from my eyes. I remember looking at that maze with one simple line drawn from Start to Finish and thinking "Exactly".
It has become an attitude I have adopted in all areas of my life, and especially my writing. There are so many people in this business who will set before you hoops to jump through. They'll tell you you have to get an agent, or go to writers' conferences, or get a certain publisher, or be a New York Times Bestseller, or this, or that. Everyone seems to have a different level they want you to reach before they accept you. Before they deem you "Finished". To that, I say "bah". Set your mind on your goal--what you want to do--regardless if anyone believes in you or not. Then, like that boy in my VBS class, shoot for that goal, never minding the obstacles in your path, never minding the accepted "rules" of "how it's done". Yes, you're going to make mistakes along the way. Maybe you'll have to retrace your steps and try again to find your way through the maze. But don't be afraid to be unconventional. Don't be afraid to blaze new terrain. Be yourself. If I've learned anything, no two writers come to the Finish Line the same way. We all take different paths, some we planned, others we didn't. But know where you're at right now in your life. Then identify your goal.
Then draw a straight line. Don't hold back.
That's probably the best advice I can give you.
To the other authors out there, what's some of the best advice you've received about writing and/or life?