People often say becoming a parent teaches you a lot about yourself and about life. For me, it's also taught me how to be a better writer.
My three children have many developmental issues, one of which is a speech and language delay. It's been hard on me emotionally, mentally, and physically. But I've never given up on them.
As crazy as it sounds, though, it hasn't always been me steering them in the right direction. My children have often been the ones giving me lessons about life.
These five lessons have stayed with me, and crossed over to my life as a writer:
1. It's hard.
From the day my first daughter was born, it's been a struggle. A struggle for her to eat, a struggle for her to gain weight, a struggle for her to talk; a complete struggle for me as a mother.
But as a writer, you will struggle, too. It will be hard. You will be rejected. You will do jobs that don't pay well or give you enough exposure. You will write the book that nobody cares about. You will be criticized.
But you need to keep going. Nothing worthwhile comes easy.
2. You need to put in the effort.
I've attended hundreds of doctor's appointments. I've had to speak slower and enunciate. I've had to become more patient and understanding. I've done all I can to give them the best start in life.
As a writer, you will have to make sacrifices. You'll have to stay up longer than you want to, eat lunch just a bit late, edit until you can't edit any more. You'll have to delay instant gratification for lifetime satisfaction.
But all that effort you put into your writing will matter.
3. You're going to make mistakes.
I have sometimes turned up late to appointments, forgotten important details about my children's progress, shouted at my kids when I should have been more patient.
I'm not perfect. Neither are you.
One day, you're going to look back at one of your unpublished books and laugh. One day, you're going to write a blog post that makes you cringe months down the track. One day, you might have an eBook that you don't know how to market, which fails miserably in terms of sales.
But hey, you know what? We all make mistakes.
4. You have to ignore the negative people.
I've had so many ignorant comments:
“What's wrong with her? Why is she so small?”
“Maybe you should have read to your children more, then they would be able to talk.”
As judgemental as people have been, I've continued to hold my head high.
Don't let your family and friends call you “lazy” for being a writer. Don't let them tell you to get a “real job.” Don't let them get mad because you have to go home and write.
Surround yourself with encouraging people who want you to succeed. They are the people who deserve to be in your life (and possibly, in your book's dedication).
5. There will be good and bad days.
Some days, I'm up and ready for another day. But sometimes, I struggle with being the mother of three special needs children.
But every day can't possibly be a good day.
There'll be days where you'll want to write like there's no tomorrow, and there'll be days where you'll stare at a blank screen wondering why you wanted to be a writer in the first place.
Being a writer is an ongoing process; full of rejection, self-doubt and criticism. We have to believe in ourselves and our abilities. We need to stick it out to achieve the success that we so badly desire.
Live to Write
Sometimes the best writing lessons come from living life itself.
So open your eyes, let the opportunities in life teach you a lesson or two. You never know where your next story, article, or blog post might come from.
What writing lessons have you learned from your own life?
Think about one of the most difficult times in your life, where you were confronted with a challenge but overcome it.
For fifteen minutes, imagine you are giving a motivational speech to a crowd of people who need help turning their lives around. Let your character speak to the audience about what their experience entailed, and what life lessons it taught them.
When your time is up, post your practice in the comments. And if you post, please give feedback to a few other writers as well.