There’s nothing better than a life lesson that works in more than spot in our lives. When I first got into writing for the purpose of publication, there were so many things I had to learn: who I could trust, what I should and shouldn’t publicize, how to take criticism. Some of them were tough lessons, but as hard as they were, there are a few things I learned that helped with more than just writing; things I was able to carry with me into the rest of my life and that I’ve used to help make a stronger person.
On the other side of that street, there are things I learned in “real life” that I would never have imagined would be a portable idea outside of “that which is it was intended for,” but that, in fact, ended up proving invaluable to what I do when I’m creating.
I thought I’d share the three biggest ones with you today, from both sides:
Real life lessons I’ve picked up through writing:
- If I have to explain to my editor why they are wrong, I probably need to rewrite the section they are questioning.
One of the things I learned while working with an editor is that if I have to write three paragraphs pointing out that they’ve missed something, or explaining why they’re wrong about what they’re saying, then there’s a good chance it’s not them – it’s me.
It’s my writing that’s lacking clarity, and I have to go back and fix what I did so that the editor can understand through the words of the story, not through my comments. Let’s face, it, if the editor missed it, there’s a good chance the reader will most likely miss it as well.
I’ve carried this concept into everyday life as well. Because, here’s the thing: most of us do the things we do in our daily travels for the purpose of making our lives, and the lives of those around us, easier and kinder. Many times these things get misinterpreted, though. (And every once in a while they’re not being misinterpreted at all—we really are just being lazy, or acting like an asshole, or being inconsiderate.)
So if I have to stop and explain to someone why they are misunderstanding what I’m doing, or why they are wrong to feel as they do, there’s a good chance I’ve either screwed up on the punch, or I’m not being the nice person I thought you was. It’s time to pause, reconsider, and revise.
- Know when to stop.
There are a whole bunch of writers out there that will agree that a novel is never really finished, it just gets abandoned. No matter how many times a writer reads through their work, or how many shots they get at editing passes, they will find one more thing they want to fix. One more thing they want to change. One more thing they need to clarify. One more—
Know when to stop. Know when it’s time to move on. Try, try, try for perfection, but when it’s time to let it go… let it go.
In our everyday lives this can be even harder to do. But I have to face that fact that I can only be so “perfect”. I can only try so hard. I have to recognize when I’ve gotten to the point that I’m spinning my wheels and understand the fact that it’s time to stop… that it’s time to move on to the next project, or the next attempt at love, or the next phase in my life, and let the ones that are finished be done.
- Sometimes it’s easier to start over.
I. Hate. Rewriting.
Then, four hours, four days, four months later, I’m stuck in the exact same spot and wondering why in the hell nothing is working out with the damn novel.
As much as I hate to admit it, it’s because sometimes it’s easier just to highlight and delete; to start over from scratch. It sucks, and it’s a lot of work wasted, and I wonder if I’m going to be missing something that I struggled so hard to put in there in the first place, but many times it proves to be a lot less heartache and effort in the long run.
Just like in life. It’s okay to pick up, move out, and start over. We’ve been taught that giving up on things, be it careers, relationships, or homes, is a huge failure. Fuck that. Your life—the whole novel, the big picture—is what’s important. Not a single chapter. If you have to delete one and move back a bit, then do it. Some things can’t be fixed by trying to make it better.
And, of course, on the other side of the scale are the lessons I learned in life that I’ve brought to my writing.
Lessons I learned in real life that I use in writing:
- Unless you know unequivocally that you are home alone, shut the bathroom door.
There are some things people don’t want to hear, or see, or really experience in any way, shape, or form. Not every little thing needs to be shared. Some things need to happen behind closed doors.
Which means, in the fiction writing side of things, that unless a moment is absolutely necessary to my story, I let it take place in the background. Behind the closed door. My reader doesn’t want to know about every popped zit or gaseous movement that my character has. They don’t want to be told about every single thought or every gesture my character makes. They don’t want to be head-hopped through the thoughts of every person in the room during a single conversation. They don’t want a spoiler at the end of every chapter, “Little did he know this would be the last time they would ever talk.”
Keeping the door shut on some things makes a character more interesting and likeable.
- Know your limit, stay within it.
It’s a self-explanatory concept, whether in real life or writing; be it financially, or emotionally, or physically.
Over-indulging in anything is bad for a person. And that means working eighty hours a week, spending thousands of dollars on promotions, or trying to be everything for everyone in every venue at all times. Limits. Have them. And insist that everyone respects them. Especially you.
- Be proud of everything you do, regardless of whether it ends in success or failure.
Every task I’ve undertaken and every word I’ve written has made every subsequent task and every succeeding word that much better. For that purpose alone it was worth doing, even if the task fell short or the novel didn’t sell for shit. That’s reason enough to be proud of it.
And I am. I really am. No matter what anyone says about anything I’ve done, I am proud of the steps that I’ve taken to get here and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.
So what do you think? Do you have any of your own life lessons that you found helped out career-wise or hobby-wise? Have you learned anything at work (or while writing, pl1aying, learning) that ended up making your overall life better? Please comment below and share your story – I’d love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading, and talk to you soon!
AF Henley <3
Henley was born with a full-blown passion for run-on sentences, a zealous indulgence in all words descriptive, and the endearing tendency to overuse punctuation. Since the early years Henley has been an enthusiastic writer, from the first few I-love-my-dog stories to the current leap into erotica.
A self-professed Google genius, Henley lives for the hours spent digging through the Internet for ‘research purposes’ which, more often than not, lead seven thousand miles away from first intentions but bring Henley to new discoveries and ideas that, once seeded, tend to flourish.
Henley newest novel, ‘Wolf, en Garde’ hit the shelves in May, 2016, and the most recent addition to the Wolf pack, ‘Wolf, in League’ is now available for pre-order as well. Save 15% by pre-ordering your copy today.
For more information please stop by for a visit at afhenley.com.