Tuesday, July 17, 2018

What I Wish I'd Known

Sometimes I'm asked what I wish I'd known before I reached where I am now. Here are three things I think of immediately.

1. I wish I had been able to accept rejections objectively. Like any serious author, I throw myself into everything I write. It hurt deeply when I received my early rejections.

2. There is no place to stop improving. I assumed that once I became a good, well-published writer I could relax. I work harder at the craft now than I did in my early days. And part of my joy is in learning how to write better, even in small ways.

3. I wish I hadn't compared myself with other writers. When I did, they always seemed better or more successful than I was.

Nowadays I say to myself, I'm the best Cec Murphey in the publishing business.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

What Would I Have Done Differently?

Occasionally an interviewer will ask, "If you had known what you know now, what would you have done differently when writing your first book?"

I don't know that I would have done it much differently. That is, I gave myself to each project and tried my best. I wrote with all the passion and knowledge I had at that point.

Here's what many don't grasp: Writers improve by writing. Each time I receive the edited version of my book, I learn things. Furthermore, if I had known it all in the early days, being a fulltime, paid author wouldn't have been exciting. I would have known all the answers and faced few of the challenges.

Sure, I hate rejections, and I love acceptances. That means every time I write, I'm anticipating wonderful results. Sometimes I get them. When I receive a rejection, these days I remind myself, "The next one might be a big one!"

I wouldn't want that taken away from me.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Trap for Writers

My best friend says he'll never be a writer "because I always think that some won't understand or they'll disagree."

It's a trap to try to figure out the personality of your readers. Most of us know the age group or the type of people for whom we write. To attempt to be "all things to all people" is paralyzing.

I know writers who think that way. They're so careful to be orthodox, culturally correct, and not offend anyone, and their writing doesn't come from deep within. This is especially true of Christian authors. They don't have to prove their faith; they have to show their faith by opening themselves. When they're honest, even people who don't agree can accept them.

As I keep saying in this blog, I write from my heart and throw it out into the world. Not everyone likes my writing or agrees with my worldview. And I get criticized sometimes.

Here's one of my maxims:

I'd rather be disliked for who I am than to be admired for who I'm not.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Professional Practices

I've received this question many times during interviews: What are the best professional practices you can recommend for those who want to improve their writing?

Here is my answer.

1. Challenge yourself to keep learning. Read books, articles, and blogs of all kinds. Stay curious. Look up words or phrases you don't know.

2. Note the writers you like and ask yourself why you like them. For me, it means they're writing in a style with which I resonate. The implication is that I can learn more about writing in my voice by reading that writer.

3. Copy sentences by those special writers and keep them in a folder or a document, which you read from time to time. (I've been doing that since 1996.)

4. Join an editing group, because that helps you de-sensitize yourself and learn not to take rejection personally.

5. Pass on everything about writing you learn. The universal principle is that the more you give, the more you receive. (And didn't Jesus say something about that?)

The best professional practice is to keep learning and not stopping.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Motivations (Part 4 of 4)

Some of us are more self-motivated, more energetic, and flexible. I have a lot of stamina, I'm fairly self-disciplined, and keep reading and recharging daily. All three of those work for me.

Perhaps the most significant thing is that I write even if I feel the words will sound like a third grader. When I was a college student, I had deadlines for my papers and I was never late.

One of my close friends in grad school never once turned in an assignment on time. His grades were always reduced, and he'd say, "If I had had more time, I could have done a better job." We call that rationalization. He had as much time as the rest of us.

When I taught public school for two years, I couldn't say, "I didn't feel motivated to prepare a good lesson plan this week." I just did it. Some weekly plans worked better than others, but I did what my job required.

Professionals write and meet deadlines. Regardless.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

How I Stay Motivated (Part 3 of 4)

I hesitate to write this because we're all different. I've rarely faced the blank screen. First, I read—daily. Not just the news, but I set aside a minimum of one hour to read and soak up the words and wisdom of other writers, even those who don't write in my field.

Second, I think about my writing project off and on while I'm doing other things. I ask myself, "What's going on that hinders me?"

Third, I believe in letting the unconscious work. This is probably the most practical thing I do. I focus on other things. Often I go to sleep and the answer pops up early the next morning. I don't always find the answer to what has been amiss, but I'm ready to write.

I give my inner wisdom an opportunity to help me.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Motivation Is an Inside Job (Part 2 of 4)

It's not easy to stay motivated, but you can learn. When I hit that invisible barrier that stops me from writing, I don't fight it. I trust that my inner wisdom/God/providence is giving me a message and I need to listen. Carefully.

Here's the question I ask: "What is going on that stops me?" I don't ask why—because that solves nothing. If I pause long enough and search my soul deeply, I usually figure it out.

Here are a few answers I've discovered when I've hit the big bumps:

* I'm not ready to write. Perhaps I need more research. Or a deeper understanding of the topic.

* I'm not passionate about the topic.

* I'm trying to write in a voice that's not mine.

* I'm too physically or emotionally drained.

I don't try to tell anyone how to get motivated, because it's an inside job. But I need to be in harmony with myself. The more I understand myself, the better I write.

True motivation comes from self-understanding.