Writing a novel is tough. I’ve written two but they still need major revisions before they’re ready to go out into the world. And although I’m happy to have made it this far, I know the road ahead will be full of obstacles to overcome.
Writing a novel is also a fun, creative process. Seeing a story and characters come to life on the page is thrilling, even more so when other people love what you wrote.
Writing a novel has taught me about life. Read on for 5 life lessons I learned from writing a novel.
1. Take it one step at a time
Writing a novel takes a lot of time and as fast as you may want to have a finished book it is almost physically impossible to work that many hours per day. I can only write for two to four hours before I’m mentally and physically spent. My problem is that I can visualize the whole story in my head and can’t wait to write it, but I know I have to pace myself. As long as I write a little each day, I will finish eventually.
In life we want things to happen fast but we have to learn patience. Things will come when they come. That’s why we need to enjoy each moment along the journey.
2. Let go of perfection
A novel will never be perfect, no matter how many times we revise it. There will always be someone who will criticize it and find something wrong with it. We can only do our best. And so, eventually, we have to stop writing and share our novels with the world.
I’m a perfectionist and it’s tempting for me to not do something if it won’t turn out 100% right. But I’ve learned that sometimes good enough is enough, better done than not done, which frees me to do more than I thought possible.
3. Be compassionate toward yourself
Sometimes ideas don’t pan out. A novel you wrote may not work as-is and you have to shelve it and move on to something else. Sometimes we’re blocked and are not able to write.
At these moments, it is important to take time off and do some self-care. Eat chocolate, drink wine, watch a movie, cry. Then when we’re done feeling sorry for ourselves, we sit down and write.
In my normal life, I set out goals that I’m sometimes not able to accomplish and keep pushing back. I’ve learned to focus on what I am able to accomplish and not beat myself up about what I didn’t.
4. Listen to your gut
Writing a novel is full of doubts: will people like this story? Will they hate the end? How about this scene? We never know how our work will be interpreted, if it’ll be liked or hated. We can only write from the heart and follow the story where it goes. In those times we have to follow our guts that this story point serves the novel best.
I sometimes question the decisions I’ve made or whether I’m on the correct path, but a voice inside me says “keep going” and I’m still listening.
5. Always show gratitude
To write a novel you need feedback and feedback comes with opinions different from yours. Someone thinks you should cut a scene you love or change a part of the story. Instead of raging on them, think about
In our life, we tend to take other people for granted but we have to show our gratitude and say thanks to all of those who support us and help us along our journey if we want them to stay on our side.
I know most of you have never written a novel and may never do but I hope this has shown you a bit of what writing a novel is like. I also hope it inspires you to find life lessons in your own career. If you look hard, you will find them.