Saturday, March 22, 2008

Can't Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

Everyone has heard that old saying. I can tell you that it is all wrong. It’s not that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, it’s hard to unteach the old ones.

Let me explain what I mean, at forty-six, I decided if I ever wanted to get published I needed to find a new way to accomplish that. My old way of keeping my writing to myself and only reading self-help books wasn’t getting it. One of the big lessons I've learned is that if you want to something bad enough, you have to put everything in it and get with those who want the same thing or those who are in the place you wish to be. So I started going to Southern Magic meetings, every meeting, not the once or twice year thing.

In the past six years, I’ve learned so much. Of course, you’re wondering how in such a length of time could I not be published? Well, I had a lot to unlearn. And some of those were 1) you can’t do it alone. Everyone I know has some type of support in their writing: a critique partner(s), spouse, relative, friend, and/or chapter mates. This is so important to have in your writing life. You ask why? They can you help with the next two items. 2) You can’t be sensitive. Your manuscript will be scrutinized by at least an editor or agent, and there’s a chance it will be criticized or you might receive the dreaded rejection form letter. After you receive one generic rejection after another, you have to find someone who will help you figure out why you’re being rejected. This is where critique partners and contests come in handy. They can tell you where you need work. Plus it will prepare you for those more involved rejections that can hurt so much. Learn from it all. 3) You can’t be self-doubting. Sure, everyone has doubts about their ability to become published. Do I have what it takes? I can tell you this was the hardest to unlearn.
As a woman, especially a Southern Christian woman, I was taught you mustn’t talk about your accomplishments. And to express any confidence was too close to bragging. I even felt if I imagined good things happening in my writing life, it would jinx me. WRONG! I realized I could ask in my prayers to improve my writing, think of unique vital stories, final and win contests, and even ask for an editor to make THE CALL.

The last hasn’t happened yet, but I’m feeling good about it. Don’t get me wrong. Bragging is still bad and I never ask for bad things on others. But there is nothing wrong to ask for something you’re working toward. And I work hard. I work on my writing from the time I get home from work around six pm until I go to bed, somewhere between ten and midnight. Then I get up at five am and work until time to take a shower at seven. On the weekends, I work from the time I get up between seven and nine, stopping to clean house and cook, and then going to bed around midnight. Confidence or at least the outside appearance of it can only help. By portraying easy confidence during an editor appointment can make the editor feel confident in you.

So this old dog is learning new tricks and I’m thankful there are published authors out there willing to lead me. I’m a firm believer that you can never learn enough. I believe even after I publish my twentieth book, I’ll still be learning something new from prepublished and published authors alike.

So, what have you unlearned?

BTW, check out my first interview...


JoAnn said...

I had to unlearn the self-doubt thing too, Carla. I truly believed that I could never be published, that you had to be born with "it" or have a best friend, sister-in-law, spouse or cousin who was already published to "get you in."

Great blog -- and great interview! You sound very professional. :-)

Naima said...

I had to unlearn keeping my writing to myself from everyone! When I was younger, I used to hide my stories under my mattress! But, a couple of years ago I started taking baby steps and my huge one was coming to Southern Magic. I've also unlearned being alone. I've always believed writing is solitary, but its actually not! I bounce ideas off my critique partners. I gain all kinds of advice and knowledge from the members of the chapter. So, I'm still learning--or unlearning. Great blog, Carla! It made me really think that even though I have a long way to go still, I'm further along than I was last year. Thanks!

I checked out your interview, too! All right!! Awesome!

Christy Reece said...

I don't think I'll ever stop unlearning. Not to mention all of the things I still need to learn.

Great post, Carla. And congrats on the interview. Too cool. JoAnn's right, you sound very professional!