5 Writing Lessons I Learned in 2019

Wednesday, December 18, 2019
As 2019 draws to a close and we rush into the year 2020 (wasn't the 80s like twenty years ago by the way?), it's only appropriate I take a look back at this past year and reflect on writing. It's hard not to look back and reflect on the "numbers" angle of writing. Like how many rejection emails I've received. Or how many stories I've written. Or how many publications I've obtained. Instead, I'd rather focus on what I have learned.

Here are a few:

1) I've learned to be patient with the writing process. 

Okay, sort of. I can't say I'm always patient. This past year my writing has ebbed and flowed. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes it's painful. This time last year I was writing about how I needed to learn patience in the writing process. I think I have. I've learned to be patient with submitting. I've learned to be patient with waiting for feedback. I've even learned to accept the stories that haven't found their ending yet and be patient enough to wait for the ending to come around. In fact, one short story I wrote a few years ago finally found its ending and I'm so happy I kept this story around long enough for that to happen. So patience has been learned. At least, I think so.

2) You can't always do it all.

Last December over at my personal blog, I signed up for some reading challenges. Didn't do either one. In fact, except for the amazing authors who wanted to contribute guest posts along with a few books I've reviewed, I haven't been as active as I wanted to be on my blog. I've learned that you can't always do it all. Well, you can try, but likely your energy will be sapped and something in your life will be sacrificed as a result. I've learned to accept that I won't always be able to do everything I'd like and that is okay by me.

3) Social media can be a terrible distraction.

As much as I am a supporter of authors and writers building their platform, social media is an incredible distraction. An important distraction sometimes, but still, it's a distraction. I've been on my phone less and less lately and that means I'm not as active in the social media world. I find that I do a lot better limiting my time spent on social media in minimal increments.

4) Revising is writing.

Looking back over some of my blog posts here, I came across my 2018 reflection post and I realized that one of my writing weaknesses used to be the revising process. Did you see that there? I said the words "used to be." I can't say that I've perfected the process, but it isn't nearly as intimidating and impossible as it once was. I've learned how writing shapes and changes in the revising process. I enjoy that now and it has helped me in writing my first drafts.

5) Life happens. Writing can wait.

Sometimes life hits us hard. Sometimes stress adds up. Last year I said, "Life happens. Write anyway." This year I'm saying, "Life happens. Writing can wait." The reason I say this is because sometimes you just need to be kind to yourself. While I encourage you to discipline yourself to write through the tough times, sometimes you need to put writing projects to the side. If you are going through a stressful time, consider journaling. Or drawing. Or coloring. Or going for walks. Sometimes the writing process hurts when we force it. But who knows, ask me next year, and I'll likely say something different.

With all of this in mind, I'm looking forward to seeing what the new year will bring. A new decade. The roaring twenties of a new age. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

What writing lessons did you learn in 2019


Kathleen Cassen Mickelson said...

Nice post! It's important to look at the bigger picture that is the life of a writer once in a while rather than focusing on the nitty gritty of how many submissions we have out there, how many have been accepted, how many weeks until the next deadline. While important, those details shift our focus from art to statistics and that's a creativity zapper as much as getting distracted on social media. And social media in little bites - yes, that's been my own method more and more.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Yep, been there, figured out those. :-)

What I learned this year is that as long as we're writing, we're learning and improving skills. So taking a look back at earlier writing can be fun.

Um...I mean, once you get past the cringing. But you might actually have had some good stuff among the stinky writing. And maybe now you have the skills to make it all pretty!

Nicole Pyles said...

@Kathleen - I love what you said! The nitty gritty details make our writing life seem like statistics rather than art and that absolutely saps our creative strength!

@Cathy - So true!! Haha, it is always nice to look back, even at stinky writing. Because it's at least proof I'm writing! :)

Margo Dill said...

Something I learned is if I get my butt in the chair every morning with a goal, I really can make progress on the things I want to write!

Nicole Pyles said...

Well said Margo! If I have a goal in mind of what I want to complete that makes such a HUGE deal to me in my day-to-day progress.

Beverley Baird said...

Great post Nicole. The last one has been one I can so relate to. I hope 2020 will get me totally back on track.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Be kind to yourself.

And you are so correct. We need to see rewriting as writing which can be the opposite of playing the numbers game. Thank you for the reminder.

That said, I'm still working on putting down 1000 words a day on my novel. Oh there will be so much rewriting in my future. So much.

Nicole Pyles said...

@Beverley - same here! I hope my motivation picks up in 2020 for sure.

@Sue - That's incredible you are putting down that many words! Hopefully rewriting it will be so fun :)

Renee Roberson said...

I'm going to chime in on number three. It is SUCH a distraction! I've had to put time limits on my social media apps on my phone, and I was surprised to learn how much mindless scrolling I was doing, cutting into my productivity. On my computer I'm not as likely to manually log into the sites, so it's my phone that is the biggest issue. I've also learned to give myself grace. Sometimes life and paying gigs have to take precedence over our creative writing, and it's hard to accept, but we just have to keep doing the best we can!

Nicole Pyles said...

@Renee - SAME. If I'm on the laptop, I'm way less likely to do the social media scroll (maybe it helps my laptop always freezes when I'm on social media lol). And giving myself room to breathe on expectations has helped me so much this year actually. I feel better about things overall when I give myself grace!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Nicole, I'm going to chime in on your number 4! My weakness has always been revising, and this is the very first year that I've been patient enough to do it, and I've come to love it. I learned that the first draft I write is almost always narrative summary. This happened and that happened. Then I take the parts that need more detail and flesh out scenes, add sensory detail, make the writing really come alive, and tighten the themes. I used to just leave it at the narrative summary state, and then it's all telling vs show. Learning to recognize which areas need to be fleshed out is one thing I've learned. :) Great post!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Interesting. I tend to write scenes with action and description or dialogue and a tiny bit of description and action. But rewrites are definitely required to create balance.

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