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  • Writer's pictureastrid v.j.

What writing and publishing have taught me - and still teach me

I started writing my first novel at the age of 12. This has given me a lot of time to think about writing. I just recently published my first book aged 32. I have learned a lot over the years.

Getting over perfectionism

One of the main reasons my debut novel has been in the works for 13 years from first draft to published, is my perfectionism. I struggled tremendously with fear of letting other people near my work. My husband still laughs at my natural reaction to shield my computer screen when he steps into the room while I’m writing. It’s a deep-seated, visceral reaction. I can’t control it very easily: that twitch to hide my work until I feel “it is ready”. Being a perfectionist can really bring you down, because you don’t share your work from an early stage which means the process takes longer. Sharing, discussing, and getting feedback are crucial to a story line getting better. You cannot do it on your own, and this means you have to learn to trust people (more on trust in a bit). If you’re a perfectionist like I am, learn to kick it out as soon as you can. It took me almost 10 years to realise that. The best changes to my novel happened since I let go...

So, learn to let go. It can take time, but baby steps are all right. They are still steps—they still take you forward.

Learning to let go also gave me another realisation:

I get to be me - unashamedly

My writing is a true expression of who I am. Aspiring, Part 1 of the Siblings’ Tale, for example, received the following review: “If I could sum up this book in one word, it would be ‘charming’. The author weaves together fantasy, romance, magic, and fairytale into a beautiful package.” Well, in a nutshell, that’s me: the fantasy nut whose every pet was a LotR character (Frodo, Gimli, Merry, Elessar, Pippin—okay, I’ll admit my whole family is a bunch of LotR nuts); fairy tales have always been a key feature in my reading, along with mythology. My love for fairy tales and mythology has only deepened since I studied anthropology, because they are the stories at the essence of cultures, they are the bedrock, the foundations. As for romance... well, I’m an unashamed romantic at heart. I love true romance. The deep romantic experience that shatters everything else and constructs a whole new world. I have been blessed! Although I wrote this book before I met my husband, he has proven my perfect match.

Of course there is more to me, so you’ll just have to keep on reading the novels that follow to learn more about me.

Enough about writing... so what has publishing taught me?

I chose self-publishing because I knew I would have to face many rejections as my novel breaks away from the fantasy genre recipe. I deliberately wrote The Siblings’ Tale because of my dissatisfaction with where the Fantasy genre was in the '90s. I knew I couldn’t stand years of fighting on the sidelines, getting rejection after rejection. My perfectionist ego can’t handle that, especially after it took me this long to summon the courage to get the book out there. Thankfully, modern technology has opened a new route for aspiring authors. I chose self-publishing, and I have learned much in the past few months since I made that decision.

Patience in abundance

Even when you’re not waiting months and months for traditional publishers to get back to you, you still need patience. The entire process is a trying experience and it is best to find other ways to keep oneself busy. The best option: keep writing!

Publishing doesn’t just rely on your own work, it relies on an editor, and possibly a proofreader, a cover designer and formatter. Each of these steps can take several weeks where your book is completely out of your hands. The lack of control can lead to some pretty awful nail-biting moments. I have always been referred to as a patient person, but I won’t lie, the part where I handed over everything to other people and then had to wait for them to do their job was beyond trying. I kept having to stop myself from pestering them with: “Are you done yet?”

Learning patience, also brings with it another aspect:

You can’t control everything

Coupled with my perfectionism is a strong desire to do everything myself. I am well aware I got this from my dad who really is the DIY-man who does everything himself because “no one knows how to do things properly these days”. His amazing attitude of I’ll run my business, fix up my place of business on the side, and also constantly be doing home-improvements, close to burned him out. I still don’t know how he managed to work non-stop from 6am to 9pm every day, weekends included. He rarely took vacations and if we were home, that just meant he was in the garden or the garage “fixing” things. This whole attitude really rubbed off on me and I’ve also often been a “If I can do it or learn to do it, that’s best” kind of person.

With publishing, for the first time, I had to humble myself. I had to relinquish control—more than ever before. I couldn’t rely on only my self-editing. That wasn’t good enough. It’s not professional. I ended up getting an editor and a friend who could proofread, just in case. And it was a good thing. It really worked and it has made my book awesome. Although I am artistic, I am not an artist and most certainly not a cover designer. So I had to really let go there and hand over control. It was good, solid learning, that. I feel I’m a better person because of it. It has forced me to trust others.

And that is an important one...

Learn to trust others

My perfectionism and inner control-freak have actually been a disservice to me over the years. I can be quite disagreeable with people I find incompetent, something which was pointed out to me last year by my boss in my day job. I had to bite back there. Step back and reassess. Since then, the process of publishing my book has brought me into contact with a range of people, many of whom have proven highly competent and very helpful. I am grateful my choice to publish my book brought me into contact with such amazing people and I hope it will give me the strength to trust people more and more in the future. I learned much, and for that I am grateful.

Finally, and most importantly, the writing and publishing process has taught me an important thing:

There is no point rushing these things...

The book-baby will be ready, when it’s ready.

And that’s that.

Take your time, enjoy the process and be patient. Trust in your book. It will be ready, when it’s ready.

Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have anything you’d like to share from your own experiences with writing and publishing, please share with a comment. I’d love to know what you’re thinking. And if you’d like to be kept up to date on my next blog post, you are welcome to subscribe here.

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