The best piece of advice I ever received wasn’t specifically about writing. It pretty much applies to everything in life, really, and came from Mr. Buchanan, an English teacher I had in high school.
I am a procrastinator. I have spent my life perfecting the art of procrastinating. Sometimes I have to take a deep, emergency lungful of air because, seriously, I’ve been sitting there not breathing enough. At least once a day I have to sprint to the bathroom because I’ve spent the previous hour (or more) ignoring the need to pee. So, it should come as no surprise that my homework in high school was rarely done on time.
When Mr. Buchanan asked me one day where my assignment was, I started to explain, “I’m gonna —”
He cut me off before I could finish the sentence with something brilliant on the fly.
“’I’m gonna’ never gets anything done,” he said. “Don’t plan to do it, just do it.”
The sentiment stayed with me through the rest of my life. Unfortunately, it took me a very long time before I put it into practice. I’m still not so good in other areas (please don’t stop by my house without giving me a few day’s warning, I beg of you). But when I finally sat my ass down and started to write in earnest, Mr. Buchanan’s words were still right there buzzing in my ear. This time I listened. And I continue to listen with every deadline that comes my way.
The worst piece of advice wasn’t from any one person. When I set out to get published, I read every industry-related blog and article I could find. The same things kept slapping me in the face: The probability of getting published is miniscule, and it’s nearly impossible to get your first novel published, because it’s most certainly going to be crap.
Who says? Everybody says. Well, guess what? Everybody needs to stop being so damn negative. The more people say such nonsense, the more people believe it. I see debut novels coming out all the time. And a lot of them are from people who don’t have a pile of crappy first novels in their desk drawers. I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m just saying it’s a hell of a lot more possible than people say it is. Write. Edit. Edit some more. Believe in yourself and your work. Send.
So, I’m here to tell you, if you’re listening to the Negative Nellies out there telling you it can’t be done, turn your back on them. BE the exception. If you want it, take it. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do.
And Mr. Buchanan, wherever you are out there, I finally got my homework done.