This past weekend, I went to my first writer’s retreat. It was with the Romance Writers Organisation of South Africa (also known as ROSA) in a beautiful lodge up in the mountains.
I was invited by a fellow author who had seen that I’d published my first book with Harlequin, and I said yes though I was really quite terrified at the prospect. These are the most important lessons the retreat taught me:
1. Go to writer’s retreats
As you may have guessed based on the first paragraph of this post, this wasn’t something that was in my comfort zone. Because of it, though I’d read many authors recommend finding a writing community, I’d found all sorts of excuses not to. The truth was that I was scared – of the unknown, of not fitting in, or most of all, of being inexperienced. I was okay with being new to the writing world, but by myself, where no-one would know I was new, so no-one would witness me floundering.
I forced myself to commit to this retreat, knowing that I needed to grow beyond these fears. I was so glad I did. I met people who were like-minded, who shared my fears, and who shared my interests. I didn’t have to force any of them to listen to me talk about writing (like I have to do with my friends and family 😉 ). They were genuinely interested because they were going through the same thing. Moreover, they were kind and helpful, and they made me feel welcome. Writing is a solitary career, and writer retreats are a great way to overcome that loneliness.
2. Writing is a business, and I am a small-business owner
When I got my publishing contract, I was so grateful that my dream had come true that the terms of it didn’t really matter to me. Besides, it was easier to believe that I’m working for someone else than to think of myself as a business owner. Thinking like this requires a mind-shift. Now I realise gratitude can’t drive my publishing negotiations. I have to think about what’s best for my business – what’s best for me. My writing career is now my main source of income. Writing pays my bills. When I started thinking about it this way, things became a little more serious.
Of course, I’m not automatically now a business-minded person. But the shift in perspective has allowed me to consider things that I hadn’t considered before. It helped me identify what I need to work on, and realise what the plan for my future should entail.
3. It’s okay to be wherever you are in your writing journey
I’m new and I’m young. I don’t know some of the more basic things about the publishing business and even about writing. The writer’s retreat helped me realise that that was okay. Everyone starts somewhere, and one of the ways I can learn more and grow is to get involved.
It’s okay if this intimidates you.
Take baby-steps first. Read online forums. Post anonymously. Follow authors on Twitter. Like their Facebook pages. You’ll soon see that everyone is at a different stage in their writing journey. Some might be in the same place you are. When you feel more confident, reach out to them.
Wherever you are, you are not alone. And regardless of where you are, you’ll be fine.