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Life Lesson #1 for a Writer

Writing has been part of my life for almost as long as I can remember. Those teacher sheets we had to fill in with the right words and then colour, those old blackboards filled with white chalk words I couldn’t even read, and those Dick and Jane story words we copied over and over–they were the beginnings of my love of language. Learning to print sentences into exercise books to form a story was magical.

In those days, though, we students did exactly what we were told. No one expected us to teach ourselves by looking up a topic on our computer; in fact, the word computer meant a person who sat and worked out arithmetic problems in their heads or on paper. Today a computer is a magical machine that, given the right instructions, does the work for us. And most of us have more than one at our disposal. (I have a smart phone, an iPad, a MacBook Pro and a desktop computer.)

My work habits subtly shifted to being the epitome of that 4-H motto from years ago: Learn to do by doing. In other words, teach yourself. And I have done that for years. I taught myself how to cook, sew, embroider, quilt, ski, dive, decorate, paint, make jewelry, and probably a whole lot more. And while I did have lots of music lessons and skating lessons and all sorts of other lessons, I got used to pushing the envelope myself and so did everyone I knew.

Those habits were most useful when I decided to write actual books and take the path to being an author. I started my novel-writing journey with a book from a bookstore–How to Write and Sell Your First Novel. Oh, I knew how to write correct English and I was a lifelong reader, but I didn’t know silly things like what should my margins be? how long was a chapter? when should I write in third person and when in first?

In the same manner and for the same reasons I sought out writers and writers’ groups. When I had learned what I needed from each I moved on to the next, always going further afield to seek out what I needed. My first critique group met in my house and was made up of people who also said they wanted to improve their writing. From there I sourced out a group in a neighbouring town and then one in a city thirty miles away, always searching for more and better information.

Next I sourced out conferences–I even flew across Canada to one in Vancouver. One crucial thing I did at every event was speak to the presenters after each session. I got on their lists and they were on mine. I went to a cross-border conference in Niagara Falls. That was pivotal. Several people were there from the Toronto area, both attendees and presenters, and I learned about the Writers Community of Durham Region. At the time it met once a month for a Saturday morning breakfast event with terrific speakers and with many published writers as part of the membership. I drove the hour and a half to each meeting and loved it. I still connect with many of those I met there; in fact, my last blog post interview was of writer Purabi Sinha Das whom I met at WCDR.

It’s Okay To Get Help

Another learning experience I had along my journey was a weekly writing course  led by Brian Henry of Quick Brown Fox. (Brian puts out a yearly calendar filled with writing contests for writers to enter. Fabulous!) At Brian’s Oakville course, we work-shopped everyone’s writing and made long-time friends. Watching each of those folks bring their own books to publication has been almost as much fun as moving my own along. I still chat with many of those classmates on social media and through email. One of them, Sharon at claritybookcoverdesigns.com, is a gifted author, cover designer and interior layout person, whose skills I’ve used several times.

Today I use people like Sharon for their abilities to save myself having to learn yet another necessary skill. Even more important is my decision to pay skilled computer people to do things I no longer can do because the difficulty level just keeps escalating. For instance, I used to be a whiz at WordPress. No more. For a few weeks I could not find my images on WordPress, search though I might both in the program itself and on the help forums online. After spending hours and getting nowhere I paid someone to fix the problem. They did it in an hour or so. Yes, it cost me money but I was spared the agony of defeat and you can see that I have images in this post. Yay!

This is the third time I’ve had to pay for that type of help and I will do it again. It’s a matter of spending my time doing what I love and paying someone else to do what I can’t do or don’t want to do. It’s one of those life lessons. It took me a while but I’m glad I learned it. I hope you do, too!

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it’s ok to get help

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