Writing my debut novel has been an emotional, exhilarating and long journey.
It took me a total of three years to finish writing it. In 2011, I had the first glimmer of an idea…I knew within moments who my protagonist would be, complete with her flaws and strengths. I knew what her name would be…I knew her hobbies…what she loved most and disliked most…and I knew what her greatest shortcoming would be. It was only a matter of time and effort before the story arc was fully laid out.
There was many a lesson I learned in this three year journey during which I struggled to nudge the novel along…there were always interruptions, conflicting priorities and bouts of procrastination.
But the life lessons I learned can be transferred to any area of life, and still hold true. Here are some of the lessons I learned:
1) Fear of failure is crippling.
I worried in the early days if anyone would want to read what I wrote. What if the novel was a complete, terrible mistake and what if no one ever heard of it or worse read it? What would happen? I had to teach myself to believe that if I put enough passion and hard work into a project, nothing else really mattered.
2) You can never please everyone.
I had to learn that if I waited to write a book that would please every segment of society, I would probably never end up writing a single word. It was hard because in the first flush of excitement, I wanted to write a book that everyone everywhere would want to read. Some wise teachers taught me that trying to please everyone was a huge waste of time. ‘Write what you believe in. Your readers will find you’ was what they told me.
3) Don’t expect anything to replace the importance of sheer hard work.
Yes, there is always the luck factor in any new project we take up. But I learned that waiting for Lady Luck to arrive on one’s doorstep is not the wisest of moves. There is no alternative to hard work. It’s the only way.
4) They say ‘don’t listen to your head, listen to your heart instead’. But I learned that sometimes, in life, you’ve got to listen to both. Your head and your heart. They can both be very wise teachers, indeed, depending on the situation. There were entire scenes in my novel that I deleted because my head told me they weren’t right. By the same token, there were long scenes I added because my heart told me to go ahead.
So, these, my friends, are the lessons I learned while writing my first ever novel. Looking back, I realise that I made some mistakes along the way. But at the other end of each mistake, there was always a wonderful lesson waiting to be learned.
As Scott Adams once said: ‘Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.’