As I approach my 25th birthday this weekend, I thought I'd take some time to reflect on the best advice ever given to me - advice I've ingrained into myself and which has helped me become a better person and writer.
In no particular order of importance:
1) Act your wage.
Pithy, but useful. And so true. While most people my age are out buying new cars, TV's, and leveraging a house whose payment constitutes 30-45% of their income, I've rented, kept my very nice car my dad gifted me, and paid off my school debt. I don't owe Sallie Mae a penny, and it feels great.
2) Be yourself.
Anyone who knows me will attest that I follow this one. I'm not much of a conformer; I'm a little bizarre. However, I am happy with myself, and that's something many people cannot say.
3) Don't waste your youth; do things you really want to do.
I can't count the number of people older than I who get wistful and tell me not to waste a minute of my life. So I don't; I don't want to be wistful with regret when I'm their age. I enjoy leisure time, but I also put my time into my future writing career, I maintain good relationships, and I attend important events and places.
4) Live in the now with an eye for the future.
Don't let current events immure you and what you hope to achieve, nor should you let your hopes for the future cause you to ignore the present.
5) Writers use lies to tell the truth.
Maybe not advice to you, per se, but it certainly is for me. It's easy to forget why writing is so wonderful when dragged down into the grammar games, but regardless if it's a literary masterpiece or a thriller, books let us come away with a deeper understanding of the world around us.
6) Trust, but verify.
My boss calls this the Ronald Regan approach. Regardless if it means fact-checking for a book, a political candidate's claims, or your phone bill, it pays to monitor what makes it into your psyche.
7) Get your butt in the seat and work.
There's a time for procrastinating and - ok, really, there's never a time to procrastinate, and if we all spent less time tooling around and focused on the job at hand, we'd have a lot more time at the end to have our fun and games. Following this one is hard. It's a work in progress.
As a goal-setter/achiever, this one is hard for me. The past year has taught me an insurmountable load about patience. Pushing won't always yield the results you want, and may have the opposite effect.
9) I can fix a bad page; I can't fix a blank one.
On my desk there's a lamp I inherited from Suzann Ledbetter. She wrote writing-inspired quotes on the lampshade. I heard this one often enough at our workshop, and it's certainly true. The number of writers who never take the time to finish penning those thoughts deny themselves the pain and joy of revising. Yes, revising is a daunting, sometimes overwhelming experience, but it's like any other large task.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
10) Ask yourself: have I done the best I could today with the given knowledge at the time?
This one is hard for me. We don't make things perfect the first, second or twentieth time around. We don't always have the tools we need to tweak something to just the right balance. And sometimes, it's tempting to say "I don't have everything I need, so I'll put this on the backburner."
Worthwhile projects will always require more changes, better revising, patience, and the ability to let go of perfectionism at the same time. Sometimes you really just have to do your best and remind yourself you can have a better best the next day.
Happy Halloween, everyone. This Halloween baby is going out before digging into the writing cave.