I might just be one of the luckiest damn aspiring writers out there. Why? My job. Working at Booktopia (Australia’s online bookstore) has been both a blessing and a curse at times. In my role, I get to meet a lot of incredible authors – from Jimmy Barnes and Neil Gaiman to Jay Kristoff and Isobelle Carmody. That’s the blessing part. Meeting these talented writers and getting to talk to them about their work and their journey to becoming an author. The curse part revolves around the fact that I hear how hard their journeys can be, how long it took them to get where they are. Meeting these authors can be both sobering and inspiring.
But today I’m just going to focus on the inspiration!
I’ve learnt a lot of things from meeting these authors over the years and, as an aspiring author who is currently trying to get her first novel published (good luck Bron), I take note of everything they say and do, in the hopes that I might pick up some nuggets of wisdom.
A nugget from Neil Gaiman:
My manager likes to point out to authors that I’m an aspiring writer. He knows all about getting one’s name out there and using every advantage you can. I think he knows I’m a little hesitant and shy – I don’t want to make it about me – since their visit to my work is literally about them, so he sometimes helps me along. I am grateful, despite the burning sensation that scolds my face, because I’ve had some interesting chats with authors after he has done this.
A nugget of wisdom that really sticks out for me is the time I met Neil Gaiman, author of Stardust, Norse Mythology, American Gods, The Graveyard Book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane… this guy really knows his stuff! He is an incredible writer and Stardust is one of my all-time favourites from childhood. So I was a tad nervous to be meeting him. What if he was rude? What if he wasn’t what I hoped for? Lucky, he was everything I hoped for and more. An incredible, intelligent and friendly man.
My manager chose this moment to bring up the fact that I write. I was mortified. You do not tell the great Neil Gaiman that I, lowly aspiring writer with no credits to her name, am hoping to one day be published! *falls over dead*
Here is how the conversation went:
Manager: Bron writes.
Neil: Oh, really? *turns to look at me*
Me: *falls over herself* Oh, yeah, well, I’m nowhere near as good as you though.
Neil: Ah, but remember, neither was I once upon a time.
Firstly, what an incredibly nice thing to say. Secondly, how true is that? What a nugget of wisdom! It’s sometimes hard to remember that these great authors were once unpublished and aspiring, just like me. Like us. JK Rowling’s story is famous for a reason – it gives us hope to think of those idiotic publishers who rejected Harry Potter and are now definitely kicking themselves. Most of us will never be the next JK – no one will, in my opinion – but we can be the next big thing in our own way.
Hard work, that’s what I took from Neil Gaiman. Perseverance. What’s that rule? The 10,000 Hour Rule? You can only master something when you’ve been doing it for at least 10,000 hours. Take notes, kids.
A nugget from Jay Kristoff:
Jay Kristoff is a new love of mine, ever since I started working at Booktopia I’ve surrounded myself with people who were huge fans of his and introduced me to his work. The Illuminae Files is an incredible series, FYI, as is Nevernight and Godsgrave. Jay is a legendary writer and really knows how to entertain.
When Jay visited Booktopia (one of many visits), he brought up the fact that he has multiple writing projects going at once. This might sound daunting to those of us who have that one novel they’ve been working on for ten years but here’s why Jay insists all writers should have multiple writing projects going at once.
Don’t let your novel become your baby.
When you write just one novel, it’s almost like having an only child. You obsess over them because they are your only child. You cling to them, you defend them until you’re red in the face, you cannot let go. It’s much the same for writing. If you have only one project going, it becomes your world and you become lost in it.
By only working on one novel, you run the risk of being easily brought down by a rejection or writer’s block or self-doubt. Jay also pointed out that by having multiple projects going, you pretty much conquer writer’s block, because if you are stuck on one novel, you can put it aside and work on another. I am taking Jay’s advice and starting up a second story to write alongside my Relic series.
A nugget from Holly Ringland
I learnt something from Holly too and it wasn’t something she said, it was something she did.
When authors arrive at Booktopia, I take them into the signing room where I have set up their pile of books. Now for a lot of authors, this is the first time they’re seeing their book in bulk. It is especially true for debut authors. I see a lot of great reactions to the ‘pile’ but none as memorable or as beautiful as Holly’s.
Upon seeing hundreds of her books stacked in a pile, her reaction was priceless: tears, hysterical laughter and incomprehensible speech. To this day it is one of my favourite author room moments at work and, even more so, one of my favourite moments in life: to witness her joy was a gift.
Love what you do and do it for you, that’s what I learnt from Holly.
A nugget from Rachael Johns
Rachael Johns is a lovely human being and a very talented writer. Author of The Greatest Gift, The Art of Keeping Secrets and so many more, she is an Aussie treasure. When Rachael came in, we had a great chat that roamed all over the place.
The main thing I took away from this conversation though was perseverance is everything. It took Rachael 15 years to finally get published. Now, in the mean time she has had a family and achieved so many other things, but it still took 15 years to finally get that writing deal. Now look at her!
It was one of those inspirational moments that gave me hope. Despite the long road she traveled, Rachael made it and I walked away from that encounter believing that I could make it too.
I could go on forever but I won’t because then this would be the world’s longest blog post. What’s the overall thing I’ve learnt so far? If I had to boil it down to one thing it would be this: you are your own worst enemy. Only you can decide to stop being an author. I don’t care if you’re published or not. You finished a book? You’re an author. Simple as that.
I was listening to this writing podcast once and this author (whose name I’ve forgotten) said that she had dozens of rejections for her novel but now that she was being published, she turned those rejections into a quilt and now they keep her warm at night.
To all my fellow aspiring writers, I hope you got something from this and can take away some hope and inspiration. Keep writing I say! One day we might be authors next to each other at a writing convention. Wouldn’t that be awesome?