It was from a tuba player.
Also, it wasn’t exactly advice.
More like a complaint, I guess, but I took it as a mantra.
In the early days of what only in retrospect can now be called my writing career, I didn’t know any other writers. I knew a lot of teachers and social workers, a good number of law students, a ton of idealistic non-profit workers, and quite a few baristas, but no other writers. The only person I knew who was actively striving to make a life (and living) for himself in the arts was my friend Nat the international tuba sensation.
A few months after I’d signed with my agent, I was talking to Nat about the whole process of revising the manuscript before we could even think of sending it to an actual editor, and how if we managed to find an editor who liked my book, that editor would probably want me to revise too, and how much time the whole stupid thing was going to take. And Nat said, “Everything takes ten times longer than you think it should.”
It’s not really advice, and it’s not specifically about the publishing industry, but it’s true, and it’s been my mantra throughout. Every single step of the publishing process takes ten times longer than you think it should, and you can either let it drive you crazy, or you can figure out something else to occupy your attention in the meantime.
My other favorite bit of advice these days comes from Friend-Of-Debs Kelly O’Connor McNees. I’ve been kind of freaking out about marketing/PR/events/etc for my upcoming book launch, and decided to solicit advice from every writer I know. I got tons and tons of amazing suggestions, hints, ideas, thoughts, and advice — so much that I’m now overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of awesomeness in my inbox — but I think my absolute favorite came from Kelly, who basically reminded me that I’d probably be fine and probably wouldn’t screw up my whole career forever and die alone. Specifically, she said:
“My first piece of advice is to remember there is no right or wrong way to do this. I was obsessed with fear that I would make a mistake and it was paralyzing. But really, no one knows what works and what doesn’t, what is worth the effort and what is a waste of time. So when opportunities appear, just do what you can, but don’t feel guilty about letting some things go. You can’t do everything!”
(Don’t you love her? I love her.)
So that’s the advice I’m carrying around with me these days: Everything is going to take ten times longer than you think it should, and there’s no right or wrong way to do this. In other words, take a deep breath, be patient, do what you can, and enjoy the ride.
And if you* DO manage to totally screw up, you* can always quit your job and run away to work at a baby sloth sanctuary.**
**except a different thing. Get your own backup career; this one’s mine.
M. Molly Backes
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