What I Learned at Jot

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

I believe it’s important to continue to grow personally and learn new things, despite being a creature of habit. There’s a saying:  Knowledge is Power. Maybe you’ve heard it before. Anyway, this is the reason I encourage all writers to attend a writing conference.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a local event … one night only … four short hours … with writing time built in. JOT:  the GR writers mini-conference.

It was a great event. I dare say special. And what made it extra special, is my hubby went with me and we made a date night of it.

The most valuable lesson I learned at JOT wasn’t a specific bullet point from a specific presentation. It was the entirety of the experience. The most valuable lesson was steeped in reflection. Like hot water is to a tea bag, JOT was to my writer’s mind. Extracting the full flavor.

It finally occurred to me … What I’d failed to recognize before was suddenly clear. And I smiled to myself as I sat soaking up everything this event had to offer, sipping coffee with my notebook open, and my husband sitting next to me. Ahhh … the moment of enlightenment.

You’re wondering what I learned and why I was smiling?

I realized that I couldn’t appreciate the message of each presenter or the questions of each writer without having already failed at their writing advice.

Huh? Yes, there is something to be said for the try, fail, and adjust process.

Let me explain …

One presenter said, “Write your first draft as quickly as possible,” which is great advice.

The reason? Your writer’s voice changes over time. Each book or article you read or write; each day that passes and experiences lived cause you to evolve.

So the quicker you put all the words for your novel down the better it is for keeping a consistent voice and minimize some editing as a result. Makes sense.

But as someone who is well into her second year of a first draft (writing in the gaps of life), I can totally see it. When I read the earliest parts of my manuscript I can recall what I was reading and see how it influenced my output.

Do you see? I wouldn’t  have been able to wrap my mind around this concept if I weren’t living the failure of it already.

Another presenter talked briefly about platform. That all important word that strikes fear and stress into writers. Because we have to figure out how to use social media to gain a following of engaged readers.

He said, “The number one reason books are turned down [for publication] is lack of platform.” He defined platform as the ability to promote your story.

I understand how important platform is. Still I struggle with it. I worry, wonder, and doubt what I should or should not share. Is it worthy or value added?

And even though I’ve garnered around 200 followers between my blog and twitter account, I dare say only a handful are “engaged”. If I weren’t in the process of building my own platform this advice wouldn’t resonate with me.

Trying and failing is a remarkable teacher. If we adjust our actions based on where we fell short and what we were trying to achieve we stand to accomplish something great.

So don’t be afraid to jump in and just start.

Now you may think I’ve contradicted myself … I still advocate for attending writers’ conferences and applying practical knowledge gained.

Just remember there is plenty of advice out there on writing. Some of it is Best Practice and shouldn’t be ignored, but it doesn’t mean all of it will work for you.

I’ve learned a lot about my writing process just by trying. And I’ve learned a number of things by following the advice of others.

I appreciated my experience at JOT for the epiphany and because they delivered exactly what they promised:  Meet. Learn. Write. Looking forward to the next JOT.

What life event led to your most recent “aha moment”? Do you learn best by doing or from instruction? Feel free to leave me a comment. I’d love to hear your story.

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Comments

  1. I think you’re absolutely right about getting the first draft out all at once to keep the voice consistent. However, the hard part will be finding the time to get the first draft done so quickly…

    • That’s my challenge, Christi. I have limited writing time as it is. Writing part-time in the gaps of my day is all I have. Like I said 18 months. Hopefully, it can be fixed in editing. Thanks for reading.

  2. I have noticed when reading some novels that the writer’s voice can change towards the end. I’ve always assumed that this is because they have spent many years writing the work. Your post has made me think I may be right 😀 Thanks so much for sharing what you learned here 😉

  3. After three LONG years of back and forth on the first novel followed by a four month balls to the wall first draft on the second, I am definitely a fan of belting it out. I think there is something to be said about sticking to your guns and getting it out while you’re completely in it, you know?

  4. Gail, I’ve pretty much decided that I can’t possibly absorb all the great ‘how to’ advice to writers that’s out there. I’ll rely on whatever ability I have and what sticks on my interaction with my great blogging colleagues.
    But I’m determined to enrol on the Winchester Writer’s Conference in June. It’s a lovely town which will compensate if I get fed up – a real possibility – of the advice overload.
    Glad it worked for you and I should go with the same, positive, attitude.

    • Yes. It can be overwhelming. Daunting even. And then you reach that point where you wonder what made you commit the time and funds to attend. But in the end it’s a worthwhile experience. Cling to the good stuff. Sift through the not helpful stuff. And stay true to your process. I’ve found some new writer friends to add to my community because of these events. Enjoy the Winchester Writers’ Conference. Can’t wait to hear about it.

  5. Yes, I can definitely relate to what you say about your voice evolving over time, and how that can prompt you to rewrite — that’s been happening with a musical that I am releasing in episodic format, which of course allows me to tinker with each song eternally. But the tinkering is fun.

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