By Leah Henderson
Life has taught me that in order for my dreams to truly take root and flourish, I must invest in them. I must make them a priority. This might be obvious to some, but for many writers, we seem to forget this for ourselves. We think we need to sell a book or have a completed manuscript before we’re willing to consider investing in our dream.
Why is this?
If we want to become a dancer, we take dance classes. If we want to strengthen our singing, we take voice lessons—not waiting for the record deal to happen first. Instead, we take classes and lessons in pursuit of that dream. But for a number of writers, especially when we’re starting out, we believe the only thing we can do is sit in solitude and write. Yes, this is vital. However, for most, investing in our writing takes more than just carving out time and tapping a string of words into a keyboard. It’s about finding ways to help put our best manuscript forward. As writers, we need to understand that it is okay (and necessary) to invest in ourselves and our writing.
Still not sure? Here are a few simple reasons why:
1. As we learn, we grow. Take time not only to write, but to read widely and continuously. Whether craft books or others as mentor text, take the time to study the market and writing styles, not only to learn from the best, but to gain valuable understanding from weak writing as well.
2. Writing is solitary. By attending classes, workshops, conferences or an MFA program like Spalding (whether in person or online) we find community. We find people of like minds who help motivate and encourage, and more importantly, people who can experience and share in this journey with us.
3. Building connections. Events are a wonderful way to hear editors, agents, and authors talk about the business of writing. It is also an opportunity to meet with professionals to discuss our work and how it compares.
4. Adds to the toolbox. With every class, workshop, or conference I’ve ever attended, I’ve come away a little richer in knowledge. There is always at least one takeaway to add to my ever-expanding writer’s toolbox.
5. We don’t know what we don’t know. Through attending writing-related events, we not only learn craft lessons, we also gain a better understanding of the publishing business, elements to consider, and just exactly what we still need to learn.
6. Telling ourselves (and the world) this matters. By investing in our dreams, we are acknowledging their importance. We are saying that we are taking this pursuit seriously and are ready to try.
If money is a concern, start with books from the library, free webinars, and online videos. Join meetup groups to find critique buddies. Seek out scholarships and local author talks or community writing events. It is only fair that we give ourselves all that we need to succeed in our dreams. I know that my world and my writing expanded ten-fold when I started investing in myself and my work.
I hope you are investing in yourself as well.
Leah Henderson is an award-winning author of books for young readers. Her work includes Daddy Speaks Love, The Magic in Changing Your Stars, One Shadow on the Wall, A Day for Rememberin’, and Together We March. Leah holds an MFA in Writing and is on faculty in Spalding University’s low-residency graduate writing programs.