I have an aunt* who was an author (doesn’t publish books now, but did for many years past). She provided me with some basic writing advice early on, knowing that writing was something I was interested in. The first piece of advice she ever gave me was this:
Always keep a notebook and pen with you at all times.
Excited, I listened to this advice and started keeping a notebook with me. At a mere fifteen years old however, I didn’t fully understand the weight of this advice until I was older.
Other advice I remember from that age: keep up to date in the industry, support other writers, and don’t judge a book by its cover.
This was good and practical advice. Easy to remember and carry with you going forward. Yet at the time it was given to me, I did not fully understand the significance.
At fifteen, I thought that something extraordinary had to happen to merit writing it in my notebook. So, because life was oh-so boring as a teenager, note taking was sparse.
At fifteen, the writing industry was uninteresting to me, so I did not grasp the reason why I should keep up with it. Reading through Writers Digest at that age baffled me and I don’t know if the blogging universe was up to par in 2004 as it is now.
At fifteen, I didn’t have extra money to support buying books from new authors. And when a few extra bucks made it into my pocket, I generally continued buying books I wanted to read (Harry Potter comes to mind) and eventually needed to save that extra money as I got older.
This wasn’t all at the age of fifteen, mind you. Spanning a few years into college, I distinctly remember as time went on, the significance behind this advice shined through, grasping me completely in my early 20’s.
These days, I carry a small notebook with me and write down any interesting sentence, thought, last name, first name, description of an object, etc., that I may overhear. Sometimes I simply jot down thoughts I don’t want to forget.
These days, I read writing blogs and magazines, and follow authors and publishers on social media to develop a deeper understanding of the industry. Because I don’t work in this industry, it’s up to me to keep up with it on my own. I save magazine articles I think could be relevant to me later, whether it’s about writing or advice on book publishing.
These days, I buy books faster than I can read them. I’ve made it a habit to occasionally buy a debut novel from a new author because I know that it’s important to support authors and more significantly, I would want other writers/aspiring writers to do this as well when it’s my book’s turn to be on the shelf.
As far as judging a book by its cover: I’ve never done so. Always give a book a chance!
It’s amazing how thought processes can change in 10+ years. Sometimes I feel like I’m still 18 though, doing nonsensical activities with friends and not worrying too far ahead into the future. And then there are days I feel as far away from 18 as ever.
I think a deeper understanding of the world around you comes as life experiences pile up. They’re branches of a tree stretching majestic and tall into the sky, bending with the wind, accepting the rain, giving leaves away for the preparation of snow, shining in the sun. They stretch out, making way for new branches but not forgetting the old, the memories stretched down to the earthy roots back when it was first introduced to the world.
*for privacy reasons, I respectfully ask you to not ask me her name. Thank you.