Thursday, December 9, 2010

You might think I'd regret it, but I don't

Yesterday, we talked about regrets.

An uplifting topic, to be sure. Who’s ready for a discussion on funeral planning?

Actually, I’d like to talk about the opposite of regrets – the things you might think I’d regret, but I don’t. I have a lot more things in this column than I’m willing to admit in a public blog that’s read by my mother, but I’ll share my top three writing-related ones:

I don’t regret that I didn’t start writing sooner. I know a lot of yesterday’s commenters stated this was their biggest regret, but it’s not one I share. I took my first stab at writing fiction when I was 28 and sold my first book a little less than three years later (that’s the one where the book deal fell through, for those following along at home). In hindsight, I’m glad that first book never hit shelves because it isn’t what I want out there as my first published work. Between practice and life experience, I’ve become a much better writer now than I was then. Frankly, I shudder to think of the drivel I might have churned out if I’d started writing fiction earlier in life.

I don’t regret not jumping into the social media circus earlier. For years, writing pals urged me to start blogging. I had an agent, a book deal was surely on the way – shouldn’t I be building my platform? I’m infinitely glad now that I didn’t begin blogging or tweeting until just a few weeks before my agent landed me this current three-book deal. Not that there’s anything wrong with unpublished or unagented writers blogging – there are plenty of great blogs out there from authors at these early stages in their careers. But for me, it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. I write comedy, and I’ve worked hard to build my brand around providing you with a consistent source of amusement. It would have been much harder to make you laugh if I’d been dragging you through the rejections and near-misses that peppered the last few years (unless you’re a sick bastard who enjoys laughing at other people’s misery, in which case we would have had a great time together).

I don’t regret picking the wrong agent first. When I first queried agents in 2006, I was lucky to have four of them offer to represent me. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I now know I chose wrong. Not that there was anything wrong with my first agent, but it just wasn’t the right fit. The thing is, I don’t regret the decision. You know how sometimes you have to date Mr. Wrong in order to know Mr. Right when you meet him? It’s sort of like that. Without that first agent relationship for comparison, I’m not sure I would have recognized the fabulousness of my current agent, Michelle Wolfson (who is probably wondering from that whole Mr. Wrong/Mr. Right thing if I’m confused about her gender).

Is there anything people might assume you’d regret, but you really don’t? Please share.

And please don’t tell my mom if you’ve heard any regret-worthy stories about me. They’re all lies, mom, I swear.

17 comments :

Sarah W said...

I don't regret leaving my old writing group.

I miss many of the people, but I don't miss the squabbles over The One True Way to Get Published or the snark over feedback (giving and taking). It was more of a feast of egos (mine included, I won't lie) than a supportive place.

When I left, a weight lifted. I was able to write without tying myself in knots. Eventually, I found people who supported me and let me support them. It's lovely.

lynnrush said...

Great list. Love this. We all learn from what we go through so we shouldn't regret much, should we? I suffered a failed publishing deal as well and look back and understand it was part of my journey to where I am now. . . Can't regret that.

Love this post. Thanks!

Delia said...

I'm still amazed at some of the things you do put into this blog that your mother reads.

Anyway...I'm one of those who regrets not starting earlier, but our reasoning is basically the same. I know I would've pumped out drivel. In fact, I was pumping out drivel, that's why I quit. However, I think everyone goes through the drivel-pump stage. I'm going through it now. Again. If I'd kept going earlier, I'd have gotten it out of my system sooner. I'd have learned more, earlier. Presumably, this would mean that I'd no longer be at the drivel stage at this point in my life. Of course, that may be a lot to presume. I may well be a drivel-pusher for the rest of my life, who knows? I choose to presume.

lora96 said...

I don't regret querying on an overlong and unedited first novel. I got rejected a lot. I actually needed that because I thought I was friggin brilliant and it gave me the message that some self-editing would be judicious.

I don't regret putting first novel aside to write a different one.

I don't regret starting to rewrite Novel 2 in a different viewpoint. My main character is much different than I expected in first person.


Because I don't actually want to fast forward this process. I would like to fast forward the agent and book deal fantasy, but not the writing. I learn from the writing.

Linda G. said...

There's not a lot I regret, even the bad stuff. It made me the person I am now, and I'm okay with that.

(Okay, okay...I do regret this one party--I was 22--where I was introduced to the concept of "tequila shots." I'm pretty sure I swallowed a worm. At least, it felt like it the next morning.)

Laura Maylene said...

I don't regret not getting my first novel published -- like you, I wouldn't want that to be my first work out there.

Malin said...

The envy dragon reared its ugly head when I read that you had written for 3 years before you got published. I've been at this for 11 years. And yes, I started young, but not in the flimsy girl "I want to be famous" way. I wanted to be a writer and I wrote a lot, took classes, exchanged critique. I still do all that, and yet... nothing.

Regrets... lots of small things, strangely not many big events. The past doesn't change, so I try to think on things I don't want to repeat.

Probably will regret posting that envy rant. I better hit send before I change my mind.

Tawna Fenske said...

Sarah, yikes! That does sound like a toxic writing group. Good to break free.

lynnrush, I swear we should form a support group of people who landed book deals and never had the books released. It's probably a disturbingly large group.

Delia, I'm actually joking about the mom thing, since I can't think of too much my mom doesn't already know :)

lora96, it's amazing how brilliant we sometimes believe we are with those first novels, isn't it?

Linda G, thank you for my first eeeew of the morning!

Laura, one of these days I'll go back and read my first novel to see if it's really as bad as I'm remembering.

Malin, don't get TOO green there. While I did sell a book after three years, the line was canceled and the book was never published. That began nearly FIVE years of writing endless new work, racking up rejections, dealing with an agent "divorce," and a lot of other not-so-pleasant things. It was actually almost eight years from the time I first decided to write fiction to when Agent Michelle landed me this current book deal. You do bring up a great topic though, which is that the green-eyed monster really never goes away (it hit me this week, I'm not proud to admit). That's why it's so crucial to remember that every author's journey is unique and we'll go nuts comparing ourselves to each other. Lord knows I have to remind myself that every single day.

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Claire Dawn said...

I do crazy stuff so often I think most ppl must think I regret most of my life. But I don't.

I don't have any writing non-regrets. I think I've heard so many scary stories that I'm being overly cautious: about picking the right agent and querying the right novel and selectign the right phallic wine stoppers...oh, wait

Hopefully, I won't make the mistakes, because I've seen them. Who knows?

Alexa O said...

I don't regret deciding to become a teacher instead of continuing to wait tables while focusing on my writing.

For one thing, I love teaching and hated waiting tables.

For another thing, I'm a much better writer for having become a writing teacher. Although I teach a kind of writing that nobody really does outside of the classroom (Freshman 101 Expos), the lessons are really all the same: focus, specificity, point of view.

Besides, I wasn't really writing all that much when I was a waitress... I was too exhausted and bitter after my shifts!

Matthew Rush said...

There's plenty of stuff I won't be talking about publicly, but one writing thing is that I don't regret querying way too early. Even though the blunders I made are a little embarrassing, I learned so much (and I really think making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn) and have come so far that I consider it all worthwhile.

Abby Minard said...

I sometimes do actually regret starting a blog before I'm actually published. But we get so many agents, authors and publishers telling us that we NEED to build our patform, and start early and all that. So I did, but I feel like sometimes it consumes my time way too much! Sometimes I wish it could be even just several years earlier, where authors didnt' really start blogs until they were actually published. I don't regret it all the time because I've made some wonderful friends and great contacts on here...just sometimes when I'm feeling down. Thanks for putting this into perspective though- I love to hear what authors have to go through in order to get where they're at now.

kmullican said...

This is my new favorite blog! I love reading here. Thank you for donating your time!

Harley May said...

I'm kind of with Abby. I sometimes regret doing the social networking too early. On the other hand, the friendships I've made and the sense of community I have is INVALUABLE.

Like you, Tawna. Had I waited until I had an agent and/or book deal to start blogging/tweeting, I would not have met you. :) Or you'd be so horribly famous you wouldn't have the time to skype with me.

Allie Sanders said...

I don't regret querying with the piece I did. It got rejected a lot and frankly that's what I needed. It also made it clear that I wasn't ready to be a writer. Maybe in a few more years when I get my life settled in I'll be able to start qurying again but this time it will be something torn apart again and again and I feel so strongly about that I'd self publish before letting it die.

Tawna Fenske said...

Claire Dawn, I've been mulling a blog post about being paralyzed by a fear of making mistakes. Maybe in the near future.... :)

Alexa, isn't teaching exhausting, too?

Matthew, so great you can learn from the mistakes!

Abby, it does seem like there's a lot more pressure on authors these days to start building the platform early, and if it's something you like doing and have the energy for, it's a great thing. But I think I would have gotten sick of it (and you all would have gotten sick of me) if I'd started earlier.

kmullican, thank you! And welcome!

Harley May, well OBVIOUSLY meeting me is the highlight of your life, right?

Allie, sometimes rejection is the kick-in-the-butt you need, isn't it?

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Penelope said...

I'm glad to hear you don't regret not writing sooner. I'm slowly working on a book and sometimes impatient with myself, but then I think of the life experiences I've gained just in the last year. The right time will come!