Advice to My Newbie Author Self, Part 4: Become a Sponge

Welcome to another installment in my ongoing series: Advice to my Newbie Author Self. Before we get started, I’d like to you on a trip down Nostalgia Lane for a sec.

Do you remember Magic Capsules? Oh, those were so much fun. I’d open the package and immediately throw one (or all) of the capsules into a glass of water. Then I’d sit and wait, and wait, and wait a little more–like the impatient person I grew to be–and then suddenly … voila! I had spongy dinosaurs! 😀

Photo via Stepping Thru Crazy

Fast-foward to almost 30 years later, and all I can think about it how we as writers should learn to become more like those Magic Capsules. And this is why I love, love, love analogies!

Magic Capsules = The Writer

Regardless if we’re just beginning our journey to publication, or if we’ve been on this road for longer than we’d like to admit, at some point we realize that this road becomes less rocky once we become a Magic Capsule–as in we learn to absorb every piece of writing advice we come across.

Why the learning curve though? Why does it tend to take us so long to learn to absorb the fantastic writing advice? Because, like the Magic Capsules, we have a shell. Many writers are introverted, so we hide behind a thin shell of protection when we first begin our writing journey. Everything’s new, everything’s fresh–the words, the stories, the characters. So when we first begin, we simply focus on getting the story written. We block out everything else–family, friends, online community, etc. Which, to be honest, is how it should be when we’re first starting out. How else are we going to remain committed to finishing a draft if we’re distracted? *grin*

But after we type The End, it’s time to shed our shell and let the inner writer grow, flourish, and absorb.

Water = Writing Craft Books, Blog Posts, Critique/Editing Partners, Writing Craft Courses, The Witing Community, etc.

Once we let our outer shell dissolve, it’s time to begin absorbing the fantastic plethora of writing tips, advice, tricks, and techniques. When we’re open to receiving all of this wonderful guidance on our writing journey, our heads begin to feel like the sponge crammed inside one of those Magic Capsules.

Oh, my head’s spinning. OMG, I’m so overwhelmed with writing craft awesomeness it’s insane. Holy hell, somebody get me a glass of wine–screw it, make it the whole bottle.

For some of us, feeling super overwhelmed with information and advice makes us want to shut down, turn off the listening ears, and crawl back into our shells. BUT, like the Magic Capsule spongy dinosaur, we canNOT fit back into our tiny shell anymore. It’s impossible to shrink our thinking back to the tiny bean-size capsule it was before. Impossible. So what do we then?

Proper Care #1 = Developing Thick Skin

At some point, sponges wear out. They become frayed at the edges, small pieces of sponge fall peel and fall off, and they’re no longer as effective as they used to be. This is the same concept for all of us writers. If we don’t develop thick skin in order to properly care for our spongy minds–or spongy muses–we’ll become frayed at the edges, burn out will ensue, and then we’ll begin losing pieces of our writing soul. One small fraction at a time. So thick skin to guard our precious writing souls and muses? Absolute must.

Proper Care Tip #2 = Selective Implementation

Here at my house, we have a total of four sponges that we use on a daily and weekly basis. There’s one for dishes only, one for kitchen counter top cleaning, one for floor scrubbing, and one specifically for scrubbing the bath tubs. We could use 1 for all of these tasks, couldn’t we? Technically yes, but just the thought of washing my dishes with the same sponge I just used to clean the counter (most times with diluted Clorox) sickens me.

But the point is, we could use a single sponge for all our dirty tasks. But we choose not to.

While it’s great to absorb every single piece of information out there in the Writing Universe, it’s usually not a good idea to implement all of it. Most advice/techniques/critique notes can be contradicting to one another, and most simply aren’t going to suit our personalities, our writing styles, and/or our story’s needs. Writing is subjective and everyone will have a different opinion of what we should write, how we should write, when we should write, which pubbing route we should take, and so on, and so on, and so on.

Selective implementation is simply tuning out all the outside voices whose advice does not work for us at this time, in this moment. What works for them, may not work for us. So we absorb the ideas that are being shared, then we take them home, spread them out on a table, and selectively implement what works for our story, our characters, and even our careers. We do this by listening our inner voice–our gut.

If we do all of this–crawl out of our shells, absorb the world and knowledge around us, take proper care of our minds/muses–then our sponge is most certainly destined to not only last a lifetime, but we, as writers and authors, are destined for greatness.

What about you? Do you see your writing brain as a sponge? Do you absorb all the knowledge surrounding you each and every day (online, critique notes, etc.)? Have you ever tried to implement too many pieces of advice at once? Do you listen to your inner voice on a daily basis?

I’d LOVE to hear from you! 😀

Miss my earlier posts on Advice to My Newbie Author Self? Here’s a few links to get you caught up:
Patience, Young Padawan
Buh-Bye Self-Doubt & Introverted Tendencies
The Dream vs. The Reality

4 thoughts on “Advice to My Newbie Author Self, Part 4: Become a Sponge

  1. I guess you have to be a wet sponge and not a dripping wet sponge when it comes to advice from the writing comunity. Take in everything you can and get rid of the excess water.

    As for my experience with advice, I find that a lot of things are often repeated in different ways by different people. When a particular piece of advice had stuck with me, the repetition reinforces it. Let’s go back to your sponge analogy. Take a dry sponge and put it on water. It doesn’t soak up right away, you have to submerge it and squeeze it first. Same goes for advice. You have to be exposed several times before you start absorbing it.

    1. Hi Stephanie –

      Exactly! At some point we have to be able to rid ourselves of the excess water–information/advice that doesn’t apply to our stories.

      Ooo, that’s a good point! Repetition definitely enforces advice and techniques. I’m like that also. I not only have to be told, or read about a particular writing technique, or piece of advice, but I also have to experience it, or try it out for myself a few times in order for it to actually stick. Guess that’s my way of “submerging.” LOL! 😀

      Thank you for the fantastic comment, Stephanie! 🙂

  2. What a great analogy, Melinda! Selective implementation has been a difficult thing for me, but not anymore. I will never use the bathtub sponge in my kitchen–I get what you’re saying. 😉

    1. Hi Diana!

      Oh, thank you! 🙂 I think selective implementation is something we’ve all definitely struggled with. When we’re new, we take the advice of others and want to implement everything. Then we find out none of it’s working, so we go back and become selective. It’s difficult to get to that point, but I think the journey to get there is just as important as the lesson. 🙂

      Haha! Good, I’m glad you get what I meant, hon! I’m shivering just thinking about it–LOL! 😉

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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Copyright 2018 by Melinda S. Collins