You must write every day to be a "real" writer. Oh, please. Do you go to your job every day? Absolutely not! You expect weekends and holidays, don't you? Well, the same applies to writing or really, anything else in life. We all need breaks, even from things we love from time to time. The truth is that sometimes the well runs dry, and the only way to replenish is is to allow the groundwater to refill by giving it a break. Forcing yourself to write every single day doesn't give your muse time to absorb the world around you and generate creativity from it. Simply put, forcing yourself to write every single day turns writing into work, which breeds contempt, which makes you hate it. While it's true that you need to practice to improve, don't do it to your own detriment. Write when you have something to write. When you don't write read, or study up on building the skills and knowledge you need to become a better writer. But don't just write for the sake of logging in your word count every day. Then, it just becomes a chore.
You must have an agent to get published. I'm living proof that you don't. In fact, I chose the epublishing route because I didn't like the idea of turning over the potential success (or failure) of my creativity to a third party that has no interest in it, save financial. There are some things you can't fix by throwing money at it, and this is one of them. You can pay an agent to beg to get you published, but that doesn't guarantee an offer, or that they'll keep you, and I can tell you for 100% sure that they'll NEVER care about your writing as much as you do. Do you trust the boss at your day job 100% to look after your best interest and to ensure your success throughout life? Or better yet, are you where you're at in life right now due to the work of your superiors, or your own work? I believe my point is made. You're better off getting behind your work and pushing. Because other people always have their own agendas, and they will look after their own interest first every time.
You need to retreat from life to write well. Have a special place, or take a weekend at an exotic location to take time out to devote 100% to writing. I tried this one time. I participated in National Novel Writing Month in 2010 - that's an online event where writers sign up to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. So I signed up, had all my ducks in a row, and informed everybody that other than work and basic necessities I was not available until this novel was done. Surely, they would understand and respect my creative endeavors, right?
Wrong. To say that all hell broke loose would be putting it kindly. Things spun out of control, everything in the world that my hand was supposed to be on went wrong, they were pissed off, it was my responsibility to make it right, and I needed to quit being selfish and get back to setting all right with the world. I emerged from that experience to literally find everybody I knew at war with one another because they determined that self control was for stupid people if I wasn't going to be around to "reign things in." And there was not 1 person in my life not guilty of this - not a single one. I did get the novel done and completed the challenge, but I also realized that, bad attitudes notwithstanding, I have a lifestyle way too active and busy for me to cordion it off to "just write." I've whittled out a lot, but the Lord has put many things to me that I simply can't (and in some cases, won't) cast away or even put on hold, like marriages, home, family, and a job. It's a nice fantasy, but it doesn't fit the reality God gave me. While I have a job, a home, church, friends, both families nearby - yes, writing will have to fit in where I can. And I am finding as I work on my current novel that it is much easier to just fit it in where I can instead of trying to shut out the world. In fact, I've found that keeping one eye open on life around me is actually feeding my muse and helping me by inspiring the plot.
On this advice, I tried it and it failed, but I also learned a lot. I see how this can work for others, and I encourage it if there's a way to do it without ripping a hole in the space-time continium like I did. But if there's no way around time paradoxes, alien invasions, and that little thing called Thanksgiving that tends to happen every November when NaNo is in progress, then you simply must do what you can and be patient with timeline of your progress. My solution was that I will never ever Ever EVER participate in National Novel Writing Month again while I'm employed full time. It just can't happen. For now, I need more than 30 days to draft a novel - I know and accept that now. But if you can safely withdraw from the world to write your masterpiece, by all means do it. It might well work for you.
You must attend a writer's conference to break into the industry. And I would have done that very thing if any were offered in my area, but alas, they aren't. While there's an active arts scene where I live, it's not focused on writing (it's more visual arts or music). I know this is ironic because I live in a college town and you'd think the opportunities would abound, but they don't because the schools in this area don't focus on the arts (it's more of a business focus here). Attending a conference would require traveling, which harkens back to the last item I discussed and the same limitations apply to this that apply to that. I've filled in the gap with online groups and educating myself through reading books, participation in social media, and the occasional online class to bring me up to speed on how to become a better writer.
Write what's popular right now and you're guaranteed success. Ok, was the person that offered this advice on crack? Seriously, what planet are they from? There's absolultely no way this can work and here's why: Trends are always changing, and publishers (along with everybody else in the entertainment industry) are looking for "the next big thing." Unfortunately, nobody knows what that is or when people will catch on to it, so it's an inexact science. It's like the thing I heard someone say about publishers always know a bestseller six months later. The whole entertainment industry is based on their best guess on what will sell, and publishers are in that boat with everybody else. So if you write what's popular right now, then you're already behind the curve. A better piece of advice is write what's in you and the audience will follow. Even if you don't hit the "big time" you can find a great niche market, and you'd be surprised at how successful you can be in that area. It's not New York Times best seller fame, but you can get recognized and respected as a reputable author and have a more moderate success as a writer, if you're willing to redefine your definition of "success."
This isn't to say that all of the advice I've been offered is bad - these are just examples of things that didn't work or that I simply couldn't try. In my next entry, I'll offer up some tips that have worked for me, and things I'm trying as I carve my own path through the jungle of being an independent author.
Have a safe Memorial Day all. Take care.