Tag Archives: writer’s life

Lessons Learned from My 27 Years on Earth

Lessons Learned from my 27 Years on Earth // www.sarahperlmutter.com

-Original post published on September 20, 2015-

Today is my birthday.

Back in high school, I decided on scary ages, a.k.a. ages at which I would objectively be old, and my life would officially begin ending. 27 was the first of those ages, and today I have met it head on.

But I was an idiot in high school. I don’t feel any older, and I’m in no way scared.

26 was a year full of successes and excitement, and as you age, those exciting things don’t end, they multiply. I still have lots of excitement ahead of me. In fact, I would argue, most of the more exciting things I will experience as a human being on this earth are still ahead of me. 27 is going to be an even better year than the last.

I know this will be true, because each year I learn something new, something that will make me happier, healthier, better, and every year after, I live that lesson.

For some people, it takes living through mistakes to learn, but in case you are one of those people, like me, who enjoys listening and learning from advice others give you, listen up. As Mary Schmich wrote and Baz Luhrman made famous, “Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

Indulge me as I do just that.

27 Pieces of Advice from my 27th Year

  1. Wake up early enough to see the sunrise. It’s a sight most people don’t get to see, and among the most beautiful sights available to us. From there, the day is yours.
  2. Learn to ask for help without shame. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s actually a sign of strength.
  3. Be confident in yourself. In your life, you will have many cheerleaders on your side; however, you are the only cheerleader who will never quit your team. Treat yourself well, so you can keep your strength. Never stop cheering yourself on.
  4. Find something you’re passionate about and do it. Whether it is writing, singing, dancing, painting, playing an instrument, or reading… find something. Otherwise, you’ll waste half of your life bored, watching the same shows over and over again, and admiring “interesting people,” who are really just “passionate people.”
  5. Understand that learning never stops. If I had known this in high school, I would have tried a lot harder. Learning is not about getting a grade and moving on. It’s about questioning and applying, it’s about living. Learning never ever stops, embrace it.
  6. Let people know you appreciate them. You never know when someone will need to hear that, or even a simple “thank you,” and it takes little to no effort for you to do. You have no idea how many notes of appreciation I still have from people over the years, and I read them when I’ve had a bad day. If you can give someone that, why wouldn’t you?
  7. It’s okay to make mistakes. You learn faster when you make a mistake, because you create a memory with that information. Feel free to try and be wrong. Again, it’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength.
  8. Just as you should be passionate about something, try to be a huge, unapologetic nerd about something too. Do you think I ever feel bad about loving The Hunger Games or YA lit? Nope. I take pride in it. It’s a badge I wear every time I put on my mockingjay pin, and I love it. Think I’m weird for it? Oh well, it makes me happy, and that’s more important than what you think. That should be your thought process every time you second guess your nerdiness. Who cares what anyone else thinks if it makes you happy.
  9. Admit to your parents that they were right all those years. Growing up, you’re learning everything as you go. Your parents have already lived it and learned from it. When they tell you you can’t do something, listen. Chances are there is a story behind those words, and if there isn’t, I guarantee they are said out of love, not anger (even if the tone suggests otherwise).
  10. Study abroad. It is likely going to be the last chance you will have to live outside of the U.S., unless you’re very lucky. The U.S. is great, but leaving your comfort zone and entering into unknown territory awakens aspects of your personality you would have never dreamed existed before. It may even awaken a passion, as it did for me.
  11. Try to understand people before you judge them. I didn’t give a lot of really amazing, interesting, brilliant people a chance when I was in middle or high school, because they weren’t in the same cliques as me. Ignore those social boundaries and get to know as many people as you can. You will learn something new from each of them.
  12. Put your phone down. Or better yet, leave your phone at home. Sometimes you need to disconnect (says the girl posting on her blog). When I was studying abroad, I didn’t have an international cellphone. I use home phones and Skype to contact my friends, I made plans in advance, I took the time to talk to people and look at everything around me. Some days I wish I could go back to that, like how it was when I was growing up. Some days I miss having only a home phone, books, and dial up.
  13. Tell people what you want. Being an advocate for yourself and your dreams is crucial. A lot of people don’t do it, because they see it as a sign of entitlement or selfishness or greed. It’s not. Just as you are your own cheerleader, you must also be your own spokesperson. Besides, it’s more than likely that people will want to help you achieve your goals, but they can’t if you never express them.
  14. Treat your body well. I’m still learning to do this in many ways. It’s one of the things I hope to work toward doing better in the future if I want my bones and joints to all work still in 50 years.
  15. Become part of a community. Whether it is with a religious organization, a sports team, a club, or even a writing group, it’s important to have a support system around you. The older you get, the more you’re going to want this in your life, trust me. Start building it now.
  16. Save your money. You will be thankful you did. It may not seem appealing now, but trust me, it will when you’re older.
  17. Keep a notebook. Jot down anything in its pages, even if you don’t consider yourself a writer. It’s important to document your thoughts and your life. How else will you remember how awesome you were when you’re memory starts to fade?
  18. Speak up for yourself when you’ve been given the raw end of a deal. I never used to speak up for myself, because I didn’t want people to think I was a “bitch” or needy or high maintenance. I feel like women especially are so easily branded with one of those adjectives, but you can’t let those labels stop you from being treated fairly. Let the waiter know politely that they got your order wrong. Tell someone when you have been overcharged for something. Chances are they made a mistake and they will want to fix it for you. Don’t let fear stop you from letting them.
  19. Learn how to do nothing. Sometimes you need time by yourself to meditate or just relax. We are so quick to grab our phones or turn on the TV… stop. Just don’t do anything. Just sit and be. Not all the time, but every once and a while, be still.
  20. Be patient. They say good things come to those who wait, and they are right. Not everything is going to happen overnight. Work for goals, work for people, work for yourself, and soon, you’ll be glad you did.
  21. Never give up on something you truly want. I gave up on wanting to be an actress, but I don’t regret it. In fact, I’m thankful I did, because what I truly wanted for my life was to one day have a cute little home, a small family, and a group of close friends. With acting, I knew I wouldn’t have the luxury of that sort of stability, because I would have to travel and I would have to work constantly to maintain my income and any benefits. I didn’t want that. I do want to be a great teacher and a published writer, and the more I work toward those dreams, the closer I get to reaching them.
  22. Learn self-discipline. You will accomplish more than you ever imagined was possible if you can only discipline yourself enough to stick to a plan or a schedule or a regimen. You may even find it energizes you, as it does for me.
  23. Help others. This can look different for everyone, but as long as you are spreading kindness, you’re repairing this earth and making it a better place to live. That’s what matters.
  24. Keep a clean house. It will reduce stress and allow you to do what you want in life, instead of furiously cleaning every time guests come over.
  25. Learn to work through anger by understanding its source. All anger comes from something else, something that you want from your life but aren’t getting, which makes you angry. You’re not really upset with your roommate about using your shampoo again without asking. You’re upset, because that action shows a lack of respect, and you want to be respected. Once you figure out that source, you can calm down, and have a real, productive conversation about it instead of an argument. It helps you realize what is most important in your life, so you can work toward it, and it helps strength your relationships with others. One of my friends taught me this one.
  26. Find a way to stay in touch with people, even if they are far away. I have loved many people in my life, and I have only been able to stay in contact with some of them. That is a huge regret of mine. We are able to remain so connected to each other nowadays, so find a way to use technology to your advantage. And don’t feel weird to be the one who reaches out after years… chances are if you’re reaching out, that people has missed you too.
  27. And finally, understand that you are on a journey that will last your whole life.Don’t feel upset if you’re not at the place you hoped you would be at your age, or if your journey took you on a detour. Everyone’s journey through life is different. Love yours. Be happy with the path you’ve chosen. There’s no turning back, so if you find yourself on a path you don’t like, cut through the forest to a different one, plant some flowers, find companions to join you on your journey. It is never too late to get to a station along your path, and it’s never too late to find a new path along the way. Just don’t stand there, looking back the way you came, and wishing you could start again. It won’t help. Move forward, make new goals, and find new adventures, appreciating everything around you on the way. Your journey is what you make it.

So there they are: my 27 pieces of advice, my 27 lessons learned.

Thank you for indulging me and for reading. You are among the many good things I have been blessed with in my 27 years. Your support has given me more strength than you can imagine.

Thank you.

-Sarah

Advice for Writers

The Viral Post from Tumblr!
The Viral Post from Tumblr!

-Original post published May of 2015-

Advice for Writers

One of my readers on Wattpad recently asked if I had any advice for writers, and while I feel unqualified to give advice on many aspects of writing, I can certainly relay advice I’ve taken to heart and add my two cents. So here goes…

1. You’re a writer starting right now. Own it.

I have tried writing before and could never get into it until a couple of years ago when I decided that I would share my journey as a writer with the world via social media. You don’t have to go crazy with it, you can begin slowly so as to ease yourself into the world of writing like I did with a few mild tweets, but you have to do this. This is step 1.

You have to own your title as a writer. The best piece of advice I got on this matter was to write an affirmation. Post it somewhere where you will see it every day. Mine is on my desk at work, and it says, “I am a writer. Writing is my art.” I look at it when I’m having a rough day or when I am feeling stressed about writing. It’s a kind reminder that I not only CAN write, but I can write beautifully.

2. After you label yourself as a writer and you receive your inevitable first few rejections, don’t beat yourself up.

For a while I wasn’t sure if I could really pull off calling myself a writer, because I hadn’t been published. I felt like I was writing good stories (and I still do), so I wasn’t sure why no one wanted them. I began to wonder if I was really a writer, and started asking myself, “Can I really call myself a writer if I don’t have any readers?”

The answer is YES. You can. One day you will have readers, but you won’t ever get there if you stop writing. And maybe not every story you write will be published, and that’s okay. It doesn’t make you any less of a writer, in fact, it’s more like a rite of passage.

I read once, and I really wish I remembered which author this was, that a famous author kept all of his (or her) rejection letters on a wall in his (or her) apartment. At first I thought, “Well, that’s depressing,” but then I got to thinking about it… If you have rejection letters, that means you’re trying. You’re writing and you’re putting your writing out there, which I think is incredibly courageous.

So don’t lose hope. Rejection happens to everyone. Keep writing.

3. All first drafts are crap.

One of the most freeing things I ever learned as a writer was that all first drafts are crap. Once I learned this, I felt free to just write and write and write. I wasn’t caught up in my own head, and I wasn’t getting down on myself for not being the most amazing writer in my first drafts.

My readers on Wattpad always ask me how I can be such an amazing writer, to which I tell them, “I’m not. I write my books and then I edit the crap out of them.” Literally.

I am currently writing the 3rd book of The Deathless Trilogy, and my readers are dying to read it. But there is still no way they are looking at my first draft. It’s a mess! But I allow it to be a mess. I allow myself to work through the story. Your first draft is never going to be the draft that’s published (nor should it be), and that’s okay.

4. Just write.

Stop waiting for the right time or the right idea. There’s no such thing. Just do it, and it will come to you, even if you’re just writing short stories in a journal each day. Writing is a muscle, and if you don’t work it, you lose it.

Don’t worry about what others will say or whether or not it’s good. Start writing just for you, and once you start to feel a little more confident, start considering your audience. But at first, write for yourself first.

Try keeping a diary. You can remember situations and feelings you can use later for characters WHILE you write for only yourself. I kept a diary all through middle and high school, and you know where I go to for inspiration now? You got it–my diary.

5. When writing any story, have an ending in mind.

Having an ending in mind allows you to insert some of those deeper, richer layers into your writing, like foreshadowing. It also helps you develop your character arc, and plot. An ending is a finish line, a goal, and having it in mind–even if you have nothing else planned–will be like an anchor, pulling you deeper into your story as you write it.

For my first book in The Deathless Trilogy, all I began writing with was a first scene image and a final scene image. With those in mind, I filled in the rest, but having my final scene in mind helped me figure out everything along the way.

6. Speaking of endings, finish your writing.

You have no idea how many unfinished manuscripts are posted on Wattpad right now, and many of them have fantastic concepts that were never carried through to an end. Think of all the potential!

Endings are hard, I get that, and writing takes some serious stamina, but you have to do it! You can’t start to understand storytelling without writing endings. Besides, once you type the period of that last sentence of your manuscript, you can sit back and marvel at what you just accomplished.

So seriously, finish your writing.

7. Protect your writing time from others and yourself.

Obviously you need to go to work or school, you need to have some sort of social life, and you need to have some time for yourself. But if you want to be a writer, you also need to carve out a time for yourself every day just for writing.

I remember hearing this piece of advice when I first started writing, and I thought, “Oh my goodness, every day? I’m not sure if I can do that.” Fast forward two years, and I can’t imagine a day without writing.

I go to work Monday through Friday, and come home and write after chores. Saturdays are my writing day. I fiercely protect my Saturdays and my time after work. I go away from everyone (sometimes this even includes my cat, because she is nonsense), and I write for all of that time.

You have to have that time for yourself to write, otherwise you’re not going to get anything done. And after a while, it will get to the point that not writing will make you feel anxious. When I can’t write for a while, I start to actually stress and just start jotting down notes in my phone or on scrap papers. It’s a little ridiculous, but it’s because I love writing so much. Even when it kills me, I love it. I have to do it otherwise I shut down. Force yourself to write every day until you feel like that (or perhaps until you feel something a little less melodramatic after a day of not writing).

8. Believe in your writing.

The piece you’re working on right now could be the piece that changes everything for you. Writing The Blast and The Deathless Trilogy has honestly changed my life. My characters have helped me understand myself better, as well as others in my life. I have learned what is most important in life, and I have come to find strength in myself.

If I didn’t believe in my writing and share it confidently, I wouldn’t have ever discovered those things. Believing in yourself and your books is key. You don’t have to be self-promoting or arrogant, in fact, please don’t do that. But you do have to love what you do, and love yourself for doing it.

www.sarahperlmutter.com

Are there any other pieces of advice about writing that have helped you?

Interacting with Readers on Instagram

Interacting with Readers on Instagram // www.sarahperlmutter.com

-Original post published September of 2015-

Interacting with Readers on Instagram

#1. First things first, make a username that is easy for your readers to find.

There are a lot of fake accounts out there, so you want to make sure that YOUR account is easy to find. My username, for example, is @thesarahperlmutter. Simple, easy.

#2. Again, because there are many fake accounts out there (maybe not for an indie author like me, but for others, definitely), you want to make sure that you are using the exact same headshot you use for all your other social media sites.

Not using the same one for all of them?

Originally posted by jimmyfungus

It’s important to use the same headshot across the board to make it clear for readers (and agents) that you are you, and you have a presence online.

You may recognize my old headshot from all of my accounts before, and you’ll see now they are all replaced with my new headshot.

Photo credit Shane Jordan
Photo credit Shane Jordan

The point is, before you even begin posting on Instagram, make sure you have an easily searchable username and a consistent headshot.

3. Take pictures of your writing space.

I don’t know about you, but I follow all my favorite authors. I LOVE seeing their writing spaces, their coffee mugs, their open laptops, and all the things surrounding them. It helps me realize that they are real people, and that’s really what’s at the heart of Instagram: Breaking down the barrier between you and your readers to showcase your commonalities and build relationships based on them.

Your readers are going to want to see your writing space to see what inspires you.

#4. Take pictures of you writing.  

Nothing excites me more than knowing that my favorite writer has something new up their sleeve for me. Give that excitement back to your fans. Writing seems to be this elusive, magical process that many people don’t understand, making writers seem like unflappable gods of words. We’re not. Our first drafts are likely all big messes. We’ve all worked long hours to make it so you read the best possible version of our mess.

Instagram helps make that clear to readers, which in turn inspires them to have the confidence to the same thing: Write without fear. Inspire your readers by showing them the heart of your process.

#5. Pose questions to your readers so they feel more inspired to comment.

I love having my voice heard and if a writer I admire asks for my input on something, you know I’m commenting! So pose questions or polls to your readers for them to respond to in the comments, and when they do, try to respond to as many as possible. I don’t know about you, but I freak out every time someone I admire responds to anything I post online (even if it’s just a favorite or retweet on Twitter).

Obviously authors like Sarah Dessan (who does a phenomenal job on Instagram, check her out! She is my social media use icon) cannot respond to all the comments, but interaction can be key to building your fan base, all of you writers like me who are just starting out or whose books don’t reach as wide a group as Dessan’s yet.

#6. Show love to your fans.

If you are lucky enough to have fans as amazing as mine, chances are they are going to Instagram pictures with your book, fan art, or even quotes from your book. When you see this, repost those pictures to show your fans some love.

Everyone loves to be recognized, so recognize those who are supporting you and your characters.

#7. Show that you are a reader and a supporter of other authors.

½ of being a writer is also being a reader, and ½ of being a writer on social media is supporting your fellow writers. Nothing is more satisfying that making a friend with another author and sharing your successes, challenges, and internet space. I learned this lesson through being active on Wattpad and from participating in events like #PitchWars.

Besides, people love to share what they’re reading, and when you see authors reading other authors’ works, it inspires you to read that much more.

I also really get a kick out of author friendships like Siobvan Vivian and Jenny Han have and what Wattpad authors Rebecca Sky and E. Latimer have. It inspires me to work with others and collaborate like they have. (Go SciKick!)

If you are lucky enough to have fans follow you on Instagram, share that love with other writers. They will do the same, but more importantly, they will be more inclined to reach out and become your writer friend.

A common misconception about writers is that all of us are competing with each other. We’re not. We can’t survive like that. We have to work together, and it starts online.

#8. Show that you are your own #1 fan as well.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: No one is going to be excited about your writing if you aren’t first. You are your own best cheerleader. So cheer on!

Instagram pictures that remind you of your books or would remind readers of your works. It will help you take more pride in the work you’re doing, and it will get your readers excited to see those little references to the books they love so much.

#9. Share your hobbies, pets, and anything else you feel comfortable with the world knowing.

By now, all of my Instagram followers should be familiar with my nonsense cat, Fluffhead. Recently I was asked about her in an interview, which, I think, showed that not only are readers connecting with me on a personal level now (through my nonsense cat) but also that my presence on Instagram is working. I’m sharing you I am with people, and they are taking notice and wanting to learn more. That’s huge, because that shows me I’ve made a connection with that reader as a person.

If I personally like an author, I’m way more inclined to purchase a book by them. There are so many authors who I either haven’t had the opportunity to read yet or haven’t necessarily loved their work, but I still buy their books every time they release a new one. Why? Because I like them as people, and because I want to see them succeed.

Make that connection with your readers. Obviously, don’t overshare or share anything too personal, because you don’t want to put yourself in a bad position. But your pets are fair game (I see SO many author pets on Instagram), your favorite food (any loyal follow of Sarah Dessan is familiar with Peccadillo Carrboro, am I right?), your favorite hobbies (how about Sarah Dessan and yoga? See, Sarah Dessan really is an Instagram Queen), and your favorite fandoms.

#10. Host giveaways and contests.

You have no idea how many times I see giveaways to celebrate X amount of followers, and you know what? I enter every single time. Why? Because I want free stuff! You know who else wants free stuff? EVERYONE.

Giveaways are a fantastic way to get your name out there and to get knew people to see your book. Word of mouth is the best form of marketing, and with the internet, things like giveaways can be megaphones for this. Why? Because you’re not just spamming people, you are offering them something in return for the simplest of gestures. Reposting the giveaway announcement, commenting something below a picture, posting a picture with a certain hashtag. You have so many options.

I haven’t done an Instagram specific giveaway, but I’ve done a Goodreads giveaway and a Wattpad giveaway. PLUS I actually WON an Instagram giveaway recently that I was totally stoked about! I won The Reluctant Sacrifice by Kerr-Ann Dempster (one of my new online writer friends), and so far, it’s SO GOOD. With the new school year, I’ve been busy the past couple of weeks, but I intend of finishing it soon because I need to know what happens! Would I have really known about this book without the giveaway? Maybe… because I follow her, but my followers now all know about it too, because I reposted her giveaway picture. Now she’s reaching a wider audience than before, and I got something out of it as well. Win-win.

#11. Reach out to Book Bloggers/Instagrammers.

There.are.so.many.book.bloggers.

And many of them have over 1K followers on Instagram. Think of all those book lovers just waiting to hear from their favorite Instragram book bloggers to tell them what they think of an up and coming book.

Follow them, see if they read your genre, and reach out to them. It’s not going to hurt you one little bit, but if they read and feature your book on their channel, feed, and/or blog, it could help you a lot. Plus now they have a free book to either keep or give out in a giveaway in the future, thereby continuing to spread your words around the world. I did this, and my book will be featured on Books and Mugs later this autumn!

#12. Promote your writing with updates and reviews.

When The Blast had its first book blog tour last April, I instagrammed pictures of some of the reviews. One of my high school friends contacted me on Facebook after years without hearing from her, and basically said that since seeing the reviews on Instagram, she purchased the book and couldn’t wait to read it.

Don’t spam your feed obviously, but reviews help a lot. Don’t be afraid to take clips from them and put them on Instagram.

There are also updates or quotes that I post from my books every now and then to generate interest or to alert my readers of a new chapter on Wattpad. Sometimes my readers will check Instagram before they check Wattpad, and I’ve had readers comment on a picture, “Just saw this, going to Wattpad now!” When you include a quote or a picture with the announcements, even people who aren’t reading along can enjoy reading a snippet of your work. And who knows? Maybe one of your quotes draws them in?

Recap:

  • Keep your Instagram feed visual by keeping words to a minimum.
  • Share your writer’s life. That includes writing space, writing process, and favorite writer’s tools (coffee is big on my list).
  • Make connections to your readers.
  • Use Instagram as a networking opportunity. No one ‘grams in a vaccuum.
  • Don’t spam.
  • Support fellow authors and support your readers.
  • Stay true to your brand.

Any other ways you’ve used Instagram or other ways you’d like to see me use Instagram?