During her keynote speech at the Writer’s Digest Conference 2017, Lisa Scottoline really impressed me with her generosity, humor, and genuine humanness. Rather than be paid for her speech, she elected to buy 300 copies of her book to give away to the attendees for free, and she stood in line for hours to sign them all and take pictures with every single fan, me included. Furthermore, the woman had a great message to pass along to those attending. Here were my takeaways from her inspirational talk (and please forgive the formatting surrounding my picture with her – like what the heck, I can’t make this work!):
Write Your Emotional Truth
The truth has a ring. You can see it on the page.
You hear “write what you know” all the time, but you never really think about how deep that phrase can go. Lisa told us to write our own personal “emotional truth,” to define and utilize the human feelings we have experienced. As a woman who gave up a career and financial stability in order to be a single mom, her books often center on themes of motherhood and family, which is a part of why they were so successful.
Get Out of Your Own Way
Dive into yourself, and don’t be ashamed of what appears on the page when you do. Don’t tell yourself what you can and can’t do or write about, and don’t let rejection stop you. Lisa’s first novel was “so roundly rejected that it never got published,” yet she didn’t give up, and neither should you.
Protect your candle.
As an analogy, she uses the image of a candle flame in a breeze. Your work is that flame, burning inside you, giving you light and wonder and sight – but when the wind blows, the flame will go out if you don’t hold up a hand to protect it. Be your own advocate, and keep your light alive.
Lisa Scottoline gave up a career as a lawyer to be a stay-at-home mom. Rather than work, she chose to focus entirely on her daughter – and to use her knowledge of law and her creativity to pursue becoming an author. To achieve this, she used her credit cards as her own personal salary. She had $38,000 in credit card debt before she was able to make a living wage writing… and those bills are all paid off now. That’s not to say you should be so extreme, but take a page out of her book: real success can take real risk. Don’t be afraid to lay it down for your craft if doing this for a living is your goal.
Write a Lot
You never hit your stride. Writing is a tough mental exercise.
According to Lisa, writing never gets easier. Add to this the fact that times are changing, making an author’s output more important, and the conclusion is that writing a lot is a good way to hone your craft and impress your publisher. She writes one standalone book, one series book, and one nonfiction book every year. Naturally, with day jobs and so forth we can’t all manage those numbers, but it’s important that we keep writing. There’s always room to improve, even when we have a published book already.