Saturday, April 29, 2023

One Piece of Advice


When I look back on my journey as an author, many hard-fought lessons come to mind. But there's one bit of knowledge I wish I had taken to heart much earlier: 

You don't have to do everything, and it most certainly doesn't have to be done perfectly. 

Maybe that's cheating because it's two pieces of advice, I suppose. But the reason I put this advice as a single piece is because almost inevitably whenever I sat down and tried to limit what was on my plate, I immediately fell even more into perfectionism. It was as if saying no to doing some things (like building a following on every single social media platform or reading all of the newsletters in my genre or reading every report on trends and marketing) suddenly meant that what I did do had to be perfect.

The reality is that true perfection in our line of work does not exist. Not when you're starting out. Not in the middle. And not at the end. 

Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't proof your work or put in your best effort or that you shouldn't revise. 

You absolutely should. 

But there comes a point when you have to let go. If you wait until you think it's perfect or has no more room for improvement, you're going to accomplish precious little. And when I look back over my time as an author and writer, I realize how much I learned in the failures and mistakes. 

Trust me. There has been a lot of them. I can't say I enjoyed either the failures or mistakes (though some did give me funny stories for later recountings). But they taught me so much. Both in what I should do and shouldn't do. 

Not to mention that if you're doing things properly, you're constantly learning. Especially about your craft as a storyteller. You, as a person, are changing and continuously developing your voice. Especially when you're starting out. If you get swept away in trying to learn all the newest tricks for everything while also keeping up on trends within your genre or learning about all the different writing techniques and processes, you will get bogged down. 

In this hustle culture, it's important to remember too that you physically cannot do everything that an author could do. Not even if you sacrifice all of your mental health and physical wellness (and it wouldn't be worth it even if you could). You have to be selective. But sometimes the only way to determine what works best for you is to leap out into the mass of opportunities and test out different ideas, concepts, and possibilities. You get through them, reassess, and then try again. 

Once I accepted that picking something, focusing on it, failing and getting better was just a part of the learning curve, I found the whole process became so much easier. That was true in the first stories I released as well as in running the business end. 

Any author who has been around for a while has a host of mistakes and hard-learned lessons in all areas of the storytelling and publishing process. It's a rite of passage. Many of the most successful are the ones who seize those opportunities, narrow down what they're doing, and keep chugging along at the pace best suited to them.

So don't let the pressure to do everything get you down. No one does everything alone. And you don't have to do everything to succeed. It doesn't even have to be perfect. So long as you keep pressing ahead and don't count yourself out, you're still in. 

We are all constantly learning and growing, no matter what stage we are at as authors. No one who succeeds does all the things. And thank goodness for that. You pick what works for you. Learn that as best you can and let go. Then you learn from that and repeat. And that's something any of us can do. 

Jessica M. Butler is a USA Today bestselling romantic fantasy author who never outgrew her love for telling stories and playing in imaginary worlds. She lives with her husband and law partner, James Fry, in rural Indiana where they are quite happy with their two cats and all of the wildlife and trees.
You can find her at