When I started the 52 First Drafts Project, I was aiming to improve my craft. And I did. I learned so much about what goes into making good picture books.
If that would have been the extent of it, I would have been happy. Better writing is what will ultimately get me noticed by an agent or publisher.
But there was more. So much more. So many lessons that will serve me both in my personal and writing lives.
- Control – Let’s start with the big one. In a world in which we depend on others for so many things, it’s important to maintain a sense of control. Both over our lives, and our careers. We need to be in control as much as possible to feel like we have ownership. Yes, we need agents and publishers, but we can’t let them do all the work, or wait for them to make the decisions. This project was my way of taking back that control. I have the ability to improve. I am in control of that.
- Community – I can’t believe what a great conversation starter this project has been. Both in person and on line. Everyone seems interested in my progress. I’ve found so much support and encouragement. I love being a writer and being around other writers whether it is at a conference or on Twitter. My circle has expanded greatly since beginning.
- Generating ideas – When I am writing now, I am never worried that I won’t have an idea.They are not always great ideas, but I always find something to write about. In writing my 52 first drafts, I came conceived hundreds of ideas. I whittled those down to my favorites. Over the year I became an expert. Maybe I’ll write a book.
- Colored pencils – I bought a set of colored pencils and, here’s the kicker, started using them.I know, radical behavior. I’ve been illustrating my books and characters. Also I’ve been entering other drawings in the monthly SCBWI Draw This contest. It’s informing my writing, and is just plain fun.
- Work habits – I have lived with learning disabilities all my life. As I’ve aged, I’ve learned strategies to help myself deal with them. During this project I found I had no choice but to meet them head on. I made great strides towards keeping my bottom in a chair and getting the work done.
- Trust in myself (In the context of my writing) – I use to plot everything out. I wanted to know all of the details of my story before I started writing. Now, I don’t need all the answers. I let the stories create themselves. In fact, sometimes, I’m as surprised by what happens as the reader will be.
- Confidence – After writing 52 books in a year, I know I can do anything I put my mind to. The children’s literature community is the most encouraging and welcoming group I know. But even so, when you are a pre-published author, it’s easy to feel like you’re tagging along. This project makes me feel like I belong at the party—not because of what I have done, but because of what I know I am capable of.