Happy Independence Day, everyone. Today I'm taking a different spin on the idea of independence.
There are four ways baby birds leave the nest.
Only one of them is a round trip ticket back inside.
Writers are similar to birds, and the adage—survival of the fittest—rules both the success of fledglings as well as the longevity of writers.
CAT'S GUIDE TO LEAVING THE NEST GRACEFULLY
- Don't stand too close to the edge, lest you lose your balance. I see this all the time in my windy neighborhood. Unprepared birds gawk out into the world. They haven't committed to flying, yet they don't want to stay confined in their little twig home. They hover precariously with one foot on the ledge until a puff of wind carries them over. Writers, either write or don't. Declare yourself a writer—to yourself and others—so you leave the nest by choice. Otherwise, you'll putz your way through the vast world of publishing and likely starve long before you actually realize you're on the ground. Make writing-to-publish a conscious choice, one in which you are responsible for the path you will take.
- Don't jump before you've strengthened your wings. Okay, I don't actually know if birds jump before they are ready, but I suspect a handful of daredevils each year try flying before they've done the appropriate exercises. In fact, there's a fledgling in my backyard who is extremely motivated or exceptionally stupid. Either way, he's out of the nest more than he's in it and always needs my help getting home. I won't beat a dead bird here, but I will say this: do not submit your first novel the second it is done. Do not. Learn to write. Learn to edit and learn to polish. These are all separate things and you can't succeed without learning all three. There are no shortcuts to publishing well.
- Don't get eaten. Birds of prey love to swoop down and snag unsuspecting babies from the nest. It's not a pretty sight. Nor is it pleasant to watch eager writers get stalked by scam agents, editors or publishers. Even worse, jealous fellow writers who can crush the hopes and dreams of their competition as easily as a grackle can crush a tiny robin. To protect yourself, research BEFORE taking action. We have a whole list of resources for you to pick through. Use it.
- Do prepare yourself. Nature has a way of letting birds know when it's time to fly. They've eaten enough grubs to gain weight, they've earned their feathers and they've strengthened their wings. Be the bird. Be deliberate about your passion and turn it into your job. Work hard and work smart. To do anything less will have you walking down the middle of the road peeping for help that will never come.
But what if we're the Mama Bird? How do we know when to encourage our fellow writers to leave their nests? And is it even our job to do so? Can we do more harm than good when trying to boost others from the nest?
Curious minds want to know.
Cat Woods has built her writer's nest at Words from the Woods. So far she's managed to write by choice while evading hungry predators. In her free time, she moderates at AgentQuery Connect, raises her own fledglings and freelances for local businesses.