The best part about what I do for a living is that I’m always learning.
I recently finished my revisions for my latest Harlequin Romantic Suspense (Her K-9 Protector, March 2023) and after hitting send, I blew out a deep, heavy breath as I reflected on how far I’ve come since my first book.
We often think of growth as a constant upward trajectory but that’s not accurate.
True growth is more like a dance. We take two steps forward, one back, and then three forward. But growth isn’t always graceful, either. Sometimes we lurch on unsteady feet, stumbling in an uncoordinated mess like a drunken uncle hitting the dance floor at your wedding but at least we’re trying and that’s where success is found.
That’s what revisions for this book felt like.
When I turned in the rough draft, I felt good about the book. Then, I received my revisions and with the help of my editor, I realized how I’d only scratched the surface of the story’s potential.
The real meat of the story was buried under layers of lazy storytelling that required a grueling overhaul to discover.
But the heavy lifting was a blessing.
After nearly 100 books under five different pen names, it was a refreshing challenge to reset my brain, knuckle down and remind myself that if we’re not learning, we’re stagnating.
This is true in all aspects of our life.
As human beings, we are never finished learning and growing. We need challenges to keep our brain spry, just as we need tasks to keep our muscles from atrophying.
When I first started writing, I spent so much time trying to learn my craft that I was always searching for ways to improve my writing.
I was a voracious reader, I attended workshops, I networked with other writers, I wrote in my journal daily, and entered writing contests that offered feedback from top editors in the genre.
As we gain a measure of success in our field, sometimes we grow complacent, believing the reward of our hard work is to relax a little.
But that’s the trap.
We can’t afford to stop learning.
We must always challenge ourselves to learn and grow — in all areas of our life — or else we lose the very thing that made us special in the first place.
So, even as I stressed about my latest round of revisions, I am so grateful for the lesson.
For the health of my career, I’m reminded that I need to return to my roots. I need writer workshops, I need to read good, entertaining books, I need to network, maybe even enter a few contests again.
But even more than all of those worthy things, I need to keep filling the creative well with things that nourish my soul and make me happy. I am reminded that we cannot pour from an empty cup and my cup needs filling.
I have an insatiable hunger to experience life in ways that not only spark my creative side but also fill my well.
I encourage you to do the same.
Fill the well. Keep learning. Let’s do this together.
Kim Van Meter is a former full-time reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News; she continues to provide occasional columns.