Twenty Years of Perspective


Last night as I lay sleeping, I dreamt

O, marvelous error-

That there was a beehive here inside my heart

And the golden bees were making white combs

And sweet honey from all my failures

Machado de Assis


This past weekend I was at a writers conference. During the question and answer period after my presentation, I was asked what advice would I offer my younger self knowing what I know now?”

It’s a good question since 2011 marks my twentieth year writing. Would I have done things differently?  Made other choices when more than one opportunity presented itself?  Or gone a different road altogether?

Absolutely not.  I learned more from my failures, from the things that didn’t work out than I did from my successes.  I’m where I am today because I wasn’t afraid to take a risk, ask a question, or make a choice.   Not everything rolled along in my favor and too often I’ve worked out of fear . . . but most times, things turned out better than I could have expected.

So here are five things Today Me would have said to myself:

  1. Don’t be so anxious. Have fun with this. Enjoy the journey. Easier said than done but so important. Whenever I was uptight, I wasn’t at my best. Laughter draws people to us. It nurtures creativity as well.
  2. The work is what is important. It’s all you can control.  The  politics of publishing, of markets, of writing groups can make a person crazy.  Firestorms often blow over and you don’t have to share your opinion on every topic.  Give yourself room to pivot to meet the demands of the marketplace and keep writing.
  3. Celebrate every success along the way no matter how large or small. I’m not advocating blowing horns and throwing confetti for all to see–but realize when you’ve done something right.  Good things happen all the time and a pro recognizes them.
  4. A career is built one reader at a time.  List placement and contest wins are gratifying, critical reviews a gift . . . but your career foundation is readers.  Don’t let your ego or laziness disappoint them.
  5. And finally, enjoy the people you work with.  Pick the best publisher, the best editor, the best agent you can and form a team.  Good teamwork involves mutual respect.  Recognize they want to sell books as much as you want to write them.  Sometimes, yes, their decisions will be at odds with yours.  Sometimes, you will part ways.  But remember that publishing is a small community.  Always keep doors open.  If you’ve chosen the right people to work with from the beginning, that will not be difficult.


  1. Sally Schoeneweiss
    Sally Schoeneweiss03-21-2011

    Dear Cathy,
    As usual, wonderful, heart-felt post and so true! Loved #4 and hope I’m part of #5.


    • Cathy Maxwell
      Cathy Maxwell03-22-2011

      Sally, you are definitely part of #5. We are like two war veterans! :o)

  2. Santa

    Thanks for the great advice, Cathy. I think it applies whether you are new to the business or have 20 years under your belt. Congrats on those 20! I LOVE your books and your perspectives.
    Here’s to many, many more years!

  3. Jeanne Miro
    Jeanne Miro03-21-2011

    I loved the 5 things you would have told to yourself. Since I’m in my 60’s I find myself doing something similiar often!

    My work hours were cut to just 26 hours per week (from 40 – 50) and now my husband has developed a habit of “thinking of things I could be doing at home”. When we married and I was in my 20’s I would have listened to him. I would have told my younger self to ignore him – it’s what I do today and it works! I’d much rather sit back and read one of your books or get plants started for the garden then vacuum everyday – after all that can be done tomorrow and today is over all too soon!

    • Cathy Maxwell
      Cathy Maxwell03-22-2011

      Very wise, Jeanne! Vacuuming is highly overrated, whereas reading is time well spent. :o)

"The Books You Love To Read. Three time winner of the Historical Love and Laughter award" - Cathy Maxwell