When you’re knee-deep in the tangle of learning something new, it’s easy to get lost in trivialities.
What’s important and what’s not?
What deserves your attention, and what can you let go of?
Overwhelm stalls your forward progress, frustration rises (maybe even a little panic?) and the wave of “I’ll never figure this out”, washes over.
And since the rules are rapidly changing, there is a constant struggle to pull yourself from the quagmire of the “unimportant”, and focus on what’s truly relevant to crafting a long and successful writing career.
Take a deep breath.
Building your career as a writer is no small task.
But it’s too important not to figure out.
To ease the tension and guide you along your path, the following is a list of gentle reminders of what really matters. Things you probably already know, but have forgotten or abandoned while striving to build your author empire.
1. Failure is the best teacher.
Don’t waste any opportunities to fail–that’s where you’ll learn the biggest lessons. Learn what you need to and move forward, or expect to repeat these same lessons again (and again).
2. Let opportunity sneak up on you.
Be open to the possibility that the path for your work and your writing career may unfold in an entirely different way than you envision. You can’t anticipate a sharp turn, a serendipitous moment or a lucky chance, so have a plan, but allow room for happenstance.
3. Perfect isn’t likely, so start before you are ready.
According to James Clear, “an imperfect start can always be improved…”. The only way to get closer to “perfect” is to practice imperfection. So just start where you are. Your best (right now) will do just fine.
4. Be you.
Don’t let inauthenticity creep into your writing or promotion. The more genuine your communication and connection with the people who care about your work, the easier your job becomes. People want the real you, so make sure you give it to them.
5. A personal manifesto is necessary.
Who are you really? What do you value? You can’t share what you can’t articulate, so take the time to simply state who you are and what you stand for. You’ll be surprised at how difficult this is, but understanding your own motivations and the message you are trying to share is just as important for you to recognize as it is for your readers.
6. Stop worrying about what other people think.
Don’t allow others to validate your worthiness. You already matter, and fame doesn’t guarantee significance. Not everyone will “get” you, but in most cases, those who do will accept you, warts and all.
7. Get intentional.
Be present in every moment. Don’t dress rehearse tragedy by anticipating failure or ruin before it happens. And don’t let the past hold you so tight, it prevents you from moving forward. Welcome this moment, right now, and squeeze everything you can from it.
8. Don’t confuse hard with complicated.
Writing and marketing are both hard work, but neither is rocket science. “The hard part isn’t learning what to do, it’s doing what you learn.” (Tweet this)
9. Ignore the myth of overnight success.
Don’t fall for the idea that there is a low effort, fast-track way to the success you want–and bestselling author X has figured it out. There is always a backstory of blood, sweat and tears that doesn’t break the surface until you do.
10. Write, write, write.
Contrary to popular belief, the physical act is required. Contemplating, processing and planning may be helpful, but at some point it’s necessary to actually put pen to paper and do the work. Repeatedly.
11. Heal yourself of Obsessive Comparison Disorder.
Nothing sucks the motivation out of you like watching someone else live the life you wish you had. Don’t compare what you are trying to do with what someone else has already done. Be inspired that it’s possible, but understand the road you take to get there will probably look quite different.
12. You won’t know until later (perhaps much later) just how important this moment really is to your future.
Embrace it. What you’re doing right now is moving you toward where you need to be.
13. Have a plan, but be open to unplanned opportunities.
How many times have you heard people who have found success (however they define it) say, “If you had told me 5 years ago that I would be here today, I would have thought you were crazy.”? Life loves to throw out the unexpected. Be ready!
14. Outmaneuver disappointment.
Your words, your ideas and your stories matter. But your work’s importance becomes irrelevant if you can’t push through the setbacks. Find ways to hurdle the obstacles, regardless of their size.
15. Writing is supposed to be hard work.
And getting it into the hands of your readers even harder. Did we really think it would be easy?
16. Read, read, read.
Learn everything you can about how other writers write and how the industry works. Incorporate what works for you; toss out what doesn’t.
17. Take care of yourself.
Nothing runs when the tank is empty. Whether it’s small, daily rituals that help you regain balance, or weekly “time-outs” of an hour or two–make sure you take the time you need to rejuvenate your body, mind and passions.
Those that are successful are those who take the next step anyway.
19. Don’t chase the money.
Determine what holds the most value for you–what money can’t buy–and chase that instead.
Copy the best, but try to surpass the original by adding your own personal “flavour” to the mix.
21. Sometimes, what the top authors and bestsellers are doing to create success won’t work for you.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” path to greatness. Nor is there one right way to get where you want to go. Learn to tell the difference between what fits and what doesn’t.
22. Don’t intimidate.
Let people in. Let them relate to you. Relationships (and friendships) form from understanding and common interests–not from standing apart or above. Allow yourself to open up and be a little vulnerable.
23. Don’t be intimidated.
People can relate to vulnerability and struggle, but they only follow leaders. Confidently communicate your vision and purpose so others may share in its expression.
24. Know your audience.
Get inside their heads. Researching and understanding the people who will be reading your novel, listening to you speak or learning from your courses will help you send your message in a way that they can receive it.
25. Expand your creativity past your writing.
People absorb information in many different ways. Just because you are a writer, doesn’t mean the only way to connect with your audience is through the written word. Work with a variety of mediums–like images, video, music and blogging–to express your ideas.
26. Be grateful.
What are your readers saying? Reviewers? Other writers? Weed out the exceptionally negative or unhelpful criticism, but take note of the valuable tid bits and insights that people are willing to share with you. Your growth as a writer depends on how well you can listen.
28. Be vulnerable.
Vulnerability is not weakness. It requires great strength.
“You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.”
– Brené Brown
29. Make an impact.
Don’t be afraid of what you can accomplish. With persistence and focus even the smallest of things can make a big impact. So start small, and then increase your influence and your reach. “Make a difference to a few, and they will help you make a difference for many.” (Tweet this)
30. Greatness and ruin are only a step apart.
Actor, Will Smith, is quoted as saying, “Greatness lives on the edge of destruction.” Too often, people quit early. Sometimes holding on just a few beats longer can make the difference between success and failure. You will never experience true greatness if you’re not willing to go to the edge.
31. Cut yourself some slack.
You can handle much more than you think, but despite your best efforts, some things will just not get done. Accept that your very best effort will be good enough.
32. Be generous.
Don’t hoard your creativity and gifts. Share them freely and give some of your best work away for free. It may seem counterintuitive, but it is one of the best ways to earn more for your work.
33. Do something that matters.
All too often we focus inward on our own immediate wants and needs. It’s difficult to look up and out and focus on the bigger picture. Re-evaluate your purpose–your reason for creating the work that you do–and see if you can’t inspire a deeper emotion, a bigger conversation or a more compelling reason for people to take action.
34. Fly higher.
In his book The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?, Seth Godin challenges that we have been brainwashed into flying to low. That we find more comfort in being right than being real; more safety in fitting in than standing out. So don’t be afraid to think bigger or reach higher:
“Your biggest failure is the thing you dreamed of contributing but didn’t find the guts to do.”
– Seth Godin
35. Stop searching for guarantees.
The bigger the risk, the bigger the potential payoff. Push yourself past the guaranteed wins and dive into that which makes your knees knock.
36. Share just how big your vision is.
You might be surprised at how much support you get when you reveal the magnitude of your goals. Your commitment and belief in what you can accomplish will spread to others–so share your vision confidently. DON’T hide or minimize it.
37. Share your origin story.
How you got here matters to both you and your audience. Not as a blueprint on how to recreate your success (or avoid your failures), but to allow others to empathize and relate to you as a human being.
38. Dump your limiting beliefs.
It’s not time, technology or lack of experience that’s holding you back. It’s the limits you are placing on yourself that keep you from realizing your full potential. Train yourself to identify these unhelpful thoughts and strip them of their power.
39. Make a choice.
It’s better to choose the wrong path, and make some course corrections, than to never choose a direction in the first place. Decide what you want, and then start taking the steps that move you toward your goals.
If you’re struggling to make progress in your writing career, know that you are not alone.
But by reminding yourself of what’s truly important in building the life you see for yourself as a writer and creative, you will be more likely to enjoy the journey, rather than just survive it.