This week, I’m talking all about what it takes to become a SUCCESSFUL writer.
So, you want to become an author…well, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The bad news first, writing your book won’t be easy. If you’re in the middle of that process, you’re nodding your head right now. But, here’s the good news, all that work is a small price to pay for the amazing possibilities it can open to you such as getting published, enjoying a career you love, and impacting people with your words.
For years, I struggled with calling myself a writer. I wrote and wrote and wrote. And yet, after all that writing, I was still waiting. For what, exactly? To become a writer. I doubted myself, downplaying my passion and telling myself I was merely an aspiring writer. Secretly, I hoped to someday get permission to call myself what, deep down inside, I knew I already was. I was just afraid to admit it. Do you struggle with this? Does it plague you, as it does most writers? Here’s the secret “real writers” know…there is one and only one way to become a writer. It’s hard. It may take years of practice and pain. But once you do it, it’ll make all the difference. Do you want to know what it is, what finally makes you a writer? Here it is, the only way I know of to become a writer: Say you’re one.
Okay, so once you finally acknowledge to yourself that you are indeed a writer, I’m going to assume you want to be successful at it. And that, my friends, is where this post comes in. I’m here to offer ten tips on what you’ll need to do (or give up) to turn your writing from ordinary into extraordinary…you’re welcome. Now, let’s get to it!
Give Up on Romanticism
Writing is artistic. You think of writing as a craft. You want to pen beautiful words and become the next Kafka. Good luck with that. The romantic writer is the type who uses a ton of flowery language, thinks their book is going to get picked up by Harper Collins and laments the lack of literary quality in today’s writing.
There is such a thing as a technically gifted yet boring and unsuccessful writer. Writing pretty words doesn’t make you a good writer. Moving people makes you a good writer. Entertaining, educating, and inspiring people makes you a good writer.
The problem with the overly literary type is they often don’t pay attention to the person on the other end of the page. They love the idea of being a writer but aren’t practical when it comes to the writing itself.
Your life might not be interesting enough to make a great memoir, especially if nobody knows who you are. Maybe other people aren’t as interested in the war of 1812 as you are. Maybe you should write about something else. Writing to meet a market need doesn’t make you a hack, it makes you a person who actually earns from their writing. In 2018, art and business aren’t mutually exclusive. They’ve bled into one another and the line is blurred. A little pragmatism will give you an opportunity to succeed as a writer. So, please, discard your rose-colored glasses.
Give Up Your Fear of Marketing
If any of the sentences below describe you, you have no right to complain about your writing career:
You don’t have your own blog
You’ve never guest posted or put your work on another platform
You haven’t connected with one other person in your space with an email
Another pervasive mindset among beginning writers is the “build it and they will come” mentality. Let’s say right now your writing isn’t getting much attention. I have a question for you: How in the heck are people supposed to find it? Dumb luck? Extrasensory perception?
The recipe for success as a writer is simple — find people who want to read your type of writing and get your writing in front of them. This means finding websites who already have a built-in audience and publish your work there. This means connecting with influential people online who can help promote your work.
Fear of marketing can also conflate with a sense of entitlement. I get it. You just want to write. You think good writing should be enough on its own. It’s not. Marketing isn’t a dirty word. It’s a prerequisite for success. Do I love it all the time? Of course not! Do I know it’s absolutely essential to my career? Heck yes!
These days, being a successful writer involves an online presence in one way or another. No matter what kind of writer you are, set up a website and publish content for the online realm to consume. If making money as a writer is important, then be sure to set up a “freelance writer” profile. There are countless people online willing to pay you to do the research and typing for them. Furthermore, building communities of readers in the online world is incredibly wise.
Be Willing to Evolve
You’re not a model just because a friend took some photos of you on the beach that one time. And, you’re not a writer just because you published an eBook, a few articles, or some blog fodder. The flat-out truth is that getting from A to Z in terms of professional writing includes a lot of hard work and personal transformation.
Every book you write is like a journey, whether fiction or not.
Every writing assignment, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, is an opportunity to learn something new.
Every brainstorming session and every headache endured adds to your overall wordsmithing quality.
How do you define a successful writer? For some people it means being able to write coherent sentences to get a point across, or perhaps sell a product. For others, it means being able to pay the rent and survive on writing skills alone.
You cannot be successful at anything you do not define. There are many different kinds of writers, and many shades of success. Come to terms with what it means to you, and be as specific as a detective novel writer.
Money: If being successful involves getting paid for your writing, then define how much. Is successful making $30,000 a year or $100,000? Selling 300 copies or 3 million? The only limits are those you impose on yourself.
Recognition: We all crave recognition throughout our lives. If writing is something you want to become known for, then study the writing of those who have already earned their place in history.
Community: If you measure success by the amount of lives your writing touches, then define that as well. How many fans? How many likes on the fan page? How many “readers” will it take to reach your version of success?
Write Until Your Imagination Bleeds
Basically, in order to be a successful writer, you’re going to have to settle into the idea that a rather hefty word count is required. How many words do you think most aspiring writers pump out before they reach success?
If writing itself is laborious to you, something you must force or strong-arm yourself through, you may want to choose something else. How often does a successful swimmer swim, or drummer drum?
If Not Writing, Read Successful Writers
Writing is the yin and reading is the yang. Or, perhaps it’s the other way around. You get the idea. You can’t have one without the other. And, in order to have balance, both must be equally present.
For every sentence that you write, you should be reading one. Continuously expose your mind to the writing that you consider to be worthy of success. Find “successful” writers to follow and model in your niche.
Give Up Your Excuses
You’ve probably heard the phrase “Writers write.” What does it really mean? It means that if you want to call yourself a writer, you need to actually be one. If you find yourself making excuses instead of writing, it’s time to take a look at your priorities. Writers prioritize writing time—it’s as simple as that.
Give Up You Sense of Entitlement
Question: Why should anyone want to read your writing, visit your website, or buy your book? Are you a diligent writer? Are you making an effort to connect with people who’d be interested in your writing? No? Let me guess, you think people should read your writing because you wrote it. That’s a horrible answer.
You don’t buy an iPhone because you liked Steve Jobs. You buy it because it’s a good product.If you’re trying to make a living with your writing, your words are — by definition — a product. You have to create your best work and get it in front of the right eyeballs. It all starts with a personal responsibility.
Nobody owes you their attention. I’ve seen it countless times — a newbie writer putting in a relatively low amount of work then whining about their lack of success. Less whining. More writing.
Have a Second or Third Pair of Eyes
Every successful writer out there has a proofreader or editor in their lives. It’s important because writers write. Proofreaders proof. Editors edit. That’s how it goes. We may be great when it comes to proofreading other people’s writing, but not our own.
Writers can bring a piece only so far and then it should be handed off to another pair of professional eyes that can see it from an outside perspective.
Never Give Up
There are very few writers who were successful from the start. Keep a list of how many rejections the best authors had. Read it every time the heavy sound of a rejection landing on the mat depresses you. Before long it won’t be that heavy thump, it will be an acceptance or a check. At last you’ll be on your way to being a published writer.
Ultimately, the best way to become a successful writer is to write and write some more. I just laid down the gauntlet. It’s all on you now. I sincerely believe everything you want in your writing career is possible. I want you to succeed, badly. But, I can’t want it more than you do. Do me a favor, for the next week — just sit your butt down in front of the computer and write. No more putting off starting that blog, writing that post, or outlining that book. No more excuses. Go. But before you do, be sure to subscribe to my blog, check out my books available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most major online retailers, and follow me on social media. I’m on Facebook, Instagram, and of course Twitter. Okay, now you can go. Happy writing!