If you aren’t published yet, there are a few things to overcome in order to get it done. Let me first say, you aren’t alone. Here are some obstacles and solutions to problems many writers face.
The most successful writers do a few things over and over again to be the best they can be. They suck up knowledge from all sources and arm themselves with the gifts of the writing world. Here are some things you can do to increase your knowledge about writing and publishing.
Learn the craft of writing from the best in the business. Before you go to bed each night or as soon as you wake up in the morning, absorb some wisdom from writers like Stephen King (On Writing Well), William Zinnser (On Writing), or Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones). Pick a wide range of topics to keep it interesting and broaden your knowledge over time. If you want to read about being more creative, try Elizabeth Gilbert (Big Magic). If you need to brush up on the technical aspects of writing try William Strunk (Elements of Style). Get subscriptions to literary magazines like Writer’s Digest, The Writer, or Poets and Writers for fresh topics every month. If you’re more of a blog post reader, get lots of great writing blogs listed in The WriteLife Blog, The 100 Best Blogs for Writers.
You don’t need an MFA to be a writer. With that said, learning the craft of writing from experienced writers will help you be a better writer. Try a variety of classes from a one-shot writing workshop to a week-long writing retreat to inform and energize your writing. The pursuit of knowledge is a noble one. You are worth it and so is your writing. Whether you like the personal feel of a live workshop or the convenience of online classes, there is something to fit exactly what you need right now to make you a better writer.
[bctt tweet=”Like perfecting any other skill, writing takes practice. #justwrite ” username=”loishoffmande”]
Seems simple enough, right? The more you write, the better you’ll be. Regardless of your pursuit, practice is the key to success. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell explains the 10,000-hour rule. If you spend 10,000 hours on something, anything, you will find success. It’s not hard to imagine. That’s how Bill Gates did it. He’s smart, yes. But he also worked day and night to practice and develop his craft. You might not be there yet. Every hour is a step in that direction.
Part of success with writing is finding a supportive community to push you, inspire you, and provide valuable feedback. This can be online or in person or both. Get involved in local critique groups or start one on your own through local arts organizations or through your library. Spread the word through MeetUp or use the old-fashioned way on local bulletin boards. If online groups are more your thing, try Writers Helping Writers on Facebook or start your own group.
Have you heard yourself say, “I don’t have enough time?” There are a few things that will help you get the most from your time even when you don’t have much of it.
Many writers hope to write “more.” They hope to get a book published and then be an author “someday.” What does that mean, really? Think about what that looks like or how you’ll feel once you’re done. You’ve heard the saying, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” If you don’t know when you want to publish and what awaits you at the other side, you might find yourself aimlessly wandering toward a nebulous something.
Start with setting SMART goals for your writing and you’ll have a visual for what you are really working toward. Set word count goals and publishing goals. Consider what being an author will be to you personally or professionally and then you’ll have a road map to guide you.
Set a schedule
Once you have your road map, you need a schedule. On your calendar. Even if it is 15 minutes at lunch on Tuesday or 25 minutes before your head hits the pillow on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, get it on your calendar with specifics about time and place. You set your expectation and your intention with word-count goals or words-edited goals and watch your productivity soar. There are a lot of calendar apps, but Google calendar is free and allows you to color-code different priorities in your schedule.
Prepare for obstacles
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg stresses the importance of creating a cycle of habit with cues (like putting it on your calendar) and rewards (like going to bed or having lunch). He also points to the necessity of planning for the obstacles to your plan. Is someone going to want to watch the game with you or are you going to be too hungry to write before lunch? Find a solution to the problems you know you will face and you’ll be prepared to face them or avoid them altogether. Having a conversation about your writing priorities with significant people in your life goes a long way to eliminating guilt or conflict from derailing your dream.
[bctt tweet=”Prepare for obstacles in your writing life & make a plan to overcome them before they derail you. #amwriting” username=”loishoffmande”]
Often lack of progress with writing or publishing is a matter of confidence. Some of that can be negated by gaining more knowledge about writing and practicing writing, as stated above. You can also build confidence in these ways:
Find a writing partner or critique group who can read your work and provide feedback. Reading what others write does tremendous good for your writing, as you articulate suggestions for making their writing better. Jane Friedman offers suggestions about how to find the right writing partner or critique group for you. The second way to get feedback is to hire a book coach or editor. An editor’s job is to help writer’s organize thought and get a manuscript ready for public viewing. Once you know it’s gone past the eyes of a professional, you feel more confident in releasing your “baby” to the world.
Artists of all stripes are notoriously hard on themselves and devalue what they create. It’s especially important to feed your psyche affirming messages about your worth as a creative being. The fact that you’re writing at all puts you way above all who only dream of “someday.” Try the affirmations here to put you in the right frame of mind. Finally, surround yourself with people who believe in you and your dream.
Uh-oh. There’s that dirty word…money. Although you don’t need money to write a book, you may need money to publish it. Even if you are just in the process of writing, you may use money, or lack of it, to put off your dream. Whether you really don’t have the money or don’t want to spend the money, much of the money discussion leads back to some of the other issues.
Taking a class is making an investment in your future as a writer. If you don’t have the money or don’t choose to spend it, there are always books to read from the library. If you don’t have the money to invest in a professionally designed cover, you can learn how to do it yourself. You can barter for services with friends or colleagues that need what you have (e.g. writing skills) to get your book published. Do a little soul-searching to determine if you don’t really have the money or you don’t believe that your dream is a worthy investment.
“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather is a lack of will.” ~ Vince Lombardi
This may be the most compelling of all of the reasons people struggle to finish and publish their books. The will to succeed is the overarching attitude in publishing a book. You must find the will to finish, the will to find time, to learn things, and to find the money to overcome your challenges.
[bctt tweet=”Find the WILL to publish a book and watch great things happen. #pubtip” username=”loishoffmande”]
I recently heard a story about a couple who went on vacation every year for 10 years will six other couples. None had the money to take their families, year after year, to places across the country and around the world, but they made a commitment to each other that they would. They formed two impromptu companies: Bags with Rags and Jakes with Rakes. They came together and cleaned houses, did gardening work, catered events, and did whatever they needed to do to raise money to go on those trips.
They could have made lots of excuses as to why they couldn’t go or why they couldn’t do the work that was needed. They made a decision and made it a priority. In exchange, they had 10 years of memories with their family and good friends that they’ll cherish forever.
The will to do whatever it takes to write and perfect and put your work in front of people is no small feat. You might have to miss free time with your family or friends, skip relaxing at the end of a long day, get less sleep, give up pizza Fridays or binge-watching House of Cards, and open yourself up to doubt both internal and external.
Yet, writing a book is worth pursuing. The process and product are transformative, not just for your writing, but in other areas of your life, as well. The commitment and sacrifice shapes who you are now and who you will become. That sounds worth it, right?
Let me throw down this challenge…are you ready to be an author?