Do you worry you won’t ever succeed as a writer?
I do. Despite how far I’ve come, despite the goals I’ve reached, some days I wonder if those people who want me to quit are right. Some days all I can see is how far I still have to go. And lately, I’ve been struggling with a lot of fear.
This week, I had the privilege of reviewing an advance copy of Jeff Goins’ You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) for a 100-page metaphorical kick in the rear. (We all need those once in a while.)
If you follow Jeff’s blog, you know that he melds practical tips with inspiration. Even though I normally prefer practical tactics I can immediately put to use when it comes to writing advice, in this case, I think the real value of this book lies in his insights into what it takes to succeed as a writer.
I can’t sum up the whole book for you (you’ll have to get your own copy), but here are the top four tips I walked away with for what it will take for writers like you and me to reach our dreams.
(1) “The only person you need to worry about writing for is you” (pg. 27).
This isn’t new advice. We’ve heard numerous times not to write for a trend and to write what we enjoy reading. But it goes deeper than that, and I think the take-away in what Jeff has to say comes from his reasons for writing for ourselves first.
Writing for ourselves first is the only way to be authentic. We all want people to like us, but if we focus on trying to do whatever it takes to make them like us rather than just being ourselves, it’s going to show. We’ll come across as fake, and that will drive people away.
Thousands of other people are struggling with what you’re struggling with. This means that if you write about what appeals to you, it will appeal to other people as well. Always ask yourself, “If I hadn’t written this, would I want to read it.”
You’ll find your voice quicker. If you’re only worried about writing for you, the pressure of impressing everyone else goes away and all pretenses drop. Your voice has a lot to do with being comfortable in public and allowing your personality to come through.
(2) “A brand is who you are. But it’s more than that. It’s your truest self. The part people remember” (pg. 46).
We don’t brand ourselves the same way that businesses or products do because our brand includes our name, our personality, our unique quirks, and our voice, as well as our genre. Your brand is you. No lies. No games. No tricks.
Through your brand you make a promise to people about what they’ll get when they interact with you in person or in writing. I want people to know exactly what they’ll get when they come to my blog and website. In fact, I worry that I’ve split my brand too far by including both writing posts and fantasy/science fiction posts. (I’d love to have you weigh in on that in the comments.)
Brand goes beyond that though to my personality. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a bit quirky and that I love to pick things apart to see how they work and what truth is hiding behind them. I’m all about hope. And I like to help. That’s me in a nutshell. That’s also my brand.
(3) “Content is not king. Relationship is” (pg. 78).
I have a feeling some bubbles just popped. What do you mean content isn’t king?
You have to have good content. It’s foundational. But you can have good content, and work yourself to exhaustion, and if you don’t have relationships with people who will spread the word about your great content, no one will come to read it.
(4) “You never fully arrive” (pg. 93).
There’s always room for improvement even for writers who are on the New York Times bestseller list. Rather than getting cocky once you’ve achieved your definition of success, keep striving to get better.
You are a writer if you write. But do you wonder if you’ll ever feel like a success?