Let me tell you the absolute best way to NOT become a successful author–don’t spend any time writing. If you want, you can buy the writing supplies you need–fancy ink pens, sharpened #2 pencils, lined journals, laptops, and printers. You can pay money to go to writing conferences and even mingle with agents and editors–and those pesky successful authors. You can even join a writing critique group. These are all good strategies that most successful authors do.
But remember–I’m teaching you how NOT to be successful–so if you never actually sit your butt in the chair in front of your laptop; or you never get a pen and new journal out of their packages, you don’t have to worry about getting published or someone liking what you write. You won’t have to worry about your bank account growing or being called up for an interview for your favorite podcast–because you haven’t actually written anything.
I absolutely know about this from my experience as an unsuccessful author. Before I got divorced and had to get a day job, I wrote on a regular basis–I had three books published, countless articles, and a regular Sunday newspaper column. But then, the big D happened (and I don’t mean Dallas–love that song!), and I pretty much stopped writing. Or at least I didn’t write on a consistent basis. I wrote about as inconsistently as I possibly could–maybe once every two weeks, maybe not. I tried to work on different projects, but nothing stuck.
The thing about being an inconsistent writer is that you constantly have to re-read what you wrote before in order to remember where you were in the project. This leads to frustration and little progress, plus multiplies the feeling of “this writing dream is too hard,” and so then, you give up. Not ever taking any time to write definitely leads to not producing any new material. Not producing any new material causes no one to buy anything from you. Therefore, if your goal is to be a poor, starving writer, not scheduling any regular writing time is a sure-fire way to reach that goal.
For you overachiever writers who want to be successful:
- The best way to finish any writing project, big or small, is to write consistently. So, if your goal is to have a successful writing career, look at your life and figure out realistic ways to fit writing in. Just because everyone in your writing group works on their novel from 8pm to midnight doesn’t mean that will work for you. You guys, I can’t hardly write a creative word after 7pm. If I want to eat Ramen noodles for the rest of my life, and not the fancy kind they’re serving in restaurants nowadays, then I will set up my regular writing time at night. See that makes no sense! You must ask yourself: what does work for you? Lunch hours? Kids’ practices like Claire Cook? Morning before work? Figure it out for you.
- I wrote an entire novel draft last year (Jan 2018 to Dec 2018) by writing consistently throughout every week for about 15-30 minutes a day. I didn’t go back and edit as I wrote, like I used to do as an unsuccessful author who constantly decided she had no talent and her writing was purely awful–editing is the goal for April 2019. I pushed through to the end of this novel, and it was the first novel I have finished in about five years. The reason this method worked for me is I could make forward progress on the plot every time I sat down to write. I remembered where I was in the story, and I stopped being so critical of every single word I wrote down. (I hate to admit this next thing to those of you who want to be unsuccessful and starving artists, but I had fun writing the novel. It was not torture!)
- Jon Acuff is a successful writer and a funny guy. I heard a podcast interview with Jen Hatmaker and Jon, and one of the pieces of advice he gives is to cut your goals in half. That sounds terrific for those of us who are really trying NOT to have success; but in actuality, it’s advice for you overachievers. If your goal is to write a novel this summer, that might be unattainable–if your kids are also home with you and you are planning to travel, where is the time to write a whole novel? So a better goal might be: I will get started on my novel, outline the entire thing, and write three chapters. Maybe that’s not necessarily cutting the goal in half, but it is manageable; AND if you happen to write five or six chapters, think about how awesome you will feel.
Remember: it’s easy to NOT succeed at writing
Since that is so true, I just want to make sure you all understand that if you want to go the easy route and not sell books and not make money as a writer, then don’t take time to write in the first place.
Okay, now that we’ve cleared that up–stay tuned for the next blog post when I will discuss how to allow your inner critic to paralyze you with fear and disdain so that you won’t be successful!