As writers, we’re dreamers – and I don’t just mean about characters and plot lines.
No, we also fantasize about our careers, about signing books surrounded by
adoring fans, of watching our titles fly up the NY Times bestseller list, of being invited to chat with Oprah, of writing non-fiction that catapults us onto the speech circuit as An Authority.
And then we daydream about what we’ll do with all those millions or how we’ll parlay our growing knowledge into something that will help change people’s lives…. Yes, there are probably as many dreams as there are writers. About the life we’ll lead as Famous Writers whose books are Bestsellers.
But here’s the hard truth: these dreams have little to do with your success as a writer – unless you act on them.
To be successful you need talent, yes, and a commitment to your work. You need to use that talent to turn those dreams into something approximating reality.
The simple truth is that first and foremost, a writer writes. It’s that simple. The complicated bit comes in knowing what you should be writing and in planning for your success. Don’t give up the dreams, just temper them with a little feet-on-the-ground common sense.
Find a way to turn them into goals. Plan your writing career as you would any other endeavour that’s important to you. Dream big, for sure, but keep one eye firmly fixed on your own reality.
But whatever your writing ambitions, you need a plan. Consider these points:
1) A dream is not a goal – recognise the difference between your writerly dreams, and what would really satisfy you. Ask yourself why you write – would you be surprised to find that the answer isn’t necessarily ‘to get rich’ or ‘to be famous’?
2) Despite what you may have been told about writing every day, there are lots of successful writers who hold down full time jobs and squeeze in their writing at weekends. Their secret? They plan their work and work the plan.
3) A dose of reality – if you’ve considered #1 above, you know where your ‘success satisfaction’ lies – now find out what sort of writing would take you there.
4) Writing is hard, lonely work. Why are you doing this to yourself? What can you do to ensure your precious writing time is your own without becoming a hermit? Consider setting up a ‘support network’ of other writers (the Internet is a great resource for this!) These are other writers who share triumphs and setbacks and encourage each other – but who understand that the writing comes first.
5) Whittle away the fat: identify your writing goals. Having a road map for your writing career will help prevent you from going off at tangents that steal time, energy & creativity and prevent you from reaching your writerly destination.
6) Knowing what you want to achieve and drawing up a plan gives you an overview. This overview allows you to draw up the actions you need to take. These can be broken down even further into ‘Baby Steps’ which let you utilise even small segments of spare time to take your ambitions a little further ahead.
7) Setting up your goal calendar which outlines the tiny steps forward and shows where the giant leaps and bounds can happen.…
8) So many different types of writing work – novels, articles, copywriting, teaching, editing, speechwriting, speaking….oh my! Keeping an open mind about opportunities and where they might lead you will help you pick the best writing and promotional opportunities for your career.
9) Career planning 101: now that you know where you’re going don’t forget to pencil in some time to evaluate each stage to make sure you’re on track – or check to see if you need to change direction…
10) Learn to cope with distractions, to be decisive in handling the everyday crisis and not to let the little things become big time stealers. You need to keep all those plates spinning at once – family, friends, day job, health, etc. – and still write. Believe me, cars and appliances break down, kids need you to volunteer at school, relatives need care, big projects will come up at work…all these things will continue to happen whether you’re writing or not. You might well be calmer and more cheerful about dealing with them if you’ve been able to do your writing quota! There are many resources with tips for writing & coping with living – search the internet for Book-In-A-Week, BIAW, Flylady, Charlotte Dillon’s site,
and any more you can come up with for tips, tricks and support.
Glenys O’Connell knows what it’s like to keep on writing through the Everyday Real Life crises and the Knock Your Sox Off type of crises, too. Along with teaching creative writing, she’s led courses in Achieving Your Goals which have helped not only writers, but people with dreams of starting a business, retiring early, or changing their lifestyle. Check out her website at http://www.glenysoconnell.com where from time to time she adds articles about writing and free courses for writers.