The first four C words in the new model for becoming a successful writer in the digital age are Content, Clarity, Communication, and Contentpreneuring. The fifth word is Commitment. The eight aspects of Commitment are Discipline, Balance, Faith, Courage, Patience, Commitment, Simplicity, and Love.
William Faulkner once said: “I write when the spirit moves, and I make sure it moves every day.” Plan your workday and have the discipline to follow it. Even a page a day is a book a year. Time is more important than money. You don’t own time, yet it’s the most precious, irreplaceable thing you have.
The poet John Dryden once wrote: “Good habits are worth being fanatical about.” Stick to the most productive ways to spend your time. Use every day as wisely as you can, keeping your long-range goals in mind, and the weeks, months, and years will take care of themselves.
At a time of accelerating change plunging us unprepared into an unknowable but problematic future, you need to balance
- writing, promotion, building your platform, and communicating with your communities
- your time online and off
- desire and necessity
- the trade-offs in any decision you make
- change and stability
- making a living and making a life
Ignoring distractions and doing justice to all of the parts of your life while maintaining your focus on what’s most important to you will be a constant challenge.
You must have faith in yourself, your idea, your work, and your ability to succeed until the world validates your belief. Faith will give you the resilience, optimism, and sense of humor you
need to carry on.
When it keeps you from walking into traffic, fear is good. When fear prevents you from becoming who you were born to be, it’s bad. You can’t let fear of failure or success stop you from fulfilling your destiny as a writer. But you do have to expect to encounter failure. Someone once said: “If at first you don’t succeed, you’re about average.” The path to success leads through failure. Whether it’s walking or writing, you learn to do things right by making mistakes.
I once got a fortune in a Chinese fortune cookie that read: “When you’re not afraid to do it wrong the first time, you’ll eventually get it right.” Keep learning from your models, mentors, and mistakes, and success is inevitable.
Being a writer takes courage. Winston Churchill wrote that courage is the first of human qualities because it guarantees all the others. You can’t have courage without fear, which is why we
- Facing a blank screen and believing you have something worth writing
- Persevering despite rejection, negative responses from readers, and perhaps poor sales
- Overcoming obstacles
It takes courage to meet these challenges, but I promise you have what it takes, and the harder the struggle, the sweeter the success.
Do not fear going forward slowly, fear only to stand still.
Books used to be the beginning of the information stream. Authors wrote books and then promoted them, one reason most books fail. Now if you want to be published by a New York house, you need patience. Marketing guru Seth Godin says: ”The best time to start promoting a book is three years before it comes out.” It may take that long to
- write your manuscript
- build a platform while test-marketing your book
- create the strongest promotion plan and develop the ability to carry it out
So you have to take the long view. Look at your career not as one book but a lifetime of books—each new one better and more lucrative than the previous one. It doesn’t matter where you are now in your career, only that you’re headed in the right direction.
If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
–Frederick Douglass, writer and abolitionist
In the making of ham and eggs, do you know what the difference is between the pig and the chicken? The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. You are the most important factor in your success. Your book is your baby. No one cares as much about it as you do. So you have to be committed to your book, your craft, and your career. Like people in other creative fields, you have to pay your dues. If you think being a writer is hard, try being an actor or dancer.
There’s a cartoon showing a man and a woman, sitting on a couch talking, and the man is saying: “Look, I’m not talking about a lifetime commitment. I’m talking about marriage.” Life is a
do-it-yourself job. Being a successful writer requires a lifetime commitment.
You can be a successful author, but success doesn’t come in cans, only wills, the will to write and to do what it takes for as long as it takes to reach your goals. I hope you will commit yourself to becoming the best writer you can be, not just for yourself, but for all of us.
The complex demands of creating harmony between
- being a lifelong learner in a rapidly changing 24/7/365 global village
- being an artist as well as a multimedia, multinational conglomerate of one
- and having a satisfying personal life
force you to simplify your life as much as you can. Avoid media, people, pursuits, and possessions that don’t help you reach your goals.
Gloria Steinem once said: “[Success is] doing what you love and having a positive impact on people’s lives without starving to death.” If you want to be the best writer and author you can be, you must love the process. You have to
- love to read, write, and communicate about your work
- write out of love for your readers
- love the challenges of becoming a better writer and communicator
Write out of what is best in you for what is best in your readers. The love you send into the world through your work, your relationships, and your contributions to your communities will come back to you and provide a profoundly satisfying life, regardless of how much you earn.
This model draws on material from previous posts and my books How to Write a Book Proposal and How to Get a Literary Agent. It will continue to evolve, in part because of your
response to it, for which I will be grateful. I write the blog to help you and me understand what we need to know about writing, publishing, promotion, and agents.
Rants, comments, questions, and corrections greatly appreciated.
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