The best advice I ever received about being a successful writer was “invest in yourself.” These words have guided me to publishing my first novel and now traversing the stormy waters of marketing.
Being an author is a unique career. You don’t get promotions. You don’t have job security. You don’t have a constant salary. You don’t have benefits. It’s scary and difficult. You work hard and long and sometimes you don’t even get the rewards.
So why do people do it?
Easy. We become authors because we love it. We love stories. We love creating worlds and characters that take us on journeys and change our lives. We love writing. And we love the thought of getting to share our creations with the world.
Unfortunately, the sharing part of the process is not as easy as our young, daydreaming selves once supposed. Writing, publishing, and marketing take a lot of work, time, and dedication.
In order to be a successful writer, you are going to have to treat it like any other career, or, better yet, treat it like a lifestyle. If you want a career as a writer, you have to live as if you already have one.
Here are my 8 Rules for leading the lifestyle of a successful writer.
1. Prioritize your writing.
This is yourjob. Assign yourself a number of hours, or a word/page count to write every day for X days a week. Only you can decide what this schedule will look like, and it may have to be flexible, but make sure you have one.
If you don’t make time to write, you won't have a product to sell.
In order to properly prioritize your writing, you have to change your mindset toward writing.
It’s not a hobby anymore, you have to be accountable to yourself to get your work done.
2. Keep learning and honing your craft.
Listen to podcasts, read blogs (like this one, good job!), watch YouTube videos, attend classes and conferences. You willnever reach a point in your writing career where you know everything.
While you’re learning, practice! Most of your time writing will be spent on the projects you plan to publish, but don’t neglect the work of honing your craft.Set time aside every week (or every day, even) to do writing exercises.
Here are some examples:
Write scene or character descriptions
Write bouts of dialogue
Write short stories and flash fiction
There are hundreds of exercises you can use to improve your writing technique. Find new ones often and you’ll see your work improve.
Along with practicing your writing skills, practice writing pitches and synopses. This will help prepare you for querying and will also help you while plotting your work.
Practice setting and sticking to goals. If you don’t set goals, how will you know when you’ve accomplished something? Set the bar high for yourself, but don’t set yourself up to fail.
One day you may have to write under strict deadlines with editors, so prepare now for that future. Share your goals with others, so they can help keep you accountable. Participating in events like NaNoWriMo can really help with this!
3. Find a critique group.
This is a group of people on your same writing and career level who can give you candid feedback and help edit your work. At the same time, you read and edit their work, gaining important critiquing practice as well as learning and growing from your peers.
Have a support group—people close to you who act as cheerleaders and who you can be accountable to. It is important to have people who will encourage you during the hard times and celebrate your victories when you finally achieve your goals. They will also help make sure you don’t give up when you feel like a failure, which, likely, you sometimes will.
4. Build a platform.
While writing, as a published author or not, build yourself a platform and maintain it—marketing! Whether or not you think anyone is seeing it, you need to have a website and social media platforms dedicated to you and your work so people can see what you have to offer.
Post and update regularly, whether you have 5 followers or 5,000. Keep working to engage the public. Keep reminding the world you’re here. And try to have fun with it. I know it can feel like a burden sometimes, but try to find a platform that you enjoy spending time on. That makes all the difference when it comes to enjoying the process of creating content.
Connect and engage in the world of writers. There is such a loving and supportive community available to you. You never know who you’ll meet and how you can help each other out!
You can network in-person at conferences, and through social media and online events. Follow and support fellow writers by sharing posts and boosting their content—the more you do for others, the more they’ll do for you.
6. Financially invest in your career.
Whether you’re rich or poor, you can find it in your budget to invest in your writing. Save up money to go to conferences or take classes. It doesn’t need to be a big expensive thing. There are always local or state conferences to go to.
Invest in marketing strategies. It doesn’t need to be a lot, or frequent, but, every so often, spend $10 or more boosting one of your posts—something you think will hook viewers into wanting to follow you or check out your work.
7. Continually seek ways to publish.
If you are not working with an agent to publish a project, never give up trying to find one—or an editor if you don’t want an agent. Alternatively, research self-publishing and make a plan for how and where to publish, and how often.
If you’ve hit a dead end with either, post your work on a free website, and/or try submitting to websites, literary magazines, and contests for your work—most like poetry, short stories/flash fiction, or unpublished chapters. Any recognition or publication is great for your career!
8. Never stop searching for inspiration.
Yes, it’s a job, and sometimes that makes it hard to love, but you started down this path because you have a passion for writing! Don’t let yourself forget it.
Continually do things that inspire and excite you, and get you pumped to write your own stuff. You need to be fueling the fire of your creativity in whatever way you can, as often as you can. Don’t let the work diminish the fun!
If you’re serious about a writing career, you have to have the mindset of a writing professional. Start setting aside time, money, and energy to dedicate to all the necessary elements.
No success comes without some kind of sacrifice. If you haven’t already started investing in your writing career, do it now! Get pumped, get planning, start saving, start creating, and start taking yourself seriously! You are a writer!