Updated: Jul 24, 2020
9 Growth Tips That Reach Beyond the Page
Today I’d like to share some lessons from my writing journey that may prove helpful, not just to fellow writers but to others trying to find their path forward. Keep exploring!
When I sat down to write my memoir and subsequent blogs, I realized I could only do this by writing dangerously. I had to be vulnerable and authentic. Otherwise I would fail to forge a connection with others.
In doing so, I realized these 9 steps helped me to draw closer to myself. Now, I know these also point the direction toward personal growth for writers and non-writers alike :
Share vulnerability. Especially for nonfiction, regardless of business, self-help, cooking or memoir, be vulnerable and authentic. People don’t want to buy a self-improvement book and feel like they are reading a college textbook. You don’t have to reveal everything but softening up the subject with some personal stories is what differentiates your book from the hundreds of others on the shelf next to yours. Personal sharing may be tough for introverts, but it's the path for richer relations. This newfound courage has prompted my shift from worrying what others think, to focusing on what I can control. You’ll be surprised what you learn about yourself when you explore and share.
Champion your target audience. Contrary to most belief, smaller niche doesn’t limit sales opportunity. It improves focus of the work so your audience can feel the connection. I heard this tip early and often. I fought it at the beginning but now it helps me to realize no book is for everyone. It’s okay that some will not read my stuff. I know extroverts or less reflective people may not get it, but it’s my story and I think many introverts are feeling the same anguish, despair, hope, and incredible drive to overcome as I have. So when my target audience shares their moving stories with me, it’s pure gold! We can't please all the people all the time.
Writing is not that hard… Many of us make it hard. The stars have to aligned and we need to write a certain number of minutes or words before we can release our self. Then we reread our new prose and find it sounds horrible and has more typos and grammatical errors than we can count. But that’s violating the unwritten rule of writing. Just sit down in a comfortable, quiet place and write. If the mojo is there, write for an hour or two. If it’s just not happening, stop after ten minutes of doodling and hair pulling. Get your mind off it, take a walk, and return to the desk the next day. Let the typos rest. Don’t edit soon after writing. A matter of fact, I suggest spitting out the whole draft manuscript before beginning to edit. These are two different parts of our brain. Don’t interrupt the creative right brain with editing detail. It’s time will come. Our lives can benefit from a bit more uninhibited free flow!
…Editing is! This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where we convert the pen-drool into prose. Take your time. Edit, step back, re-edit, ask for other beta readers, re-edit, step back. Be patient. When it happens, it’s like a blurry light coming into perfect focus. I hated the idea of editing but have grown to crave it. It takes a village...and a whole lot of patience.
Love it or leave it! The average book sells 250 units per year. Keep in mind that average is skewed by the Stephen Kings and J.K. Rowlings who sell thousands and even millions per year. So the average Joe sells about 100 per year. Clearly, writers and authors can’t be doing this for the money, right? I tip my pen to those few who strive to make a living as a writer. The moral to this story is that you really must love to write. It must be a calling for you. You have a passion, not just for the topics you choose, but for writing itself. Otherwise, it is too difficult to keep going when all the writing, publishing, and marketing naysayers and obstacles confront you.
Impostor syndrome is real. Many writers feel like they don’t belong. They don’t have the education and skills to write, they don't see what makes their message important…. As an introverted Finance major and corporate business guy whose self confidence took a nose dive trying to cope in a largely extroverted world, I should be the spokesperson for Impostor Syndrome! To top it off, I debuted with a memoir – fearing no one would want to hear about my story. I hid behind a long subtitle and hesitated to share my story. But this past year, I’ve begun to embrace who I am and take pride in my message. We should all strive to live unabashedly!
Check your ego at the door. I’ve learned writing is no place for big egos. Oh, there are plenty of them in the community, but nearly all are brought down a peg quickly. Forget about book sales in the thousands. Forget about New York Times best seller lists. Even if you don’t sell anything, you will learn a lot about yourself with a dose of humility. Always remember your purpose...in writing and in life.
Market with integrity. There’s a great writing community out there. Dozens of podcasters, hundreds of books and blogs, countless writing associations and conferences. Check them out. However, like any village, there are villains around. Egotistical salesmen who insist they have the right formula. Lean on your own strengths, values, and intuition to challenge advice and deflect those that don’t fit your style. I listened and read everything I could get my hands on. My FOMO (fear of missing out) led me to try everything. Finally, overwhelmed, I realized I was stretched way out of my comfort zone. Since I pulled back to focus on using my strengths, I now feel in control, much happier, more productive, and at peace with my book marketing.
It’s gotta be fun! Enjoy everything. Like many jobs, accolades can sometimes be dwarfed by low sales, poor rankings, unfulfilled dreams, or rough reviews. I’ve learned to really celebrate the email from a reader sharing her story or the reviewer who feels inspired, or the Silver Award recognition, or the testimonials from respected authors and mentors. I may not sell 250 this year, but I’m having a magnificent time! Isn't that what life is about?
Today, I’ve revised my subtitle to “An Introvert’s Story”. Simple, to the point, but more importantly, I’m unabashedly offering my story. I’m proud of my journey.
Thus, I offer the lessons of humility, passion, vulnerability, and determination to writers and non-writers alike. I’m excited to keep exploring and I invite you to do the same!
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