You feel like an imposter. You hear voices telling you, “What makes you think you’re a writer? What makes you think you’re any good?” How do you combat these voices and be the rock star author millions will read? How do you value yourself so others value you? Read on!
I haven’t been hearing these voices lately, but rather I have heard, “What makes you a musician” since I’m relatively new at performing and singing with my guitar. Then just this weekend a young man asked me, while I was performing at the farmers’ market, do how you start getting good at guitar AND I was invited to teach guitar at Girls Rock NC camp this week. When asked, I remembered this blog post and the advice I wrote for y’all!
1. Show Up! And be sure you want to make it as a writer. This means don’t talk about being a writer—actually sit down in that chair and write! Writing is not a luxury that only happens when you have extra time. You have to make that time happen and when you do, your life will be better. You have to want it so that writing takes over everything else. Know that sometimes you’ll have to sacrifice your social life and your sleep in order to get all of your writing work accomplished.
- Show up at the same place every day—say 8 a.m. at the kitchen table and start writing
- Bring an object with you that’s your sacred writing object. It could be a hat, socks, scarf, T-shirt, Dollar Store Olympic medal. When you wear this object, your brain will kick into gear that YOU need to write. I have my 16-year-old REI blue fleece jacket that both my children loved when they were babies. It’s my writing jacket!
- Vary your workplaces: for instance, only check email in your kitchen, only write your blogs at the coffee shop where you know the Internet is spotty or even better, write outside in the park with no Internet.
- Time yourself—at least write for 20 minutes. The hope is that you’ll write longer than that
2. Create boundaries. Once you value your boundaries, others will too and they will treat you like the serious writer you are.
- Designate space on your calendar for writing. Block it out in at least three hour chunks. Try not to schedule meetings, lunches and other items on your writing days, or you won’t get any real work done.
- Limit your Facebook and Twitter time. If you must go on Facebook, set a timer and honor it!
- Don’t respond to emails or phone calls during your writing time. Now if you have young children, you should keep your phone nearby, but perhaps you can put it on “silent” and only pick up when you notice the Caller ID is from your child’s school.
- If you have young children at home and need the time to write without distraction you’ll have to get creative. Hire a mother’s helper, swap out childcare with your neighbors or pay a reliable babysitter and go to a café. Or get some really good headphones and wear they all the time around the house. Mommy’s working! If your spouse can take the kids out of the house while you write on weekends—even better!
3.Take risks! Are you “Facing the Dragon” in your memoir, meaning are you talking about flammable topics and highly-charged emotions that will make your readers uncomfortable? If so, then good for you! Are you stepping outside of your creative comfort zone and trying out a new angle, even if your loyal readers may not accept it? As soon as we pander and only write what we think others will like, we sell ourselves short and don’t value our own voices and talents. So be a hero and don’t give a damn if not everyone likes your work. They won’t, but your fans will. Not everyone likes Willie Nelson and you can be darn sure Willie is cool with that.
4. Stop comparing yourself to other writers. Yes, there’s always going to be writers better than you. And even if your best friend, who has been only writing since last spring, did get published, you can’t wallow in self-doubt that you’re not good enough. Take this comparing energy and move it towards creating energy. Your time will come. Get back into your chair and create! Oh, and create some good karma and congratulate your friend.
5. Figure out what your goals are. Do you want to be accepted in an MFA program? Write a novel? Be a full-time freelance writer?
- What actions are you taking to achieve these goals? What problems are you solving? For instance, do you have good enough grades from your undergraduate program to get into grad school? If not, see if you can take graduate-level classes in English/writing to strengthen your application.
- Set the conditions for your success. If you are writing your novel, you’ll need to write frequently and set up accountability measures—can you email your word count to a writing buddy every Friday?
- Are you keeping track of all your submissions and word counts? If not, you need to create an Excel spreadsheet where you’ll input your word counts and when/where you submitted your work off to. Treat your writing like a business! In that vein, you should also be recording your mileage to conferences, writing-related expenses and any income you’ve earned from writing.
6. Invest in yourself with a good laptop, and with go to conferences, classes/workshops to keep developing professionally as a writer. Read “how to write” books and books within your genre. Hire a writing coach and do your homework. You need to put some skin in the game and when you spend money on yourself, you’ll know you’re a “real” writer.
- Make yourself business cards
- Create a website and a blog, where you can post your research, book/product reviews and helpful resources for fellow writers
- Hire an editor when the time comes. A good editor will help you with clarity and consistency and she’ll also tell you when you’re way off track, which is something a writing buddy may not do.
- Spend time making your name and brand consistent across all of your social media channels. Make your name “Daniel,” not “Dan” or “Danny” depending on if you’re on Facebook or GoodReads. When you’re consistent, you’re setting boundaries and therefore are valuing yourself.
So what if after you’ve done all of these steps and your nasty inner voice is still saying, “You’re not worthy as a writer?” Acknowledge these negative voices. Tell them you hear them loud and clear, but today you have more important things to do—you have to write. Over time, these voices will go away as your creative muscles grow strong and create your way to author rock star-dom!