You feel like an imposter. You hear your inner voice whispering, “What makes you think you’re a writer? What makes you think you’re any good?” “Why would someone want to read anything I write?” 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!
Show up and keep showing up even when it’s hard. 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 sleep in order to meet your writing projects’ deadlines.
- Show up at the same place every day, say 6:30 a.m. at the kitchen table, and begin 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. My writing jacket is my 17-year-old REI blue fleece jacket that both my children loved when they were babies.
- 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 so you know you won’t check Facebook.
- Time yourself—at least write for 20 minutes. The hope is that you’ll write longer than that.
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. What destroys your writing time is hopping from one activity to the next. For instance, you won’t get a lot done if your day involves a coffee meeting at 9:30, then a lunch meeting at 1 p.m., and then a writing meeting at 5 p.m. It’s okay to have days like this one, but don’t expect days like this to be productive.
- Limit your Facebook and Twitter time. Yes, social media marketing is important to stay top-of-mind for your readers, but don’t let it take over!
- 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!
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 you’re uncomfortable, then your readers will be too. Are you stepping outside of your creative comfort zone and trying out a new angle for your novel, 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.
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 got first place in a national contest, you can’t wallow in self-doubt that you’re not good enough. Take this comparing energy and move it toward creating energy. Your time will come. Get back into your chair and create! Oh, and while you’re there create some good karma and congratulate your friend.
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 who gets paid to write?
- 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? And if you want to be a freelance writer, are you keeping track of all of the publications you’re pitching to? 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, miscellaneous expenses and any income you’ve earned from writing.
Invest in yourself with a good laptop, and attend conferences, classes/workshops to keep developing professionally as a writer. Consider packing your carry-on to fly to an out-of-state conference! I did this when I attended the Iowa Summer Writing Festival back in 2007 and it was the single-best decision for my career. 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 that include your photo, website/blog, email and phone number.
- Pay a professional photographer to create your author headshot.
- 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 critique 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 ease away as your creative muscles grow strong as you reach author rock star-dom!
Alice Osborn’s past educational (MA in English, NCSU and BS in Finance, VA Tech) and work experience is unusually varied, and it now feeds her work as a poet-singer/songwriter, book coach and editor of Wake Living magazine. In the past decade, Alice has taught writing workshops to thousands of aspiring fiction and memoir authors of nearly all ages from 9 to 90 both around the corner and across continents. Heroes without Capes is her most recent collection of poetry. Previous collections are After the Steaming Stops and Unfinished Projects. Alice is also the editor of the anthologies Tattoos and Creatures of Habitat, both from Main Street Rag. A North Carolina Writers’ Network and NC Songwriters Co-op board member and a Pushcart Prize nominee her work has appeared in the News and Observer, The Broad River Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Soundings Review and in numerous journals and anthologies. When she’s not editing or writing, Alice is an Irish dancer who plays guitar and violin. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband, two children, four loud birds and Mr. Nibbles, the guinea pig. Visit Alice’s website at www.aliceosborn.com.