It’s one thing to be able to write — but it’s quite another to gain the mindset of a professional author.
Here are six tips that will make the difference between wishing for success and actually achieving your dreams — and being able to hold on to them when they come true!
1. Plan Everything
Being a full-time writer is not like having a normal job. You have no boss telling you what to do and you have no targets your department has to reach. You need to be entirely self-motivated.
When I meet people who are unemployed, I usually ask them what they do all day. When they say ‘nothing much’ I’m stunned. I’d rather they said ‘get stoned a lot, party and play video games’ — at least that’s doing something!
But I understand that self-motivation is a hard discipline to master. It takes dedication and practice. Perhaps we should teach it in school. After all, gainful employment is no longer guaranteed in these days of economic uncertainty.
When you have no-one to answer to except yourself, you need to make lists of things to do, set goals and targets and deliberately create projects that need developing and completing.
You must think like a small business: have plans, great and small, short and long-term. It’s the only way.
2. Commit to Finishing
The difference between being an amateur and a professional is not quitting.
Too many wannabe artists keep stopping in the middle of projects, never to return. Or they start lots of things and finish none.
You often don’t have this luxury when you’re a professional.
Whether you’re inspired or not, driven or not, happy or not, you have to finish the work anyway. Or else you won’t get paid.
The way around this is to plan everything, make lots of notes on upcoming projects, use templates for outlines and know what you’re going to say (write) ahead of time. You also need to know your endings, whether in fiction, nonfiction or articles.
Don’t rely on inspiration.
Set yourself tasks, start small, finish everything you start and, as far as is possible, only work on one major project at a time.
3. Believe In the Impossible
The odds are stacked against you. Ask anyone, the likelihood of an artist achieving financial independence are slim to zero. You need a good workable strategy to compensate.
The trick is to totally believe in the impossible.
In Alice in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts tells Alice: “Try to believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
There’s an element of the profound in this advice. Wannabe Hollywood actors, Olympian athletes in training, even many corporate CEOs and aspiring writers, of course, all have to believe they can do the impossible on a regular basis.
It is not self-deluding or impractical, it’s simply using your value system to serve you. Why shouldn’t you believe in impossible things if it helps you realize a goal that other people think is unrealistic?
Because, let’s face it, without extraordinary belief your task will most likely be impossible anyway.
4. Keep Changing Tack
A yacht doesn’t proceed in a straight line. You inevitably need to adjust the sails to catch the wind. So it is with an artistic career.
Don’t limit yourself to just one direction, or just one project. Diversify, look for new ideas, develop them, promote different aspects of your chosen field.
It’s all about becoming successful — and you might not know where your true success lies.
There’s nothing wrong with trying your hand at all types of writing. You may stumble upon a niche or discipline that will make you rich!
Don’t get stuck in a rut. Winners change tack often. Experiment, try new things and keep looking for the Holy Grail: that thing that will set you free.
5. Strive To Improve
Study your craft. Stay informed. Be open to new thinking and new ideas.
Even after all these years writing, I study grammar, spelling and common word use on a DAILY basis. I love investigating the origins of words. I use dictionaries and thesauri all the time.
Fact is, you can never learn too much about writing. Indeed, the more I write, the more fascinated I become about words and using them.
Read up on other writers too, examine their style, subject matter, and their lives. When you’re feeling down or blocked, there’s nothing more inspiring than discovering an author who’s been there before you — and made it through.
6. Act on Criticism
As painful as criticism gets sometimes, you should always act upon good advice and/or try to remove any reasons for criticism.
Never be afraid or loathe to edit, rework, rewrite or re-imagine any of your writing. Especially if you’re asked to. More especially if you know that you need to do more work on your manuscripts.
You can’t shirk on striving for perfection.
It’s okay to change a book’s direction based on someone else’s input. It’s good to be flexible and open to change based on criticism.
Your writing is a gift to others. It should be well-presented and as perfect as you can get it.
Finally, you should think of yourself as a servant to your fans. Your job is to serve, to be inspiring, and entertaining.
Remember the three Ps: Persist, Persevere, Promote.
Did I leave out patience? Yes, deliberately. Patience is not a virtue anymore. You don’t need to wait for longer than you want. You don’t need publishers or agents anymore. This is the best time in history to go it alone — and do it yourself.
Nobody is going to save you or make you rich and famous.
If you want to be independent and successful, dream, then dream bigger. Then go out and take what you want.
Be the person you want to be.