OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
It's my 35th birthday today and so here is a personal post about my lessons learned.
35 seems to be a landmark birthday for me, perhaps bigger than 30 and this blog is extra accountability for me as well as (hopefully) encouragement for you!
- There is time to write, you just have to decide your priorities. People often say they have no time to write. It has to be the most common reason why people don't start or finish writing the book they always wanted to write. 2 years ago I moved to 4 days a week at my day job. That one decision has changed my life. I spent that extra day researching and writing my first book, “How to Enjoy Your Job”, then I started this blog, and then wrote 2 more books, now I am about 1/3 of the way through my first novel. My massive lesson learned is how much difference one day makes. I urge you to consider whether it is worth giving up 20% of your income to achieve your dream.
- You can conquer your demons with affirmation and action. I spent many years believing I wasn't creative, that everyone else in my family was (they are mostly visual artists) but I was the business one, the all-rounder. I also believed that if I wrote a book, it had to be a Booker prize-winning literary fiction novel, critically acclaimed with huge sales. These 2 beliefs held me back from seriously writing for around 20 years (aged 12 to 32). Then I wrote down this affirmation “I am creative, I am an author“. I wrote it on a card and kept it in my pocket. I said it as I walked to the train to go to work and on the way home. After about 4 months, I started my business ‘The Creative Penn' and registered this domain name. It has become a self-fulfilling affirmation and I know now I am creative! Affirmations are not enough though. They need to be paired with action, hence the books, the blog, the podcast and the rest. Creativity comes with effort and persistence as well as the occasional insight from the muse.
- You can write a book. It just takes time and effort. My first non-fiction book took 9 months of nights, weekends and that extra day off. The next 2 only took a few months each. Now I am onto my first novel and it has been 3 months and a long way to go! I'm loving the journey which is important because books take time and effort you could be spending on other things – like your family, a more lucrative business, exercise, social life and much more. I'm not famous (yet!), I'm not rich (yet!) and I don't have a global publishing deal (yet!). But I have written 3 books of around 50,000 words each, edited them many times, self-published them and promoted them. I have learned so so much and still learn every day, hence I never stop blogging. I guess the lesson learned here is that you can write a book, you can achieve your dream – and then you discover the next dream and the next book.
- Writing a novel is much harder than writing a non-fiction book. But it is also more fun! This is a recent learning for me as I started my first novel quite fearfully for NaNoWriMo last November. I was apprehensive about my imagination being lacking or my story being naff. I was becoming crippled with the thought of failure which is a recipe for blockage. Mur Lafferty's podcast “I should be writing” really helped me as Mur gives you permission to suck, and also allows the inevitability of the first novel being pretty crappy (click here for interview with Mur). This released the fear and kick-started me. I then used Tom Evans's wonderful program on Blocks to help me get my first ideas (click here for the interview with Tom). I am now immersed in my novel's world, character building and just alive with ideas. I am loving the process (although some days it is very hard to write). I have 33,000 words and am on track for finishing the novel this year. Who knows where it will go, but I am enjoying the journey!
- Marketing and building an author platform is fun and it works. You might think I am crazy but blogging and networking on Twitter are two of my favorite things to do. I do them for fun! I started this blog to build an audience, just like wannabe authors are meant to do. I did it because I was supposed to, but I had no idea how rewarding it would be. It took about 6 months of blogging to get some traction, some readers and some decent search traffic, but by then I found my stride and now I define myself as a blogger. It is a core part of who I am. I have been on twitter a year now. Again, I joined because I was ‘supposed to' and now it is absolutely my favorite social network. I have met amazing people on Twitter, including most of the people who have appeared on the podcast. Yes, it has driven traffic and sales for me, but more than that, I have made friends all over the world. Brilliant! So don't expect any slow down in my blogging, podcasting and tweeting in 2010!
Please do share your lessons learned about writing and creativity in the comments. Has it taken you 35 years to get this far?!