Note: I made a video version of this post too, if that’s more your style. You can find it by clicking here: 3 Mindsets That Made Me a Better Writer – Video Version
As I’m preparing to release my first book, I can’t help but feel both excited and inadequate at the same time. I am new to publishing, relatively new to poetry, and I’ve had to learn as I go. Every step along the way has involved new lessons, and I want to share some of those lessons with you.
Lesson #1: Learn to Take Your Writing Seriously (You can watch Rachel’s video here).
About six months ago, I watched a video series on writing that changed everything for me. It’s by my friend Rachel Starr Thomson, a wonderful non-fiction and fantasy writer. She made a short video series for aspiring writers, and I happened to find it at just the right time. The main message: writing is a gift from God, and if you want to be a writer, you need to take your writing seriously.
Until hearing that message, I dreamed of being a writer but felt too unsure to fully commit to it. I felt inadequate. The only training for being a writer under my belt was a few high school English classes that I took about seven years ago.
I had invested a lot of time into writing but still felt embarrassed about wanting to be a writer – I envisioned others thinking I was a hermit lost in an imaginary world if they found out how much I loved reading and writing. I was afraid of others judging me for my passion and thinking less of me. I was scared of failing, and I had such high standards for myself, but I felt that I would never be good enough to reach them.
I had to admit that I care a lot about writing, so I should start being intentional about it. Instead of only writing when I had the time, I MADE purposeful time to write. Instead of “seeing where it went,” I made plans for where to take it. Instead of hoping I could finish a book, I set a deadline. And when people asked me what I was up to during the week, instead of just saying “work” I started to say, “work, and writing” because that’s the truth of it. I stopped hiding in my fear and started being honest.
Lesson #2: “Your First Book is Probably Going to Suck”
I heard this advice in another video which you can find here (I’ve been learning how to write better via youtube) and although it may seem harsh at first, in reality, it gave me the freedom to fail. It’s really, really hard not to be a perfectionist about what you are creating. Especially if you are creating independently – you get to decide when it’s done, what the final product looks like, etc.
It used to take me hours to write a few paragraphs because I would obsess over every word and fine-tune it until it was perfect. I ended up with a few nice paragraphs, but no books. Barely even a blog post. If I was going to pursue a career of writing, this needed to change. I needed to have the freedom to fail.
When my husband and I were dating, He would ask to read some of my poems, and I would be very selective about what I would let him read. I was too embarrassed, and I thought they weren’t good enough. I told him he could read them when they were “better” or “closer to being finished.” Andrew respected that, but he also said, “You could keep revising forever. At some point, you need to decide that it’s done.”
I knew that my first book was likely not going to be a best-seller. I knew my talents weren’t everything I wanted them to be yet. My knowledge about writing, poetry, and editing, and style was still not what I wanted it to be. But I also knew that I had the freedom to write a book to the best of my ability and to look back on it five years later and say, “Sure, that first book kind of sucked. But I poured my heart into it and I am proud of it.” And I am proud of it.
Goodbye perfectionism, hello having the freedom to fail.
Lesson #3: You Can’t Do Everything
After I’d done the work of writing my book, the task of marketing loomed before me. At first, I bought this lie that I had to become an Instagram celebrity to be a writer. For a very brief and miserable time, I tried to be active on all the social media, but realized that I hated it and that’s not how I’m going to build my career. Maybe that’s how it is normally done, but screw that. I hate Instagram.
I decided that blogs and emails are what I will focus on to build my audience and connect with them. Sure, I have other social media too (I have IG, a website, and I even started a Youtube Channel) but those will only be tools that I use from time to time, I am not going to invest a ton of time into them. There are other ways to sell books than to be an Instagram celebrity.
Maybe it’s bad marketing to not want to use Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok – maybe it will be harder for readers to find me, or maybe it will make me forgettable as an author. But I feel strongly about pushing back against the “Internet Celebrity” culture that we have created. The time spent trying to build an image online can be better invested in writing quality articles, books, and content. I’m a writer, not a photographer/digital curator. I will stay in my lane and do what I do best since I can’t do it all.
Those are the three mindsets that have helped me to become a better writer. I think they apply to all areas of creativity as well!
You can watch a video version of this post here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAkx9DBZE84