No matter where you are in your journey as a writer, one thing is true: it’s a hard road. Every writer faces a hard path. The more you want from writing (for instance, to earn enough to pay your bills and make time to write more?) the more treacherous the obstacles in your path.
I’m talking treacherous, like a steaming locomotive racing towards a heroine tied to the tracks, or henchmen lying in wait to overpower a hero!
No matter how daring your protagonist, no matter how fiendish the danger you’ve created for him to overcome, there is something that can foul your own plans to ensnare the reader in your story at every turn!
Authors, musicians, actors, athletes, anyone at the pinnacle of their profession all have to face their demons: self-doubt, fear, panic…laziness. Everyone that wants something bad enough will find a way to overcome all those things, and more, to reach their goal.
How *do* you get past your fear, or preserve your dedication to write regularly and often? Especially in the face of disbelieving friends and family, job and home responsibilities and distractions like social media, apps on your phone or computer, or friends tempting you AFK?
You have to discover your powers -your talents- hone them and believe in them, starting long before the characters in your stories will ever enthrall a reader, best a villain and save the day.
What do you have to do to make it as a writer?
*Be a superhero*
A writer needs to believe -and remind him or herself- that inside them are stories worth telling. That their stories MATTER. A writer needs to set a course towards a platform from which he can tell those stories-whether that be a blog, magazine, self published ebook or dream-contract with a traditional publisher.
*Keep your Secret Identity*
No, this doesn’t mean hide your writing. Sometimes a writer has to keep a job spitting out other people’s words by day, and fight the crime of bad plotting and characterization by night. That can be a struggle when you don’t fully buy what ‘the day job’ is selling but: don’t quit your day job.
Even Spidey snapped pictures for the Bugle!
Hold on, there’s more to this ‘secret identity’ thing: Sometimes a writer has to fight against other people. People who use words like ‘it’s not good enough’ or ‘you are wasting your time’! A writer has to fight twice as hard against these external ‘Big Bads’, because we hear the same doubts in our heads too… and because there will always be more who doubt we can win the marathon than will support us all the way to the finish line.
Those doubts are our kryptonite: the things that take away our power – if we let it.
Don’t let it.
*Make hard choices*
The heroes in your stories have to remember what they want. That focus is what will lead them to victory. You need the same focus. Schedule your heart out, so your day job and your family won’t suffer, yet still leave a block of time for you to write the words.
Then grab a whip and a chair to deter that boss or family member who wants to take your writing time away, after the deal is struck. Someone (Maybe it’s even you, hmm? Reaching for that xbox controller or TV remote?) will always try to tear you down no matter the alliance you’ve forged.
*Remember what you’re fighting for*
You have something to say, and share. Don’t lose that focus. Green Lantern visualizes what he wants clearly to create his ring-willed creations. Batman gets to the big bad only after he defeats a seemingly endless number of soldiers-and he does it by taking one down at a time, using his training and careful planning.
Decide what you want to do in the long run-say, write a novel- and that will help you choose smaller goals that will get you there. These smaller steps may be a daily word count, or editing a manuscript to send out the door.
*Learn to walk, then run, then fly*
That’s your battle: choose goals, knock them down and set new ones. Pick a short story developing believable characters this week, a short story focusing on pacing next week, a novella dedicated to experimenting with components of a mystery plot or young adult story after that.
Once you can leap tall buildings of paperwork and chores around the house to make it to your keyboard? Keep it up. Those muscles will atrophy if you don’t.
Ditto your imagination: if you don’t try new things, it only gets harder to try them later. Pull out all the stops, and let something crazy happen. MacGyver a solution no one’s tried before!
So let’s say you’ve vanquished the time-stealing villains, buried your head-gremlins in a box, and finally meet the goal of the day! Or, you visualized writing the end of your chapter, or the end of your novel, and now it’s done!
One day, if not already, you’ll turn around and see you’ve written a complete story! Now what? Remember what Mr. Miyagi told the Karate Kid (yes, the original one!): Wax on, wax off.
Yes, that’s right: you celebrate your victory, then you start all over again. Set new goals or, if you think it important, change the next goal in the chain you’ve planned to reach your ultimate goal (another novel, a podcast, submitting each week to pro magazines or e-publishing something).
The little goals, the daily, and weekly victories, are the ways you conclude your journeys and start new ones. All those little battles sharpen up your superpowers to help you reach your ultimate goal. For me, that’s being a full-time writer.
*Live by the superhero code*
A writer needs to live by a samurai code, a bushido governing your behavior in every little thing you do.
You only get a coke after so much exercise.
You only play a video game after writing so many words.
You only take a night off from your word-count after finishing a story, or submitting your third manuscript, or finished formatting your next ebook!
*With super-power comes super-responsibility*
Your power is writing. Believe it.
Superheroes pick their battles, and they pick their words carefully. Even Iron Man wouldn’t swear in front of a kid (okay, maybe the Robert Downey version would, but he’d apologize after!).
A writer who wants to go pro, or full-time, or hit some other meaningful goal needs to live in the writing world and develop a reputation for reliability.
It’s called professionalism. Model your actions to match your promises and support your goals: the Lone Ranger wears a white hat, and he acts like a ‘white hat’. He doesn’t spit and he doesn’t swear, doesn’t kick his dog and always stops to save the family from the scoundrels even if something better is waiting for him.
Your mode of interaction with people who read your work. Your code of ethics. Your words in and out of your narrative. Your stories and your communication with other writing professionals and readers. All these things have to be reliable, consistent and positive.
Always be professional, even on bad days, when the super-villainy of life has you down. That’s the mark of someone who will endure, and other people will notice when you take the high road, and sometime later they may be ready and willing to help you on your hero’s journey.
Someday, somehow, keeping your cool and turning the other cheek will pay off, trust me–even if it takes years before you see the fruits of your work. Always strive not to get any dirt on your costume. You might not even be asked to help with the derring-do and the dynamic rescues, if all people can see is the dirt you rolled around in.
*Respect your origin story*
Every success makes it harder to remember how to fight the good fight, or how far you’ve come. Booster Gold wanted to be a superhero so bad, he’d take money and spout corporate slogans. Captain Hammer didn’t get that super-strength isn’t what makes you a hero.
We’ve all read stories about the little guy who fights his way to the top, and then fails to honor the code and the people who got them there. That’s usually the end for the hero, or the beginning of a long, painful journey of rediscovery. Don’t let success go to your head. Keep setting up goals, and keep giving props to the support system: family, writer’s groups, peers and people who pay for your work!
*Challenge the Unknown!*
The greatest heroes will defend others even when the odds are against them. Red-shirts can see what color their tunics are but they still step on the transporter pad! You have to do the same: you have to take risks.
When you’ve found a small piece of success, work past the comfort zone it affords you: keep taking chances with your words, keep working with people asking for the kind of help you once needed, and fight hard to share your precious time.
Some of the greatest superheros in the world are the volunteers who run into burning buildings, hold back floods or rebuild homes after tragedies. You don’t have to do anything so grandiose to be a hero. Someday, someone will come to you asking for a favor. To you it will mean little, and to them it will mean much.
If they are honest, genuine and passionate, do it. Help them out.
Finally, don’t only be brave with your time. Be brave when you type out new words. Let ’em rip, wild and unedited. Be you a discovery writer or outliner, follow slim chances, see what pays of when you bet long odds. Originality and opportunity are hiding in the weeds, like the last piece of a puzzle you need to level up your powers as a writer!
Here’s where the superhero proves himself best: when he takes on a fight he doesn’t know he can win. Be that hero! Take a leap of faith -faith in the super-powers of your imagination- and see where you land.
To me, that’s the greatest part of being a writer.
Do you believe in your words? Do you have a need to share them? Do you want to make a life as a writer? Jump in the trenches. Fight the good fight and I’ll see you in battle, true believers!
I’m John Mierau: a husband, father, dog-walker and writer.
I strive to bring you crazy adventures in impossible places, filled
with admirable and despicable people, and equal parts humor and
wierdness. I sells some, and give some away as podcasts.
I’m fascinated by social media & net culture, and believe learning
about things you love, or need to tear down to understand, makes you
]If I said something that made you a creator yourself, that would be
nice… Hopefully I entertain, make you think and get you coming back to
ServingWorlds.com for more!
END OF SELF-AGGRANDIZING BIO (grin)
My most YA story for sale on Kindle is Mountain Challenge
My website is http://ServingWorlds.com