Recently, I signed up for the Self-PublishingSuccess Summit, which was on from June 12-22nd, put together by the Self-Publishing School. It was quite intense, with four sessions a day, and while I didn’t have the time to watch all of the talks, and many of them were more advanced (dealing with setting up a non-fiction business, and I am not there yet), it was still very inspiring and packed with information.
The summit was broken into three phases: writing, marketing and monetizing. Most of the sessions were geared towards writing and publishing non-fiction books, but much of the advice, especially in phase 1, was applicable to fiction writers as well. I took tons of notes and in this post, I thought I would just highlight a few things I learned that I am hoping to apply to my own writing, and will be applicable to anyone writing their first (or even fifth) book.
1. Don’t Wait For Inspiration
Ray Edwards talked about writing everyday on a schedule, without waiting for inspiration to strike. But then again, some days you’re on a roll, and the writing is flowing. On those occasions, he cancels his other appointments and keeps going. This is something that I need to learn, because whenever it happens to me, I simply get annoyed, do whatever else I needed to do (usually keep an appointment of some sort) and feel upset because the feeling of flow didn’t come back the next time I sat down to write. It’s probably better for me to get the writing done when its going well, and disappoint some people, than not get it done and just be permanently cranky.
2. Have A Writing Routine
Almost all of the writers talked about having a routine, and many of them woke up early just to write, or wrote as soon as they woke up. Eileen Wilder woke up at 4.30am to go to the gym, and then came home and wrote for 90 minutes till her kids got up. Jay Papasan mentioned that many authors write in the morning because that is when our willpower is strongest, and also once you are done, you get this feeling of having won first thing in the morning.
3. Try Dictating Your Book
Both Ray Edwards and Lisa Nichols extolled the benefits of dictation. For Ray, dictation allowed him to get the book’s first draft done that much quicker. Lisa, on the other hand, as a seasoned public speaker, was much more comfortable “writing” when she was speaking, because she didn’t find herself getting hung up on grammar and getting it perfect, and could focus instead on what she really wanted to say.
4. Focus Deeply When Writing
Writing is a task that requires a lot of concentration, and it becomes much harder to do, and to do well, when we are constantly being distracted or interrupted. Cal Newport spoke of the importance of practicing the skill of concentrating on a task, which gets easier the more we do it. Conversely, the more we switch from one task to the other, checking our phone while simultaneously opening the browser to quickly check email and then switching back to the book, we make it harder for our minds to learn to concentrate on one task. The writing takes us longer by this method, and is of poorer quality.
5. Have a System to Save Your Research
Michael Hyatt mentioned this point, that it is really important to ensure that all your research is safe in one location, when you sit down to write. His preferred method - Evernote. Joanna Penn in her talk said she uses Scrivener’s research section to save all the relevant research for a book. No matter what actual method you use, it is important to make sure everything is in one place. This is something that sounds obvious, but until I heard this I realized that I had actually got my research scattered around, and often forgot to check one of the places for the content I was looking for.
6. Make an Appointment With Yourself to Write
Jay Papasan (whose talk I loved) talked about the importance of time blocking and making appointments with yourself. Most of us tend to make appointments for other people’s priorities, or for things like doctor’s appointments, and we are pretty good at keeping them. But when we decide to take on a project like writing a book, somehow we imagine that we will do it in the small spaces of time around our day, and then are surprised when it doesn’t happen. Jay’s solution: block out the time you need to write and make an appointment with yourself to get it done.
7. Creativity is a Muscle
Joanna Penn talked about how when she started out she wasn’t sure she could write fiction, or whether she would run out of ideas. But then she discovered that creativity is a muscle, and the more you use it, the better you get, the more ideas you get. Ask yourself what you’re really curious about, and if you run out of ideas, do more research.
8. Act Like a Writer
Jeff Goins talked about the mindset of writing. Some people have rules - you aren’t a writer till you have 3 books published, or something similar. In his opinion, you’re a writer if you act like one. You decide when to call yourself a writer, not someone else. This really resonated with me, because some months when I haven’t been writing as much, I hesitate to tell people I am a writer. Or when I am feeling down about my book sales, I think, I can only say I am a writer when I have shown success as a writer. But the key is that you get to choose, and take action based on your choice.
There were lots more useful tips and advice that I learned - generally it was very motivating to hear so many successful authors share their journey, and I realized how many of them made mistakes, battled self-doubt and just kept going despite things not being easy. I realized one thing most of them, if not all the authors interviewed had in common, they made writing the book a priority, realized that it wouldn’t get done without some kind of system and plan, and then followed the plan till it was done.
I was really inspired by many of the talks during the summit, and even though I couldn’t watch them all, I am really glad I made the time to watch the ones I did, and I am grateful for Chandler Bolt and the Self-Publishing School for putting it together.
What advice for writing have you read or heard lately that has inspired you?