5 Lessons Learned from a Year of Writing and Publishing
This week I celebrate my first year of actively writing and publishing online :-)
It’s been an exciting ride full of trials & triumphs, meeting new people, making friends. I learned a ton about writing and publishing.
What started out with publishing one short story every month, slowly expanded to blog posts with tips about writing, a podcast, a novel I’m working on and finally, an eBook and Paperback collection of all my short stories.
Every day I get more excited about my journey.
A year is a great time to reflect on what I’ve learned. It’s too much to put in one post (I recommend reading my “How to Side Hustle Your Writing Career” posts. However, I picked my 5 top lessons.
Here they are:
#1: Be Consistent
This is the first lesson, and for good reason. Write every day. Be consistent. Produce.
I’ve noticed that when I write every day, I’m setting myself up to produce something. I am never “lost for words”. I alternate between fiction writing and non-fiction writing. It’s great. My creative muscles (a term coined by James Altucher) keeps growing.
If you write every day, you always have something to post. If you consistently post your work, you will gradually gain new readers. For me this has proven to grow exponentially. A year ago I started with 0 readers. Slowly this increased every month from a couple dozen, to hundreds and now I’m close to hitting 10,000 with Medium and my own website combined. I’m so grateful for that.
However, I do believe that if I didn’t consistently post 2-3 times a week, I wouldn’t have reached those numbers. It won’t happen if you’re not actively working on it.
“It's not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It's what we do consistently.” - Tony Robbins
Make writing a habit. Schedule time for it. Preferably every day at the same time. Mornings and evenings work best for me. I do it right when I wake up and just before I go to bed. I taught myself to produce about 1,000-2,000 words per day. This includes writing on my novel, blogposts and short fiction.
Be consistent in your marketing too. Keep emailing influencers, blogs, other authors. Keep interacting on social media. Comment and clap for people’s Medium posts, like or share people’s tweets, follow people on different outlets, engage. You won’t reach people until you do this.
#2: Plan but Leave Your Options Open
It’s good to set goals for yourself. It will help you stay focused. It acts as a measurement tool.
When I started out, my goal was to write and publish one short story every month. After a couple of months on my journey as a writer, I kept stumbling upon different roads to become a better writer, to come closer to my dream of becoming a full-time writer.
I felt the urge to share what I learned about writing and publishing. I wanted to help other writers who are starting out or finding their way. I found Medium. I got advice from authors and other people I admire. (Thanks Ryan Holiday for the tip to publish everywhere humanly possible and to diversify with my writing). I wrote about mental health, business, writing lessons and of course societal issues in short story form. I started a podcast. I published eBooks.
It’s good to stick to the plan, but leave your options open. You never know where your journey takes you. That’s what’s so exciting to me.
And now a couple of days ago I held my first paperback, written my me! A reason to celebrate. It didn’t appear out of thin air though. It was a lot of work. I figured out all the steps that were required, but now it’s here!!
I would have never thought to be this enthusiastic and consumed by writing a year and a half ago when my idea to start a blog with short stories came to mind.
So, set goals and make plans to attain them. Stay open and on the lookout for other opportunities and side alleys. Who knows where you’re at in a year!
#3: Reach Out
Connect with other writers, connect with your readers, connect with bloggers and influencers. Reach out!
You will never “get there” by yourself. If you want people to read your work, if you want to grow as a writer, you need to connect. Ask for help. Be it someone to proofread your work or to give you advice on how to grow as a writer.
I connect with bloggers and influencers to gain more readers and provide those blogs with content that supplements their messages or themes. It’s hard work, most of the time you don’t get a message back. But hey, it comes with the trade.
I connect with readers because they are the reason why I write. Especially when it comes to sharing what I learned. I remember when I started out and had no clue where to start. Now I have a better idea, how awesome is it to share that? And when someone compliments me on one of my stories is the best feeling in the world. I literally jump up and down sometimes and dance. (Remember to celebrate ;-)).
I connect with other writers. People who inspire me. People whose messages and teachings help me grow on so many levels. Great people like Ryan Holiday, Arianna Huffington, Tom Kuegler, Anthony Moore, Joren van Schaik, Danny Forest and Nicole Akers. I’m so grateful to have connected with these writers, be it brief or long. Thank you :-)
#4: Keep on Learning, Keep on Trying, Keep on Hustling
Not a week goes by in which I haven’t learned something new about writing. It can be through a great article I read on Medium. Through watching “how to” video’s on making a book interior, reading a great novel, reading a book on Grammar and Style, subscribing to webinars, courses, but most of all through writing itself.
I write fiction and non-fiction. Both are completely different and unique in approach, tone of voice or bringing across a messages. I’m glad I tried writing articles about my writing journey and the lessons that I’ve learned. As much as they can help an aspiring writer grow, they help me grow too because I have to reflect on what I’ve learned. About what worked and what didn’t.
I learned how to publish eBooks on Amazon. And now, I’ve learned to publish a paperback too. From designing the cover myself in Photoshop to arranging the interior and everything.
And if I can do it, so can you. We all have the internet at out disposal full of how to articles, video’s, courses and instructions. Best of all, you can do it for free.
I tried many different things. Naturally some things didn’t work out, like getting published in traditional short story magazines (I do keep trying ;-)), building an online merchandise shop with the artwork from my stories, installing a PayPal donate button on my site… the list is long and full of errors. Which is great actually, because then it becomes clear what things you need to focus on and what not.
Grind, hustle, try, make mistakes, learn and pivot. You can do it.
#5: You Are the Head of Marketing
Last but certainly not least, you have to do your own marketing. You have to “sell” yourself, your stories, your blogposts, your podcasts, your books YOURSELF.
Growing your following, approaching influencers, interacting with readers, making social media posts, gathering email subscribers, you are responsible for that.
“If you don’t see any salespeople, you’re the salesperson.” — Peter Thiel
You will not get featured somewhere until you make the ask. Granted, out of 25 emails, there’s only one that’s likely to reply. But if you sent none, you will definitely get 0 replies.
Do the work. It comes with the trade. Study. I’ve repeatedly recommended this book, but it’s the best in terms of getting comfortable with marketing your work as a writer: Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday. Read that book or read the lessons I learned from it.
Build relationships, grow your social media presence, be you in your communication, build a body of work, maintain your relationships, try!
I hope the above lessons I’ve learned will resonate with you too. Writing is both fun and hard. Reaching out and engaging with people can sometimes be intimidating, but highly rewarding too. I know it isn’t easy, but it all comes down to acting upon your dreams and your goals. To consistently work on your writing, to get out of your comfort zone, reach out and enjoy the wonderful journey.
Thank you for reading!
Now I’m going to do something I’ve never explicitly done before, but I’d like for you to check out my book. I’m really happy with the end result and proud of each and every story and illustration.