The following is a chapter from Business for Breakfast, Volume 1: The Beginning Professional Writer.
However, if you’re like most writers (broke!) I will also be posting a chapter a week, so you’ll merely have to have patience to read all twelve chapters.
Writing Comes First
I was in my mid–thirties before I made a serious commitment to my writing.
Oh, I was always writing. And finishing short stories. And sending them to magazines (and getting rejected!).
But in my mid–thirties, something clicked. I found a story (or that story found me) and was dragged into it. I had to write every day. The story demanded it.
Then I found another story. And another.
And I realized that before, while I’d claimed to be a writer, the writing wasn’t that important. Many, many other things came first.
If you want to be a professional writer, the writing must come first.
In this chapter, I talk about some ways to help you put the writing first.
The Early Years
When I first made the commitment to my writing, I felt as though I was being very harsh. I judged everything in my life: the day job, the boyfriend, my other friends, my working out, my cat, everything.
I looked at every piece of my life and asked one simple question:
Does this support the writing?
If so, great!
If not, I jettisoned it.
Then I went through the whole process again, six months later. And again, six months after that.
It was a time of great purging for me. I lost friends. But they weren’t really friends, not if they made fun of my writing, or didn’t understand that I couldn’t go out with them that night because I was writing.
This is tied directly to self–confidence. I hadn’t sold anything. I was still trying to figure out what it meant to be a writer.
But I had the self–confidence to put the writing first. This is why the chapter on self–confidence comes before this one.
You must believe in yourself. A supportive spouse is awesome, particularly one who won’t let you quit after your two–hundredth rejection. But you may not have a spouse. You have to believe in yourself. Do it on your own.
WIBBOW (pronounced “wih–bow”)
Scott William Carter is the one who originated this acronym. It’s a great yardstick for measuring all the other activities that people tell you that you must do, like talking with fans on Facebook, like doing a blog tour, like setting up a signing.
It stands for:
Would I Be Better Off Writing?
There is one piece of marketing that works for all writers, in all genres, to increase sales:
Writing and publishing the next book.
You’ll see a bump in sales of previous books when you release the next book. Particularly in a series. (It’s all part of that slow and steady drops to trickles to streams.)
So when someone asks you to do something, fall back to WIBBOW.
Would I be better off writing the next book, the next chapter, the next story?
It’s less harsh than my original question, but just as important.
Most of the time, when you’ve reached a situation where you have to ask this question, the answer is yes, I would be better off writing.
There are times when the answer is no. For me, I’ve found it has to do with relationships and family. Sometimes someone needs me and it’s better for me to be with them.
Honestly, though, 99% of the time, when I ask myself if I’d be better off writing, the answer is yes.
So how do you make the writing come first? How do you consistently answer yes to WIBBOW?
As I mentioned before, you have to have some level of self–confidence. Your writing is important to you. You are important to you. So put it first.
What does that mean?
Turn off the TV. I got rid of my TV years ago. When I want to watch something, I can always watch it on my computer.
Remember—you are a creator of content. Consuming content is not creating.
Stop reading blogs. I will admit that I still get sucked into reading a lot of blogs, tech blogs and business blogs and writing blogs. I’ve had to purge my reader more than once as I pick up more and more.
Get off Facebook and social media. I know, I know. It’s a party out there, and you’re afraid you’re going to miss something.
In a year from now, when you look back, would you have rather watched the latest viral video ten times or written another novel?
Negotiate time for yourself. If you’re living with someone, you need to communicate with them about your needs. They can’t support you if they don’t know that you need this time to write. Don’t get angry at them for disturbing you if you haven’t explained just how important this time is.
This can include negotiating with your boss at your day job as well. As far as my day job was concerned, I had a “life conflict” early in the morning, every morning, and couldn’t attend early–morning meetings. The boss doesn’t need to know that’s your writing time—make up a story about kids or your spouse or your parents or what have you. (Unless you have a supportive boss, which is awesome.)
Get a different job. Seriously, if you’re working sixty–plus hours a week and are having difficulty writing because you’re mentally exhausted all the time, find a different job. I know that’s difficult. It isn’t impossible.
How badly do you want to write? How strong is your hunger?
I negotiated a thirty–hour–a–week job for the day job, taking a pay cut, so I could write in the mornings.
The writing comes first.
Here are the three things you need to remember about the writing:
- The writing comes first. Jettison those things that don’t support that.
- WIBBOW. Would I be better off writing? Most of the times, the answer is yes.
- Purge what you can so when you look back in a year, you’ll have another novel, not a bunch of Facebook “friends.”