What Do You Want From Your Writing?
When I was a kid, we had a family doctor. He was the medical jack-of-all-trades. He was the guy you end to first when you had questions.
He didn’t have all the answers, but he knew people who did. At the very least, he knew where to start.
That’s the key to success in anything.
You don’t have to know it all to start. In fact, you may not have to know much at all. And if there was only one thing you needed — something so indispensable that if you miss it, you miss everything — what would that one thing be?
Begin with the end in mind
It’s been decades since I read Stephen Covey’s classic 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
The one habit that will make all your dreams come true is “begin with the end in mind.”
This is what people mean when they tell you to work backward. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than planning a trip.
You start with a destination. Where do I want to go?
You don’t say, “I guess I’ll head to South Florida and see where I end up.”
Instead, you say, “I’m going to the Keys to fish and bask in the sun on those white sandy beaches.”
You’ll pick a particular place to stay so you won’t have to worry about sleeping on the beach (or the street). You’ll decide how long you’ll stay there. And you’ll even put a particular week on the calendar so no other plans will steal this time from you.
If you want to establish your voice as a writer, plan your journey.
You already know where you want to go
You’ve spent your life getting interested in things.
When you go on vacation, do you visit the mountains, the beach, or a big city?
When you rest, how do you spend your time? What TV programs do you watch? What books are you reading? What conversations are you having?
All these things are clues to your calling.
If you want to succeed, honor the natural tugs your heart feels. There’s a mission in there that will help you make the world a better place.
Start before you’re ready
When I learned to ride a bike, my dad walked behind me for a while. But as I got better, he let go of the seat and let me discover the joy of riding for myself.
I didn’t know he had let go. I just kept pedaling and found my balance.
I started with training wheels. But the nature of training wheels is that they’re temporary. Use them, but don’t leave them on forever. Build your strength with them, then throw them away.
When I learned how to swim, my instructor took me on his back for the first few laps. Then suddenly, he moved out from under me and left me to figure out how to survive.
Then everything I learned made sense.
You are built to fly. You just have to learn to flap your wings first.
Sure, you might crash into a cliff if you’re not paying attention.
But as you soar across the sky, you’ll be in awe of what the world has to offer.
You start by showing one other person how to fly.
Will you do it wrong sometimes?
Only if you’re human.
Schools scare us into perfectionism when they grade our work. What if I get it wrong? The teacher will put a big ugly red mark on my paper. If I make too many mistakes, I’ll fail. I’ll feel ashamed. And I’ll lose all my friends because they’ll move forward and leave me behind.
That’s a lot of weight for a kid to carry.
It’s devastating to adults, too.
The truth is we fail every day in some way. How do you see it when it happens? As a wall that stands between you and what you want? Or a crossroads where you pause and think about what to do next?
You can turn around or find a detour.
It’s your choice.
Detours aren’t the end. They’re movement. Better to move forward than retreat.
You build your writing career (or any other kind) one block at a time.
Your next pitch
Success comes when preparation meets opportunity.
You know what you can do best. Find someone who wants what you have to offer, and start a conversation.
Notice I didn’t say need.
People don’t buy what they need.
People need life insurance, but they want to go on vacation instead.
People need to save money, but they’d rather eat out every weekend.
You might want to read a book, but you watch a movie instead.
To sell what you offer, frame it in terms of what people want.
Most of us want:
- Status — to be seen as somebody valuable.
- Affiliation — to be part of a community that is doing something great.
- Success — we don’t just want to survive. We want to thrive!
Can you frame your offer in those terms? Make it about them and they’ll listen.
And one more thing…
Be a specialist. While its appealing to be a general practitioner, you won’t stand out as a jack of all trades. Be the best at one or a few things, and it will make all the difference in how they see you — and how they pay you.