Didn’t get what you want for the holidays? It’s hard for writers, because our dreams are so big. Figuring out how to become a successful writer is no easy task. We want to touch people, change lives, grab readers’ attention on long snowy weekends–and the truth of the matter is that no one can give us the ability to do those things. We can only give them to ourselves.
I am a book coach, and I see firsthand how writers deny themselves the permission to succeed. They do it every day, in ways large and small. Fighting against the tendency is part of the reason writing is so hard. In addition to creating worlds, shaping ideas, and trying to find a way to capture emotion, we have to constantly fight the forces that lead inexorably to failure–which is not, for most writers, defined as failing to make the bestseller list or to make a mint from their books. It’s defined as failure to start, failure to believe in your work enough to persist, failure to find enough time in your day to write, failure to finish, failure to do what needs to be done to give your book a fighting chance.
In my experience, the most powerful tool in this fight against failure is knowledge. That is true whether you are talking about which words to put on the page in which order (specific feedback–knowledge of your own strengths and weaknesses–counteracts doubt), and it is true about the entire act of creativity itself. Knowledge about which part of the process is the most difficult for you, and knowledge about why, may be the very thing you need to guarantee that this is the year you will finish your book and become a successful author.
Figuring Out Your Unique Creative Process
I have developed a list of thirteen steps that every writer must go through in order to write a book and get it into the hands of readers. I call it the Universal Constants of Creativity. The steps don’t necessarily happen in this order for every writer, and some steps represent only a moment, while others can represent years of grueling work. But each step happens and each step is critical.
I have provided a link to this list so you can download it and write on it. Here’s what I suggest you do:
- Read through the list carefully and think hard about the truth of each step in your process. Be honest. The whole point here is to get down to something real.
- Circle the steps you know you tend to get stuck on. Pay particular attention to the steps you may not have reached but that cause you to shake in your shoes.
- Come up with at least two concrete ways to help you get past the roadblocks you have identified.
- Commit to those solutions. Commit to your own success. Commit to making 2015 the year you give yourself permission to become a successful author.
The 13 Universal Constants of Creativity
1. The Initial Spark
The moment an idea comes into your mind and you allow yourself to acknowledge it.
2. Granting Yourself Permission
The moment when you decide that you are going to bring the idea to fruition.
3. A Sense of Faith
A belief that what you are going to create has some kind of meaning.
4. A Clear Intention
You consider your audience, set an objective for how you will delight them
5. Gathering Resources
You gather the materials, skills, tools, and resources you need to get the job done.
You take a stand and make a commitment to this idea, letting all your other brilliant ideas go for now.
You keep going, despite setbacks and despite doubt.
You connect with other artists who speak your language and support your efforts.
You allow yourself to experience the exhilaration of engagement.
You stand back to assess and analyze, and seek the assistance of others who can help you do this.
You shape and refine with ruthless courage.
12. Letting Go
You decide to finish.
13. Public Offering.
You share your creation with the world.
When I present this list to a live class or audience, a dead silence tends to come over the room. People are often stopped cold by the clear knowledge that they have never made a commitment to an idea or that they always deny themselves the joy of immersion. Or they realize in a flash that while they may have mastered dialogue or character development or scene building, they have not paid any attention whatsoever to these underlying forces impeding their creativity. It can be sobering–but it can also be exhilarating. You know now what needs to be done. You know how to give yourself permission to become a successful author!