3 Myths Holding You Back From Your Best Writing

3 Myths Holding You Back From Your Best Writing

The odds are, if you publish your best writing, you want people to read your work. Seems like a reasonable assumption. I mean, if we don’t care if anyone’s reading our work, then we should stick to personal journals hidden under our pillows.

You can hide your work if you want to, and if you hide your work you’ll never let yourself down. But if you’re interested in getting your work noticed, don’t fall for the myths presented here.

Here’s the thing, a lot of us (and I mean a lot) who start out writing, blogging, and publishing, go through the torturous phase of worrying about why “no one is paying attention to me.”

In other words, we’re writing our hearts out, giving everything we’ve got, and putting ourselves out there on the world’s grandest stage (the Internet)… and no one seems to care.

Crickets.

What to Do When No One Is Reading Your Best Writing

I’ve been there and if I’m being honest, it sucks.

Every writer eventually comes to a crossroads, and when we reach it we have to make a decision. Nothing short of your writing future is at stake. Either we decide to stop writing, or we decide to press on and do whatever we need to improve, such as:

1. Take a blogging / writing course.

2. Hire a mentor / coach.

3. Follow and learn from the best blogs / writers in your niche. (This is the easiest, and everyone should be doing it.)

4. Hone your focus.

Or, as most people do, we try to avoid the decision and do something in the middle, and it’s this middle ground that is the most dangerous, because it can be worse than merely quitting. The middle is where people lower their expectations and their standards. As a result, their passion for writing begins to die a torturous death.

Is Your Best Writing Stuck in “the Middle”?

The middle is where artists, like you and me, begin to tell ourselves it’s okay not to attract an audience and not to be noticed. It’s okay that no one seems to care. And you know what? We don’t need them anyway. After all, we need to be true to ourselves, and if we’re not true to ourselves, then we shouldn’t be doing this. Right?

But, unfortunately, the middle is not where people stay true to themselves. It’s quite the opposite, in fact, and the longer one stays in the middle mindset (which is what it is, a mindset), the more likely that lowered expectations and giving less than we’ve got will become our new normal.

You don’t want to be in the middle.

Walk on road, hmmmmmm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later get squished just like grape. —Mr. Miyagi, Karate Kid

Mr Miyagi Karate Kid

You don’t ever want to tell yourself it’s okay that no one reads or cares about your work.

It’s not okay.

When you come to the crossroads, it’s a call to arms. It means it’s time to up your game, become a better writer, and earn the attention your work deserves.

We’re all better than we think we are, and we all have much more to offer than we think we do. And just when you think it’s time to give up and go home, that my friends is when you’ve reached the crossroads.

Whatever you do, don’t fall for the three most common myths holding you back from your best writing.

3 Most Common Myths Holding You Back From Your Best Writing

Myth #1: It’s okay to just write for yourself.

(Even though you write publicly on a blog and/or publish books.)

This is a simple, but not so effective myth too many writers believe in to make themselves feel better about not attracting an audience.

Reality: If you’re not attracting an audience then you need to do something, change something, learn something, or be more audacious or less audacious.

Whatever you do, don’t shrug your shoulders and say it’s okay. You don’t believe that and neither do I. Your writing deserves better.

Myth #2: What works for others should work for you.

This one used to drive me nuts! It’s not true.

Reality: What works for others probably won’t work for you. At least, not the exact same way or with the exact same results. That’s why…

You have to be uniquely you. As with Myth #1, you must find that something that works for you. It can be a variation of things others are doing, but you absolutely must make what you do your own.

How many singing competitions have you watched on TV where the judges tell contestants the cover they performed sounded copycatish? And then the judges follow up telling the artists to make the songs their own. It’s the same concept for writers. Whatever you write about, whether it’s for your blog or your next book, make it your own, make it uniquely yours, and own it.

And that’s how you find your voice. You’ll never find your voice by copying what works for others.

The real question is: What works for you?

Myth #3: Always give readers what they want.

Reality: Take risks and refuse to be predictable. Too many writers are playing it safe and they’re failing.

People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.—Steve Jobs

Stop trying to give readers what you think they want and give them something they don’t know they want. Say what needs to be said. Say what only you can say— the way only you would say it. Be authentic. Stand out.

Your readers don’t want to be pacified, and the odds are if you say what you believe, your readers will respect you for your honesty, even if some disagree with you. And you might be surprised when readers comment, “It’s about time someone said it like it is!”

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.—Henry Ford

And what if you do write something that doesn’t connect and your readers ignore it? Get back to work and keep improving. Your best work is ahead of you. Keep at it. Don’t squander your gift. But remember, say something that matters, not something so watered down that people will nod their heads and then forget about you. Say it with conviction. Be different and then get out of the way.

What can you write that differentiates you from everyone else?

The answer should be obvious. But it’s not, and I don’t know what the answer is for you. Ask yourself, “What do you want to say but would never dare say it for fear of embarrassment and/or shame or because it might make you look bad or cause people to disagree with you?”

Think about it. You’ve got what it takes.

A lot of the times the answer is simple and closer than we think. And sometimes the answer has less to do with what you say and more to do with how you say it.

Earnest Vincent Wright wrote the novel Gadsby which contained over 50,000 words and none of them with the letter E!

Do you know what the most used letter in the English alphabet is? It’s the letter E.

Every other blogger and just about anyone with an opinion can, and probably will, tell you what you should or shouldn’t do to get your writing noticed. But guess what? None of that matters. It’s all about you. Be revolutionary. Be you. And, let me be honest, by no means is writing in public easy. It’s not.

Anyone can start a blog, or write and publish a book, and many thought that’s all they needed to do to get noticed and attract an audience. Now you know it’s not that easy.

Bryan just released a compilation ebook of his top 50 blog articles picked by readers. This has been an excerpt. For today only (March 18, 2015) Bryan is offering The Audacity to be a Writer for $.99 on Amazon!

Tell me your opinion: When was the last time you took a serious risk with your best writing?

 

 

3 Myths Holding You Back From Your Best Writing

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About Bryan Hutchinson | @ADDerWORLD

Bryan Hutchinson is the author of the popular blog for writers Positive Writer. He's just released a stirring new book about overcoming doubt, Writer's Doubt!

Comments

  1. thomas h cullen says

    The entire time, Bryan! That’s why after nearly sixteen months, I still haven’t had even a single agent ask to look at my fiction..

    Being too true to myself, being too eager, to write for the sake of others, and having told a story that’s too good: for doing these, experiencing rejection after rejection for the past year and a half has been my price to pay.

    They’re principled, the rules you just set out, but they apply in reality only to those who’ve achieved just so far: to final achievers, being those who’ve exceeded the status quo (which is what the status quo is, including the publishing industry: an in-between checkpoint), they’re rendered invalid.

    • Hi here you, Thomas. Loud and clear. It took me 6 years to find an agent who would represent me. It’s a lot of work and there will be times when you want to give up, I know I wanted to. 16 months seems like a long time, but when it comes to finding an agent or a publisher, you’ll find that’s not very long at all. However, I get it, there are some who land an agent with the first submission. Ah, I wish I was one of them…. sigh.

      • hear

        • thomas h cullen says

          Your reply is welcomed; I feel compelled to stress this point, however.. 16 months is always a long time, relative to any context.

          In my Hotmail box, currently, I have a query response that’s yet to be opened (from a Cara Mannion): without having looked at it, I already know the answer’s going to be a “no”, in the form of the fiction not being “a fit for her agency”.

          Even without my history of experiences, I’d still be able to expect this outcome. ..How?

          Because accepting The Representative is to mean accepting the contradiction that it is to accept The Representative.

          To its highest level, The Representative takes narrative power, yet for accomplishing this must suffer therefore the most cruelly ironic twist of fate: being able to exist on only the outside.

    • Bryan, when you say, “They’re principled, the rules you just set out, but they apply in reality only to those who’ve achieved just so far: to final achievers,” it reveals a common belief that many, if not most people have.

      That is, most people view success as achieving an endpoint. I.e., when you publish your first novel, then you’re a success. Or when your novel gets a certain number of reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, then you’re a success.

      But the fact is that being successful is not an end goal: it is a series of actions that one successfully engages in: writing 5,000 words a day, for example.

      This is what true success is: the process, not the result. Here’s a post from James Clear that expresses the point rather eloquently: http://jamesclear.com/treasure-hunt

  2. K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

    Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Bryan!

  3. Carleen M. Tjader says

    This was a great post-thank you!

  4. Pretty helpful post, thank you! 🙂 K.M. Weiland, I just wanted to say I’ve been really enjoying your Story Structure Database and am wondering if you are going to be adding any YA books to it in the future.
    As I write YA this would be very helpful. Thank you!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Glad you enjoyed Bryan’s post! And I’m super glad you’re enjoying the Database! The selection of books in the Database will ultimately depend on my own reading habits (which feature a small percentage of YA) and the reading habits of anyone else who contributes. So I can’t promise anything, but you never know what will show up! Eventually, I hope we’ll have enough contributors so that the Database will allow you to find pretty much any popular book you’re searching for.

  5. I gotta admit… you threw me on this, especially with myth #1. I feel there is a bit of contradiction in your belief of that in particular. You in fact told me it is indeed okay to write for yourself of which I was opposed to.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      You may not have noticed this is a guest post by Bryan Hutchinson. He presents an absolutely valid viewpoint on this, but it’s true I do hold a different view on Myth #1. I believe writing for yourself is a tremendously rewarding and valuable perspective. However, I think what Bryan is really angling at here is that we shouldn’t use this as an *excuse* to hold ourselves back if we really do want to write for others as well.

    • Hi Jerry,

      This can be a confusing one, because even I agree it is a good practice to write for one’s self. A journal is a good place for that and sometimes it is okay on one’s blog, but ultimately, when we’re writing in public and we’re trying to attract an audience we need to take our readers into consideration and find a middle ground of writing for ourselves and writing for our audience.

      • OUCH.
        I found this post a little bit painful — it hit me in a couple weak spots. So, thank you, your words were tremendously inspiring (in a kick-in-the-pants kind of way) and helpful.
        I like the thought that “writing for yourself” and publishing books is an oxymoron. If you want to be read, be read. If you want to journal privately, journal privately.
        Also, the question “What would you want to say but…?” struck home with me when I read it. I need to take some time to think about that one.
        Thanks again for posting.

        P.S. 50,000 words without the letter E????? My brain is having trouble wrapping around that one.

  6. Blogs about writing hold me back the most. I’m sorry, but it’s true.
    I love to read about writing, but nothing gets done that way.
    Sometimes, we need to trust ourselves and write. You can’t edit an empty page.

  7. Glad to hear someone knock these myths around. The problem is probably bigger than we think. Conventional wisdom is a killer. Who willingly risks destroying the belief systems we live by? Only heroes, I guess. Not many heroes around, which is why your advice is so compelling. But living heroically is the only way to live. This is everyone’s dilemma, yes? Keep knocking things around, Bryan. Cheers! ~ PJ

  8. Fantastic post!

    I’ve never believed writing for yourself is ok. I mean, fine, you can write for yourself as practice… in preparation to write in public. But I think the ultimate goal is always to sharing what you write or you wouldn’t even think to write it down at all.
    So I ultimately think telling yourself that writing just for you it’s ok, isn’t ok at all.

    The last one is also a very big thing that keeps writers off their goal. I know so many writers that, after failing to get published or to find an agent tell to themselves (and to other) that’s because their work is too personal. That the reason why they don’t get noticed is they’re doing it their own way and nobody like true originality.
    I’ve heard this so many times. “I’m punished because I don’t follow the rules.” Heard it so many times.
    I think here again comes the golden rule: if you are indeed writing for an audience – this means, if you really want to ‘share’ something that’s important to you – then you can’t just do your own thing. The best writers do break the rules, but they do it with a purpose. I think many of the people lamenting as above actually break the rules because they don’t know how to use them effectively and why they exist in the first place.
    To me, breaking the rules is part of what you said, Bryan: it’s being true to yourself. Only we know what we want to say, and to be effective we must know the rules so that we can decide whether they are adequate to tell what we want, and if they aren’t, we have to be able to decide what rules to break and in what way in order to let our own voice out.

    It’s a fine line to walk, I bealive: be yourself, but don’t just do your own thing.

    I do think being true to ourselves is the ultimate rule. I know, it always looks as if following a trend is the best way to get published and to sell, but trends fade away so fast. Your heart is always with you.

    • Absolutely! We can be true to ourselves and write for our audience as well. In fact, I think it’s important to always be true to ourselves regardless who we write for.

  9. Katie–
    All true. Especially “stop trying to give readers what you think they want and give them what they don’t know they want.” It should go without saying that all writers must do their best–not their sort of OK best–to master craft. But this does not apply to writing-to-market exercises in duplicating what a thousand others have already done.

    • Hallelujah! Thanks for underlining that, Barry. I’m quite up to ‘here’ with the dumbing down going on in the writoblogsphere. Cheers.

    • The thing is, when we’re fortunate enough to give readers what they don’t know they want and they end up truly wanting it… well, that’s magic. It’s every writer’s dream. To connect. 🙂

  10. Regarding myth #1, I wonder if there’s some confusion because we interpret the meaning behind “I’m writing for myself” differently.

    Sometimes saying “I’m writing for myself” means “I’m being my true self.” Which is good.

    But sometimes people say, “I’m writing for myself” when what they mean is “I’m writing ONLY for myself with no regard to whether or not my writing is effectively conveying my meaning to the reader.” That’s when we save it for the journal. 🙂

    Great post. Bonus points for quoting the Karate Kid. 🙂

  11. I want to start blogging but haven’t done so. Where do you find blogging courses? How do you choose the ones that will help you. Maybe this is a future post.

    Thanks.

  12. Bryan,
    Thank you! And Katie, thank you for hosting him.
    This message is exactly what I need right now. I have two WIP and with both I have hit the -I’ll-never-finish, it’s-not-any-good, and maybe-I-should-just-give-up crossroads. Especially when life keeps overflowing with demands for my time.
    You said, “We’re all better than we think we are, and we all have much more to offer than we think we do. And just when you think it’s time to give up and go home, that my friends is when you’ve reached the crossroads.”
    Thank you for the much needed reminder (I think I’ll write that on a notecard and hang it up by my computer) and helping me identify my location (the crossroads) and get my bearings (press on, don’t give up).
    I know I have been given something to say and a unique way to say it. To settle for the middle or just give up is NOT an option.
    blessings,

  13. The advice I’ve been receiving, which is perhaps not too hot in light of what you’ve written, is that I *should* be writing only for myself, because the chances are it will only ever be a hobby. I’ve been told that having your sights set on being a professional writer is a recipe for an unfulfilled life, because for the vast majority of people this dream will, indeed, remain unfulfilled.
    So what you’re saying is that if you only every write for yourself, it’s your own damn fault?
    Ok, I’m motivated. Let’s go.

    • Well, maybe not exactly what I mean, but pretty close! However, writing as a hobby isn’t a bad thing and it does take some pressure off of you if you view it and use it that way, many established authors wrote part time as a hobby while working day jobs.

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