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You’ve heard the so-called “overnight success” stories—and many authors dream of being the next instant literary sensation. But in most cases, what looks like overnight success may actually take a few decades to attain. If you’re hoping to go the distance with a long, satisfying writing career, be sure to practice these fundamentals in your writing life.
How To Set Yourself Up For A Long, Productive Writing Career
- Write for yourself. People might say things about your writing that you don’t agree with (whether in class, at the dinner table or in a review). Teachers may question your talent. Family members might even say you’re wasting your time. It’s a fact of the literary life: Somebody, somewhere, is not going to like your writing. Don’t let it worry you—what you write has nothing to do with anyone else’s opinion. Write what you want.
- Stay focused on why you write. Hold on to your passion and your creative spark. Stay focused on your reasons for wanting to be a writer to sustain yourself through the toughest hours of your career.
- Set goals and deadlines. If you’re not careful, you might glance in your rearview mirror one day only to see that all the things you meant to do were never actually done. When you identify specific goals—from I will send out a submission this week to I will publish a book by age 50—you’re more likely to achieve them.
- Cultivate a positive outlook. In an industry that is teeming with stories of rejection, resist the temptation to give in to self-pity and pessimism. And if you need a boost of positive energy, check out our e-book, The Happy Writer.
- Build new relationships and don’t neglect your old ones. While that old chestnut—“you have to know someone to get published”—is not true, it does help to nurture positive relationships. Embrace networking. Meet other writers. Chat up editors at writing conferences and pick their brains. Ask to buy your creative writing teacher a cup of coffee. You don’t need a specific reason to get together and discover a great new opportunity or meaningful friendship.
- Know the right way to use a computer. That means standing instead of sitting. And protect your vision by looking away from your screen regularly. Wear glare-reducing glasses, use good posture, and take regular breaks. While it may be tempting to marathon-write, pacing yourself is healthier in the long run.
- Take care of yourself. Don’t underestimate the brain-body connection for a long, creative career. Exercise, eat nourishing food, sleep well, and take time to destress.
- Read, read, read. Never stop loving books and never stop reading them. Reading will inspire you to explore new genres, take deeper emotional journeys, and stay plugged into your world.
- Don’t do it for the money. If you think you’ll make a million dollars as a writer, you might be disappointed. Dollars might let you down. But your stories, your characters, your poems, your words—they never will.
- Prioritize learning. Adapt, grow, and change. Attend a writers conference or join a writing group. Find a mentor. Seek new experiences and take what you can from them.
- Remember: This too shall pass. Sometimes it seems as if everything’s going wrong. Other times, you’ll be on the top of the world. Whatever your situation, remember that it is temporary. Enjoy what you can, and let the rest go with the knowledge that change is bound to happen.