Updated: Mar 10
The other week I was sitting in my new tax man's office, going through the numbers. In 2018, I spent more money than I made with my business. Thank God for other income.
I didn't even publish a new book. I wrote one, but it's sitting in beta. A third book, a novella about inter-dimensional travel, is 1/5 of the way done and on hold. Most of my costs came from training and a website redesign.
"I've gotta say," my tax man, Jeff, said, "Most business owners put their papers in a mess and just throw them on my desk. Then they're surprised that they've spent more than they've earned. You already knew. I can see you're methodic. You have systems. The people with the systems are the ones I see in the black after their first few years. The ones with the messes give up."
Take note of one word he mentioned: systems.
Every successful person has their own systems. This isn't unique to entrepreneurs, either. You've got systems. Mark Zuckerberg has systems. Stephen King has systems. Each person's methods are unique. No one person operates the same way.
To Jeff's benefit, keeping my tax paperwork in order is my way of preventing my head from spinning like a cartoon meme. From the very start, this was a requirement I made of myself when deciding to publish books and write as a freelancer. Keeping organized was a necessary part of the systems I created for myself.
Now, I did say that everyone has individual systems, but there's a lot of overlap in what makes those systems work. Some of it is just common sense. Here are some examples:
* Eat more of a specific kind of fruit or veggie
* Work out 30 minutes a day whenever possible
* Front-load important tasks by doing them at the beginning of the day
* Learn a skill necessary to do the job
Note that I'm keeping these things simple. It's helpful to think of systems like computer programs. To get from point A to point B, certain requirements have to be met for the program (life) to continue smoothly, without glitches.
This is why it upsets me to see "aspiring" writers go on and on about their goal of becoming a published writer. So few people do the work.
Goals are nice.
Systems are better.
What are you going to do to become a published writer?
When you stop focusing on a lofty goal and start focusing on the actions you need to take to make the thing happen, that's when you truly begin to succeed. When you focus on one thing at a time, you don't have to worry as much about biting off more than you can chew.
Learning story structure is do-able. "I'm going to be a famous author" will weigh on your subconscious and can kill your energy.
Whatever your plan is, it's not always going to go well. Remember that failure takes you one step closer toward success. Anyone who's experienced success in writing has failed horribly, wondering if they'd ever write something worth reading. They didn't get where they are because they had goals. They got there because they had systems.
What systems can you put in place to become a successful writer?
1.) Write. Nora Roberts wrote on her Facebook Page about this recently. Not enough "writers" actually write. Anyone who belongs to a writers' group on social media knows this. The key to success, though? Just do the thing. It takes time to become a better writer.
You can put your other systems in place after this. Who to use as your cover designer, what the cover should be, which agents to contact, how to find beta readers... Those are all details that can wait. You're not spending your energy efficiently if you focus too much on these "down-line" things as a new writer.
If you're a freelancer writer, you might invest in training to learn a specific skill. You might prospect for new business 5-10 times per day. If you have a crappy website, you might want to hire a designer.
If you run into problems, take a look at the rest of your life.
Don't have time to write? Front-load your day. Write in the morning before your family wakes up. I once met someone who uses Swype on the subway to write books. So many pebbles thrown can create a mountain, my friends. Are your energy and creativity suffering? Take a hard look at your health - are you eating well and exercising often enough? If you don't take care of yourself, everything in your life will suffer - not just your writing career.
The excuses we make for not progressing with goals can often be invalidated by taking a close look at the actions we put in place to make them happen. At a certain point, luck gets involved, but you can't get lucky if you don't do the thing.
So DO it.
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