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Being a hobby writer and being a pro writer are two totally different things. Although they go together as we all start out as amateurs and hobbyists before crossing over to that pro writer world.
But if you want to go from being a hobby writer to being a pro writer (aka: making money from your writing), there are several transitional steps you need to take.
I wrote a guest post for the Huffington Post sharing my top 5 tips for going from hobby writer to pro. The very first tip of which is: Work On Your Mindset
Wait, what? Did I just say “work on your mindset”?
Because mindset is everything. Especially when you want to do something at a professional level.
The professional level requires a different mindset than the hobby level. In the hobby level, it’s OK to be half-committed or to not care if you only do your writing once a week or once a month.
The pro level requires you to go all in. To be fully committed to showing up every day and doing the work. And this all begins in your mind.
When you create a success mindset, you’ll be in a better place to take the actions needed to go pro.
What are you going to do to begin moving from hobby writer to pro?
I presented a 4-day novel development intensive alongside my mentor and story coach, Larry Brooks on April 3-7. This epic event was known as Your Story On Steroids. Twenty-six students showed up to the event, ready to learn, improve and grow.
But I think it was me who transformed the most. (Although we did end up changing a lot of writer’s lives too.)
Because as the days rolled on, I realized something: there are writers out there who are willing to bet on themselves and willing to step up and invest in the education and support they need to be successful. There are writers out there willing to be totally unstoppable and do whatever it takes.
There are writers out there who are open to learning and getting feedback and actually using that feedback to improve their stories.
From the interactions with participants and having the incredible opportunity to work with and learn from Larry Brooks, I grew as a student of story and as a story coach.
“Act from, not towards”–Kat Loterzo
When you think about what it is you really want for your writing life (and your life, in general), you probably think about what you want to move towards. You want to be a bestselling novelist. You want to finish writing and publish your book. You dream of seeing your novel turned into a movie.
But where you’re making a huge mistake is in what you’re focusing on. You don’t want to focus toward, you want to focus from. Let me explain.
When you have a goal you’re trying to reach, you’re often thinking about what you need to do to move closer to it. What steps or actions you need to take.
But doing that will keep you on the chase, constantly striving but never actually arriving.
And the reason is because you’re taking action TOWARD the goal, rather than FROM the goal.
When you take action from a place of already having what you want (even if you don’t yet have it), you send a powerful message to the Universe: I believe that what I want is mine. From this place, it’s impossible for what you want to not come to life.
Yes, impossible. And I never say things like that because nothing is impossible.
But this is.
Because acting as if is the key to bringing your dreams to life.
When you act from a place of already having what you want, you will start to see it manifest in your reality, and faster than you can imagine at this point.
I’m all about examples to illustrate a point, so here’s an example of the difference between acting from having already achieved a goal versus acting toward a goal. The goal? Being a bestselling novelist.
When you’re acting toward that goal, here are some of the actions you’d likely take:
But when you’re acting from already having achieved that goal, here are some of the actions you’d likely take:
See the difference?
One version is taking actions that feel generic and uninspired. The other is coming from a place of knowing that you’ve already achieved your goal, so every action you do take feels inspiring and intuitive.
Alright, so maybe you’re not seeing much of a difference. Maybe we need another example that’s more specific.
Let’s say your goal is to get 5,000 people on your email list.
When you’re acting toward that goal, you might:
When you’re acting from already having 5,000 people on your list, you would:
See the difference?
The first version is taking action toward the goal, and the second is acting as if the goal is already done and you already have 5,000 people on your list.
The whole point here is energy. When you show up with the energy of “I have to work hard to reach my goal,” you’ll feel uninspired and make excuses for why you’re not consistently taking action. But when you show up with the energy of “I have already achieved this goal,” it feels totally different. It feels inspiring and motivating and you’ll be more consistent with your actions.
When it comes down to it, it’s all about the energy you put into what you do. So stop taking actions toward your writing goal, and instead take actions from already having reached it. See what happens.
How can you start acting FROM already having your writing goal?
When it comes to getting what you want–in life and in your writing–it all really comes down to two things. Two little things that can make or break you. Two things that will determine exactly how successful you’re going to be.
Those two things are: your priorities and your habits.
Your priorities and habits are your keys to success. If your habits are supportive of your goals and your priorities are aligned with your writing dreams, there’s no stopping you. You are set up for inevitable success.
But if your habits are sabotaging your goals and your priorities are totally out of whack, guess what? You’ll never get where you want to go with your writing. Not ever.
Never. (And I never say never, but I’m saying it.)
It’s impossible to reach the level of success as a writer that you dream of if you don’t align your habits and priorities with your dreams. It can’t happen.
And the reason it can’t happen is because you won’t be taking the actions you need to take or making the choices you need to make to get to your dream writing life, because your habits and priorities are not working.
This was something I had to personally look at recently, as I take my writing career to the next level. I did a journal exercise the other day that was insanely eye-opening.
It can be scary to flesh it all out on paper and see it written down. Because then you can’t not look at it.
Sometimes it even seems easier not to look at it. To just live your life, never taking a minute to look at what you want and where you’re at, to see if it’s matching up (hint: if you don’t already have what you want, it’s not).
I avoided it for a long time… until I realized I had to look at it. I had to write down what I want, and then make a list of my current habits and priorities, to see if it was a match.
And, well, what I found did’t come as a huge shock: my priorities and habits don’t totally align with where I want to go with my life, my writing and my business.
For example, in my “what I want” list, I wrote down that I want “to be healthy and fit.” But when I look at my habits and priorities, they don’t align with that goal. Right now I don’t exercise regularly and I’ve fallen into a bad habit again of eating a lot of junk food.
If I say what I want is to be healthy and fit, you can clearly see that will never happen with the habits I have in place currently. Instead, I need to have habits that support the goal, such as doing 30 minutes of movement every day, no exception, and eating a 90/10 balance–90 percent healthy, 10 percent whatever I want.
Habits like that would support my goal of being healthy and fit.
So, now it’s time to turn the spotlight on your writing priorities and habits. The only way you can make a change is to see where you’re at and where you want to be, to determine the gap and what your next steps are.
Grab your journal or notebook. Set a timer for 10 minutes and go to town writing down exactly what you want for your writing life. What does your dream writing life look like?
For example, mine has me publishing a minimum of two books a year, having my books turned into movies, being a multi-bestselling author, and having millions of readers all over the world.
Once the timer goes off, flip to another page (or even at the bottom of the same page if there’s still space), and make two lists. List one is what your current priorities are. List two is what your current habits are related to your writing.
Be honest when making these lists. No one will see it except you, and by looking at exactly what is, you’ll know where to go from there. Just don’t kid yourself.
Now compare the two lists against the write up about your dream writing life. Do the habits and priorities you currently have align with getting you to that dream life?
If yes, congrats. You’re part of a very small percentage of writers who are showing up consistently and doing the work. Make any needed tweaks and keep on going.
If no, you have some work to do.
I want you to make a list of what you think your habits and priorities would be if you did have your dream writing life. So if that life was already your current reality, what would you be doing on a daily basis?
Would you be skipping your writing sessions? Would you be putting other less important things before doing your writing?
Nope. If you had your dream writing life, you’d be writing every day. You’d be spending more time writing than watching TV or doing other meaningless things that won’t get you where you want to go.
Now it’s up to you. You can either keep doing what you’re doing (and not get where you want to go) or you can take a look at “what is” so you can realign and get on track to reaching your dreams.
A mentor of mine recently said, “success is a daily practice.” And it blew my mind when she said it because she’s so right. Success isn’t one of those things you get and then you just have it. It’s something you have to work at every single day.
And the foundation for success is your habits and priorities. Get those aligned to the writing life you dream of and watch magic happen.
I’ve been a professional writer for more than a decade, and a couple weeks ago I celebrated my three year “Quitiversary” (the day I quit my day job to take my business full-time). So lately I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting back and thinking about the steps I took to get where I am today.
Since I know you dream of being a published author and having a writing career, I thought it would be useful for you to see what it takes.
So here are the 7 things I did to become the published author and writing coach that I am today:
Can’t stress this one enough. You have to write. All the time. As much as you can. Over and over again, write.
Write. Toss it. Start again.
The more you write, the better you’ll get at writing. And practicing helps you find your voice as a writer.
There’s always more to learn when it comes to writing a novel. There’s always a way you can dig deeper into a topic and discover things you didn’t know (or clarify things you’ve heard before).
As a professional writer, you have to be committed to growth. And growth comes from learning and practicing.
If you want to reach your writing goals, you have to get support. Whether that’s a writing buddy, an accountability partner, a writing group or a coach, do yourself a favor and get support.
Having support is invaluable for when you have a deadline to hit, are feeling low and need a pep talk, or just want someone to celebrate with.
As writers, we spend a lot of time alone. But we can’t do it alone. The writing yes, but the rest of the journey requires you to have support.
Especially if you want to do this professionally.
Speaking of getting support, you also have to be willing to invest in yourself. Not just monetarily, but also your time, energy and focus.
If your writing is important, you have to make it a priority. Period. There is no other way.
And you have to step outside of your comfort zone and be willing to invest in your writing education. Whether you buy books to read, participate in writing programs or hire a coach to help you get results faster, is up to you.
Like I said in a previous email, I’ve invested upwards of $150,000 on my writing education–that includes a journalism degree, several writing (and business) training programs, hundreds of books, and hiring a team of people to support me on my journey (a writing coach, editor, book marketer, designer).
Sure, you can write and publish a book, but unless you build an author platform you’ll never have the readership you need to do this professionally.
Building a platform means having a:
Having an author platform allows you to spread the word about your books, share your stories and ideas, and connect with your readers.
I’ve gone through several shifts in my online presence (my blog used to be called Procrastinating Writers, and InkyBites, back in the day). But today I’m out in the world as me.
Once you’ve got your platform built, then you have to grow your readership. This includes doing things, like guest posting, getting media coverage and offering a free opt-in on your website to get people on your email list.
Every time I guest post on a popular blog, I get tons of new readers. In fact, I launched my current email list about four months ago and it already has almost 700 people on it!
Last, but most definitely not least, you have to work on your mindset. Being a professional writer requires you to have a much different mindset than being a writer by hobby does.
When you’re a hobby writer, you can write only when you’re inspired. But when you’re a professional writer, you have to write even when you’re uninspired. Because sometimes that’s what it takes.
When you’re a hobby writer, you can allow negative thoughts to distract you from your work. But you’ll never become a professional if you can’t push past those negative thoughts, beliefs and fears that stop you from writing.
You have to cultivate the mindset of a professional. You do this by asking: “If I was a published author, making money from my writing, how would I act/think/feel?”
Make a list of how you would act, the things you would think and how you would feel. And then you have to embody everything on that list.
For example, a published author making money from her writing would be dedicated to writing daily. She would make it a priority, above a lot of other things.
A published author making money from her writing would think positive things about herself and her work. She would get support. She would hire someone to help her make her books the best they can be.
Of course many of the steps on this list come AFTER you’ve written something that’s worthy of publishing. If you haven’t done that yet, let me ask you this:
What’s stopping you? What’s holding you back from having a novel you can publish?
Whatever stops you, I invite you to step up and join me for a free Butt-In-Chair session. Let’s kick that shit to the curb right now and get you on track to write (or finish) your novel.
So right now I’m going through an online business training program (B-School), and one of the things we’ve talked a lot about lately is our “why.”
Your “why” is the reason that you do the things you do (or care about the things you care about). It’s what drives you. It’s what gets you out of bed in the morning.
Your “why” is the fuel that keeps you going when things get tough and you want to quit.
You likely have a lot of “whys” for different parts of your life. But what’s your writing “why?”
Why do you write? Why do you want to write?
Take some time to think about this. Let it marinate in your subconscious.
See what bubbles to the surface.
I’ve spent a lot of time these last couple weeks really digging in and discovering what my why is. I have a lot of reasons for doing the work I do.
But when it comes down to it, my why is simple: I believe in taking control of your writing career.
You should never leave your writing dream in the hands of an agent or publisher. And you definitely shouldn’t leave it to chance, either.
If you’re serious about being an author, you have to do the writing, yes, but you also have to take control.
If a story idea comes to you, it’s not a mistake. You are meant to write it. You are meant to bring it to life.
You cannot take this mission lightly. You have to be all-in.
Serious writers know you have to fully invest in yourself–your time, your energy, your focus, and your money. Because it does take money to be a professional.
To get where I’m at in my writing career today, I’ve invested upwards of $150,000–in a journalism degree, various fiction writing classes and programs, various business programs, lectures and workshops, and working with a writing coach, business coach, editor, designer and book marketer.
The money, time and energy I’ve invested has helped me to:
That’s the thing about making an investment in yourself: it always pays off ten-fold.
And you’re worth it.
I work with serious emerging novelists who want to build a writing career that includes novels. I give them strategy and a process for writing a novel that shaves years off of their learning curves, and helps them become finishers.
What they end up with is a completed first draft that’s a revision and edit away from being publishable.
Sound like something you’d be into?
Writing is a lonely task–that’s a given. We writers thrive on being alone with our thoughts, our characters, and our stories. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Except in order to write with true depth and emotion, you need to have experienced something significant and worth writing about. And that requires you to step away from your desk.
If you want to be a great writer, you’ve gotta have details to work with–felt emotions, experiences you’ve had, stories to tell, lessons you’ve learned. All of this is what drives fiction, and while it is possible to write well about something you’ve never experienced first-hand, the best writing comes from you and your experiences.
What that means is sometimes you’ve gotta step out from behind your desk and live your life. You’ve gotta have fun, adventure. You need to get your hands dirty and work really hard at something.
Great fiction often comes straight from real-life happenings, situations and events, as well it should. There’s some crazy shit happening out there! Why not fictionalize your experience of it?
Most writers are introverts, which is why they’re able to spend so much time alone doing the writing and actually enjoy themselves. But that doesn’t mean social time isn’t also needed, because it is.
Susan Cain, author of Quiet, talks about introverts needing to be social. She suggests having a weekly quota of “social life” activities. Then once you’ve hit your quota, you have full permission to hide in your house for a few days.
By forcing yourself to go out and enjoy life more, you’ll find things to bring back to your writing.
Even though writing is a solo task, you still need camaraderie, support and community. You need to be around other writers who’ve been where you want to be, that way you have something to aspire to.
Being around other writers is inspiring. It brings your energy to a whole different level, and makes you feel so good.
After all, these people “get” you. You’re not strange to them. They don’t find it weird that you sacrifice social time to hang out with your laptop.
There’s no judgment when you’re around other writers. And that’s what makes it such a powerful experience.
Keep on doing what you’re doing with your writing, just be sure to build in some community so you’re not always alone. Here are some ways to build community into your writing life:
As a writer it’s your job to find time to be alone and do the writing. But you also have to balance that with having social time and being around other writers. Life is meant to be enjoyed.
The more you enjoy, the more you have to write about.
How do you balance your writing life with your social life?