5 Steps Towards Cultivating a Successful Writing Career

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Photo: image by Ritesh Nayak

In my last post, I talked about getting back in my lane to focus on succeeding as a writer instead of a jack of all trades. But, how do I get on track and then stay on track? Keyword there: stay.

The answer to this question is slightly complicated. When I first create a goal or passion project, it’s easier to get pumped up than to stay pumped up. The excitement for possibility fuels me. Then when my project or goal is no longer new, or when it hasn’t yielded as much payout as I had hoped, the doldrums hit. My rah-rah is gone and I need a plan to get myself back on task. Without said plan, I flit to the next shiny thing that peaks my interest. A plan with a strict writing regiment and attainable goals will hold me accountable and provide direction.

So, let this post reflect the solution to my problem: the why, the how, and the to-do list that guides my fun loving, always hyped, and sometimes flaky brain back to port.

1. Set achievable goals with realistic deadlines. Then, adhere to them.

The best way for me to do this is by utilizing an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar (also referred to as a content management calendar or system) helps prioritize my personal and professional projects. It also tracks how close I actually come to deadline.

If you too need a content management system (CMS) to help you focus, you can visit one of these helpful sites below. I built one from scratch that fits my particular needs, which is based on research and past communications experience. But, some of these sites offer templates of services that can do it for you.

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Photo: example of the content calendar I built for this blog.

The Ultimate Guide to Creating an Editorial Calendar.

How To Boost Success With A Content Marketing Editorial Calendar.

Content Marketing Editorial Calendar Templates: The Ultimate List.

For those with more experienced with html and content management, I would check out Drupal.

2. No social media or texting when it is time to work.

I need to set clear time to work. It is so easy to get distracted. Even just checking the time on my phone is a hazard. An hour after peeping my phone’s clock, I am somehow still on my phone Tweeting and Facebooking.

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So, I will schedule work time vs. play time: well-spaced, designated, fifteen minute phone breaks. Like timed smoke breaks, but more important because it’s for my social media addiction.

3. Realize that I am an interesting, fun person with a unique, artistic perspective. This is true, even if I am the only person who thinks as much.

One of my biggest fears—and I am sure I am not alone—is the attack of the internet troll. You know the type: self-designated grammar and content constables; someone who likes taking others down a peg or two. The very idea of internet trolls makes this marshmallow girl melt…in a bad way.

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Photo: image from Lego Land posted on Instagram by @sboneham

But, writers who pen in their journals and hide their words for fear of consequence never get heard. If I don’t free my words to make whatever difference they may, then what is the point of writing them?

When I write I need to be happy with my work, not with how many followers, likes, shares, or submission acceptance letters I get. Trolls suck and their opinions don’t count. Rejection letters simply mean I had the courage to put myself out there.

4. Stay current on trade info and active in the literary community.

As a writer, I should:

  • read at least two journals a week that are in my field or genre…at least two;
  • follow my favorite journals and authors on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; and,
  • watch what the people who inspire me do to be successful, analyzing how can their success inspire or influence my own.

Additionally, staying current on literary news and trends can generate content ideas for my blog when when ideas are running low.

Some of the magazines I love to follow are:

Cleaver Magazine                  Superstition Review           Paper Darts Magazine

Creative Nonfiction              The Georgia Review             Publishers Weekly

Apogee                                     Media Shift                         The Review Review

5. Write daily. Don’t stop. Not for anything. 500 to 1000 words.

Writing routines are hard to maintain as a working adult. This is especially true when I feel like no one is listening, like my opinion is wrong or does not matter, or like being heard would cause more harm than had I remained silent. Sometimes I am just downright lazy. No matter the reason, I have to ignore the apathetic urge to put down my pen.  After all, a writing routine is like a diet or workout of sorts. The moment I stop writing it becomes increasingly harder to pick up where I left off, if I pick up at all. So, I commit now to writing at least 500 words per day, either just for myself or for a public platform.

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Photo: image from Flickr by Ashley Linh Trann

This 5 step check list seems overwhelmingly simple but it requires a lot of self discipline, which is a skill that many creatives lack. These steps comprise a good starting point for me. They are a good starting point for new and timidly emerging writers, as well. With time and committed effort this plan will help me and possibly others dominate our lanes.

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