Showing posts with label building writing careers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label building writing careers. Show all posts

How and Why to Get Clear about Your Ultimate Career Goal

As a writer, it can take quite some time to come up with an ultimate career goal.

After months, even years, of writing and submitting, many writers decide the writer’s life is not quite the beautiful dream they thought it would be.

In fact, it’s really just a lot of hard work and, well, a lot of writing.

Other writers decide to stick with the writing, but they change focus along the way to the career of their dreams.

They suddenly “get” how they can narrow the focus of their writing, yet attract more readers, customers, and clients.

As they gain more publication credits, they branch out and search for more opportunities for public speaking, too.

The key to realizing your ultimate career goal is to get really, really clear as to just what that goal is.

After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, how can you possibly figure out how to get there?

Here are a few questions for reflection.

Use your Success Journal to write down these questions and leave a page or so for each of your answers.

1. What is your ultimate career goal (what would your ideal writing career look like)?

Try to describe this in as much detail as possible.

Include what your writing schedule would look like.

How much would you be writing?

What would you be writing?

Where would you be writing?

How much money would you be earning each month from your writing?

Would you be doing any public speaking in addition to writing?

If so, where would you be speaking? Who would you be speaking to?

How much income would you earn each year through speaking?

2. What would be the big advantages of reaching your ultimate career goal?

List as many advantages as you can think of. Money shouldn’t be the only advantage.

3. What would be the disadvantages of reaching your ultimate career goal?

List as many disadvantages as you can think of – even fame and fortune have disadvantages.

4. How do you FEEL when you think of the disadvantages of your ultimate career goal?

Are these feelings keeping you from really striving to reach your ultimate career goal?

If so, do you need to change your goal or simply learn to overcome any negative feelings?

5. Take a look at all the actions on your marketing plan or to-do list.

Are these actions leading you to the ultimate writing career you’ve described in your answers to these questions?

Why or why not? Explain in detail.

Your answers to these questions should help you get clearer about your ultimate career goal.

With increased clarity, you should be able to create a more targeted marketing plan to move toward this goal.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance lives and writes by the sea on Florida's beautiful Treasure Coast. She also coaches writers.

For more tips and resources for writers visit and get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge to receive a short email for writers every weekday morning.

When Writing is NOT a Career

This girl has spent a lifetime chasing rainbows
Hobby? Job? Pastime? What is writing to you? Most writers say when asked that they've been writing FOR-R-EVER. Stories in grade school. Or keeping a diary/journal. In my early childhood, I recorded everything that happened to me in my diaries, perhaps displaying the first hints of a natural-born reporter. Later during my years as an elementary teacher, a fellow teacher once told me she started out as a newspaper reporter. All starry-eyed, wishing I'd done the same, I said, why in the world did you quit and become a teacher? She said, "I like to eat."

Career Hints can Start Early
A woman I once interviewed for an article told me that astute observers can identify a child's interests and talents as early as four years old. At four, asking people questions came naturally to her son. So she went out and bought him a toy microphone. Unleashed was a blossoming reporter, who carried his microphone with him everywhere, asking people, "What do you do?" and, "Do you have a
favorite pet?"

When it came time for college she offered to help pay for it, but she struck out. He wasn't interested. What he did do was put himself through broadcasting school and upon completion, got a job as a disc jockey. Later, he went on to become a popular sportscaster. He told her he loved his career so much that he wanted to be buried with his microphone (a real one this time). She concluded the interview by saying, all this because I recognized his interest early-on, and directed him toward it during his early, most formative years.

No matter what interests young children have, if writing doesn't come naturally as it does for some of us, learning how to write then, becomes an essential tool. During parent-teacher conferences, my advice to parents of eight-to-twelve year olds was to encourage their children to write, draw or take photos for the school newspaper (naturally, encouraging reading was a given). Children who have a keen interest can be directed to publishing stories, articles and artwork in publications like Stone Soup, a magazine that is written by and for kids; and publications listed with The Children's Book Guild, which offers resources on how-to and where-to publish children's work, and includes such publications as Highlights for Children and Cicada, a magazine in the Cricket group. Really keen students can shoot for the top: become editor of their school newspaper, as Stephen King so successfully did.

A note about reading: When my children were in elementary school, I observed a classmate's mother carry around a reading resource, such as The New York Times Parent's Guide to the Best Books for Children, by Eden Ross Lipson; with the books she made available to her children to read checked off, one-by-one. It was an impressive way to supplement what her children were reading in school with her own choices of good literature.

Seeking the "Creative Life"
Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, writes that she "happens to believe we are all walking repositories of buried treasure.  . . The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover these jewels--
that's creative living." She speaks broadly of "creative living," not that a person needs to "pursue a life that is professionally or exclusively devoted to the arts." But a "life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than fear." While the paths of a creative life vary wildly from person to person, it is an amplified life. It's a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a  . . . lot more interesting."

As long as the desire to write is present, the ways to incorporate writing into your life are limitless. One way is to compliment your profession by writing about it.
  • Google "Doctor/writers" and many photos come up of some of the most famous of these, a hint at how many doctors first seek their profession, and then write about it. Dr. David Hellerstein, in his article, "How to Become a Doctor-Writer," said that William Carlos Williams's autobiogrpahy was an inspiration to him as a doctor-writer, though there were  many others. He quotes Williams:
  • "Five minutes, ten minutes, can always be found. I had my typewriter in my office desk. All I needed to do was pull up the leaf to which it was fashioned and I was ready to go. I worked at top speed. If a patient came in at the door while I was in the middle of a sentence, bang would go the machine--I was a physician. When the patient left, up would come the machine. My head developed a technique: something growing inside me demanded reaping. It had to be attended to. Finally, after eleven at night, when the last patient had been put to bed, I could always find the time to bang out ten or twelve pages. In fact, I couldn't rest until I had freed my mind from the obsessions which had been tormenting me all day. Cleansed of that torment, having scribbled, I could rest."
  • The astonishing number of books written by Oliver Sacks, a personal favorite, includes Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, (Knopf, 2007), which helped explain, among other things, how musical pieces play over and over in my mind; and many other books describing  patients' struggles with conditions such as autism and Parkinson's disease.
  • Teacher-writers: Google also displays authors such as Robert Frost, Frank McCourt, Vladimir Nabokov and Julia Cameron, to name a few, seen in a completely different light--as teachers--than the works they are famous for. Teacher-writer dmatriccino, in the blog post, "Thoughts from a Teacher-Writer," writes, "The only reason I’m able to write is because someone taught me how to. I believe in myself because my teachers, in tandem with my parents, made me feel like I could. Teachers didn’t just teach me how to fulfill my dreams; they taught me how to discover those dreams in the first place." 
Watch out: Writing might Sneak up on you and become a Full-Blown Career
The point is that in NOT making writing a career (of course, the exception being successful career authors), we have indeed made writing a career, if nothing more than to live the "creative life." For me, no matter what else is happening in my life, writing remains my loyal companion, is always there, ready to fulfill my deepest longings and desires, and offer me worlds that wouldn't be available if I didn't make the effort. To take "creating something" a step further, I agree with Elizabeth Gilbert, creating anything is one of the keys to happiness. Have you ever had someone tell you, "I'm not creative?" Hogwash. Everyone is and can be creative. All they have to do is try.

Photo: From the childhood album of Linda Wilson

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction courses, picture book course and mystery and suspense course. She is currently working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Case Study: Failed Star-Studded Book Promotion

A Case Study: Determining What Went Wrong to Get the Future Right
This is a case study from the last decade that still holds some lessons for writers today.

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning The Frugal Book Promoter

Once upon a time, way back in the last decade, author and researcher Sylvia Ann Hewlett's publicity predicament illustrated to the world of books what we authors suspected all along: Huge amounts of publicity surrounding a release don't necessarily translate into massive sales figures.  In fact, the result of a major publicity coup could turn out to be the most bitter dose of rejection we ever encounter. That may be true even when the publicity is the stuff of which dreams are made-in Surround Sound and Technicolor.

It is reported (variably) that Hewlett’s Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children sold between 8,000 and 10,000 copies. Many authors would be ecstatic with sales figures that look like that but everything is relative. Talk Miramax paid a six-figure advance for this title and projected sales in the 30,000 range for hardcover alone. Considering expectations for the book, the figures do appear dismal.

Therefore, smart people in the publishing industry searched for reasons for its less than stellar performance, especially with the kind of publicity this book received and I mean biggies like Time magazine (the cover, no less),"New York" magazines, "60 Minutes," "The Today Show," "Good Morning America," and "NBC Nightly News" lined up behind this book, for heaven's sake. Even Oprah's magic book-sale-wand was not effective.

Hewlett’s book made great news! It warned young career women that they have been mislead by petri dish miracles reported in the press. She pointed out that women have come to believe that they can put conception after career and be reasonably sure they can have still have both. She attempts to exorcise that notion in Quest.

So, just what did go wrong?

The title is not scintillating, many said, nor is its cover. Those in the know wondered if that influenced book sales. But that’s a huge burden to put on bookcover or title choice under the circumstances.

My 37 year-old-daughter who had just returned to college to embark on a career in anthropology suggested that women don't want to hear the dreadful news. She says, "I just flat out don't want to hear this bad news in the middle of something rewarding, exciting and new! Why would I slap down the price of a book to get depressed?" Another unmarried friend who is also caring for an aging mother said, “I wouldn’t buy it. What am I supposed to do with that kind of information once I have it?”

All this searching for answers may reap results, may help publicists and publishers and authors determine cause and effect so that this syndrome can be avoided in the future-or not.

I figure that all this soul-searching and hullabaloo is misdirected. As an example, the media that chose to feature my novel may not have been as stellar, the publisher not as dazzling, the expectations not as astounding. But when I spend a half hour being interviewed by a host syndicated on more than 300 radio stations and do not see the figures on Amazon rise even an iota the next day, I get this inkling that it is not all that unusual for a book to languish in spite of the tumult that surrounds it.

When my novel won its third award or was honored by my publisher for sales and I still did not see evidence of my title on the LA Times bestseller list, I have to assume that sales are not necessarily affected by such news. The rejection feels every bit as tangible as a polite “Not Quite Right for Us” message.

Of course, my book is a novel and Hewlett's is nonfiction. That alone could account for a discrepancy between what results in sales and what doesn't.  This kind of convoluted reasoning allows me to sit back on my laurels and say, "That's the way the ball bounces." This kind of examination is no more fruitful that those exercised by Hewlett’s publisher and publicists.

Even Hewlett says, "I don't know what to make of this absence of huge sales." One can see her shaking her head in disbelief. If someone with her research skills can't figure it out, can anyone? It may be the economy, stupid. Or retailing. Or the book biz. It's surely something completely out of the author's control unless someone had thought to run the idea by a focus group of career women the age of the book’s expected audience.

But there are more lessons to be had. I think the most valuable lesson that can be learned with this kind of rejection—any kind, really—is that it is not personal, and that it does pay to search for the lesson. For me the lesson is that I must keep the faith. I must keep writing and keep publicizing, because if I don't, I’ll never know if I gave my book—or my career—the best possible chance at success. If I don't see direct or immediate results and my faith should slip just a tad, I don't have to feel too bad. Thanks to Sylvia Ann Hewlett.

This Is the Place was published. It is my first novel and the one that taught me a whole lot about book marketing as opposed to general marketing. It is now out of print and only available using Amazon’s new and used feature. There are at least two more lessons in this latter day situation: 1. Because of the Internet and online bookstores, books can stay alive much longer than they once did. 2. Authors who are more interested in readership than selling books will find it easier to persist through the ups and downs of publishing and eventually build a writing career. Find my HowToDoItFrugally series of how-to books for writers at

Don’t Depend 100% on Your Publisher

By Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin) In 2007, America’s Publicist Rick Frishman invited me to participate on the faculty of MegaBook Marketing Uni...