The Lifelong Writing Life: A Five-Pointed Star

by | October 18, 2019 |

Many writers dream of a lifelong writing life. The key words here are dream and lifelong. First, let me dispel any notion of dreaminess: the most successful authors will tell you its hard, wide-awake work. Second, lifelong can be your reality.

My suggestions for sustaining a writing career over a lifetime are simple. And as I often say: simple isn’t necessarily easy.

Lifelong Writing Life: First Point

Write good books (short stories, articles, blogs, poems, etc.)

I mean: Write from the top of your intelligence and to the best of your ability.

You improve your chances of writing good books if you read a lot and read widely.

You guarantee your chances of writing good books if you work with the right editor.

The right editor is one who:

i) is up to date on the market for the kind of thing you’re writing, whether it’s mystery, romance, science fiction, so-called literary fiction, self-help, whatever.

ii) recognizes and appreciates your writing vision and voice.

Editing is a skill and a talent in and of itself. For my last 10 romance novels, I’ve worked with the very skilled and talented Selina McLemore. She does not hesitate to tell me where I’ve gone wrong (and sometimes badly). She is also happy to let me know when, as she says, I’m “writing to my strengths.” As a result, my confidence in what I’m putting into the marketplace has soared. So have my sales.

Lifelong Writing Life: Second Point

Show up for work every day.

You have to write. Every day. There is simply no way of avoiding/ denying/ ignoring this point if you want to sustain a writing career through a lifetime. Really, how else could a lifetime writing career work?

You could also call this point: Feed the Beast. Publish or Perish. Do or Die.

Lifelong Writing Life: Third Point

Develop your website. 

You likely already have a website. My question here is: have you developed it?

Unless you really know what you’re doing web-wise, I strongly urge you to consider working with a web development agency. For the past five years I have worked with CTS { agency. When I came to them I had maybe 200 hits a month. Over the years their jobs have been to:

1. Regularly update the look of my site to keep it current;

2. Determine the optimal key words my site needs and regularly tweak them;

3. Help create content to make my site a go-to place for writers looking for writing advice; for instance, they recently added a massive new section Writing A Novel: A Guide, and it is already driving new visitors;

4. Make my branding consistent throughout my website; for instance, once I had my tagline: Love, Language, Adventure … Out of the Ordinary, they reorganized my blog categories around Love and Language and Adventure, which was another massive job;

5. Handle all aspects of my books from creating the covers to posting them on the major platforms;

6. Find reviewers for my books;

7. Secure guest blogging opportunities for me; and

8. Take care of all my social media.

Anecdotally, I’m aware that my site is growing in visibility by the amount of email I receive from readers. More importantly, I have the hard numbers to prove that CTS { agency’s work has paid off. The hits to my site have increased exponentially, and they continue to grow on a monthly basis.

Lifelong Writing Life: Fourth Point

Choose a social media strategy.

Dave Chesson has an excellent blog discussing social media for writers. The general idea is to choose one medium and stick with it rather than spread yourself across all of them.

I just said that CT { agency handles all my social media. Thus, I am freed-up to focus on my blog, which I publish every Tuesday and Friday.

Blogs come in two types: Time Sensitive and Evergreen. I don’t opine on issues, offer political commentary or follow the latest trends, all of which would be time sensitive. Rather, 90+% of my blogs are Evergreen.

For instance, even the one I wrote about Hurricane Irma from 2017 is Evergreen because it is really about American Sign Language. I began by pointing out that the seemingly goofy-looking expression on the signer’s face isn’t goofy at all. It’s expressive of the magnitude of the storm.

I continue to receive responses from people happy I know what I’m talking about when it comes to ASL. Clearly this blog post falls under my rubric Language.

The consistency of my production also contributes to the rise in my website’s visibility. This consistency is an example of the Second Point, above, Feed the Beast.

Lifelong Writing Life: Fifth Point

Establish your game plan.

The reality is, most writers don’t make much money. At least, not at first. So you have to understand both money and your needs.

There are two ways to be rich: Have a lot of money. Or want less.

The less money you need correlates with a higher likelihood of having a lifelong writing life. I ditched my car in 2005 and subsequently organized my life around walking. What I’ve saved in not paying car insurance alone has funded quite a lot of world travel. This, in turn, has fueled both my novel writing and the Adventure rubric of my blog.

I’ve also had a day job along the way. Now I no longer need one. It has taken me a long time not to need one. But then I always knew I was in it for the long haul.

What’s your writing game plan?

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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen

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