It’s ALL your business. You don’t have to do it.

Your art is your business

Image by Stephen Poff

Where did this notion that we should do art because it is “noble” come from? I hear it all the time. “Write because you have a passion for it.” “Writing is my escape.” You should do art because you HAVE to.”

You don’t HAVE to. You choose to. And you choose to because you have that luxury. But we only have so much time in this life, so we’d better make whatever we’re doing worth those golden grains in the hourglass. Click to Tweet.

The idea that we shouldn’t view art (which, in my case, is writing) as a business is ludicrous. If art is where you hope to engage the world for such a significant portion of your life, then it most definitely is, at least, a side business. And if you ever want people to read, or watch, or see, or in any other way enjoy your art, you had better treat your art with the same respect a businessperson treats their business plan.

No one owes your art anything. Only you have a debt relationship with your creativity, and if you ever hope to get a return, you had better spend the time and the energy making your art the best it can be. Engage with the habit. Wear it proudly. And, most of all, feed the beast, because it won’t treat you well if you don’t respect it.

Rejection is your best friend

Rejection is your best friend. She tells you the truth, whether you want to hear it or not. She helps you learn how to deal with the real world. Rejection toughens you up, shows you where you’ve failed, and teaches you how to persevere in the face of adversity.

Rejection pulls no punches, but gives you stories, experiences, and reason to continue.

Rejection is your best friend. So shut up and listen to her.

Taking stock: regularly measure success or failure in your writing routine

Goals help us define our trajectory and plan out where we are heading, but measuring our success is the determining factor in whether we will ever arrive at our intended destination.

Goals help us define our trajectory and plan out where we are heading, but measuring our success is the determining factor in whether we will ever arrive at our intended destination.

How often do you take a step back to determine whether you have been successful in meeting your goals ? Have you even set goals to measure?

As a busy writer, I know that it’s far too easy to get sucked into the never-ending stream of things we have to do and miss the few activities that will keep us on track to getting where we want to be. Goals help us define our trajectory and plan out where we are heading, but measuring our success is the determining factor in whether we will ever arrive at our intended destination.

But how do we start?

First, of course, we have to create a set of measurable goals that can tell us whether we’ve been successful or not, but once those goals have been established, it is important to follow through and actually take the pulse of our writing.

These goals can come in all shapes and sizes, too. Of course, you can always set a goal to have your manuscript published by such-and-such date, but be careful that you don’t neglect all the little steps it takes to get there. Look at all aspects of your craft, from the actual act of writing to editing, promotion, social media, building your platform, making connections with others, etc. Measuring your success in all these little areas will keep you focused on your end goals and will remind you that even though your dreams are huge, you are still making progress toward success.

A few things to keep in mind:

1. Evaluate your goals before you evaluate your performance. When we set goals, it’s easy to get carried away or to be too timid. The resulting “measurements” can be so skewed that they don’t actually offer any useful information. Before you determine whether you were successful or not, determine whether the goal was appropriate to your abilities and availability. Was the goal so easy that you blew far past it? Make it tougher. Did you set such an unreasonable expectation that there was no possibility of success? Lighten up on yourself. Always seek to make your goals appropriate but just difficult enough that you have to push yourself.

2. Evaluate everything. Did you write enough? Did you devote enough time to editing? Have you been lax on your social media interactions? Did you get those new promotionl cards in on time? Are you getting reviews? Put all factors into the hat before looking at what you’ve done.

3. Evaluate often. Measuring your personal performance isn’t something that should just be done once or twice a year. Create a routine for looking through your activities and deciding whether you are meeting your own expectations. I personally recommend making a rubric for yourself to fill out weekly that will give you a birds-eye view of your activities and performance.

How do you evaluate? Do you have any tips? Share them in the comments below.

Setting measurable goals for your writing

THE FIRES OF FEAR alpha manuscript is done. ~9...

THE FIRES OF FEAR alpha manuscript is done. ~93,000 words of tasty fire-grilled goodness. via eswesley

Measurable goals are the lifeblood of a good writer. Let’s face it, we are a fickle bunch. Today we’re working on one thing, tomorrow another, and we can’t keep it all straight. Oh, and don’t you dare ask us to look at numbers. We’re writers! We don’t do numbers. But maybe we should. You see, without measurable goals, we creative types can be overwhelmed by the bigness of our dreams. The world is our oyster, our roller coaster, our playground. It’s the thing we’re going to dominate one day, all of the people serving under our command like mindless automatons buying our books and begging for our autographs. Oh wait…maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. The sad fact is that if we don’t look at the path we’re taking to get to these dreamy wonderful cotton-candy places, we’ll never get to taste that sweet victory. Instead of putting our foot on top of the world, we will languish in mediocrity, forever lamenting the fact that we didn’t make a plan. So, what kind of measurable goals am I talking about? The trick to determining whether a goal is measurable is a criteria for success or failure. Let’s take, for instance, the next book in my list of books I’m itching to write, Forest of Shadows. My goal is to write Forest of Shadows and get it published. Great goal, right? NO! Bad writer! Now go in the corner and let me tell you how it is. Ahem, excuse me. The goal of writing Forest of Shadows and getting it published isn’t measurable, because there is no criteria by which I can determine whether I’ve failed. I can always default to, “well, I haven’t succeeded in accomplishing that goal yet, but it may still be coming.” I could keep doing that until my dying day, and only then would someone say that I failed that goal (and even then, someone else might come along and take care of the problem). So what would be a better goal? Some might go with, “I want to get Forest of Shadows published by April of 2016.” Only here, there are still too many criteria for success or failure that are out of my hands. This is where we need to break these BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) into smaller component parts. Before I can get the book published, I need a finished manuscript, an agent (or a means of self-publishing), and a platform from with to promote. Now, let’s focus specifically on the book. I can’t have a finished manuscript until I have finished the draft, revised it multiple times, pushed it through beta readers and editors, gotten it back, revised again, sent it through editing and proofing, had a cover produced, and many, many other things. So, let’s itemize:

  • Pre-writing and Planning
  • Fast Draft
  • First Draft
  • Second Draft
  • Third Draft
  • Editing
  • Edit Draft
  • Beta Readers
  • Complete Draft
  • Editing and Proofing
  • Cover
  • Etc.

Each of these has component parts as well, but for the sake of making a long post shorter, we’re just going to stick with getting to a first draft. Fortunately for me, pre-writing and planning is already done, so I can focus on just getting to the draft stage. A good measurable goal for me to get a First Draft, should I start now, would be about a month, especially with February being a short month. This means that my measurable goal would be to have the First Draft or Forest of Shadows (which I expect to be a 105,000 word book) done by March 1. I have a task, and clear criteria for success or failure. When March 1 comes, I will know for sure whether I met my goals, and can reevaluate from there. Even better, a goal like this gives me a few clear action steps to take. If I want to successfully complete this goal, I need to write an average of 5000 words a day on my writing days (of which there are twenty left in the month) to meet my goal. I now know exactly what I need to do, and can evaluate whether or not I can meet this goal. What about you? Do you create measurable goals for your writing? What kinds of goals do you find yourself making or breaking?

The importance of normalizing your writing

Writers who don't write regularly won't get the chance to see their fruit.

Writers who don’t write regularly won’t get the chance to see their fruit.

Ok, so maybe “normalizing” isn’t exactly the right word for this sort of thing, but I like it better than all the others.

The thing is, the writers who do what they do well are the writers who write. Consistently. With regularity. In other words, writers who make it are writers for whom writing is the norm. It’s a base line. It is what they do.

Too many writers complain that they can’t ever seem to get anything done. I’ve talked to many who will tell me that they’ve tried and tried to get their manuscript out, over and over again, but they just can’t seem to get any traction.

Then I ask what their writing ritual is.

The dumbfounded look they give me afterward is the only answer I need.

Writers who don’t write regularly won’t get the chance to see their fruit. When writers tell me that they only write a couple of days a week, or they get some writing in on Thursday nights, or they try really hard but they can only squeeze in a couple days a month, I know. I know that I won’t be seeing a manuscript from them until they actually pick up their calendar and schedule some dedicated writing time. I know that until they set up an almost daily writing ritual, we won’t be seeing anything from that author any time soon.

And it’s really a shame, because they have such good ideas.

Many writing coaches won’t even talk with someone who can’t promise at least two uninterrupted hours of writing a day. These writing coaches have recognized just how important that “normalization” of the writing process is to success.

Tips for establishing a writing ritual:

  • Choose a time. I know that you’re busy, and that you have the kids to take care of and your husband is bugging you for dinner or the Emmy’s are on tonight or you just need that extra hour of sleep. But if you don’t pick a time to sit at your desk and get some work done, you won’t sit at your desk and get any work done (repetition is key). You wouldn’t call yourself a professional at your job if you never showed up to work, so don’t call yourself a writer unless you show up to your desk (or whatever magical place you’ve moved your workspace into).
  • Protect that time. Talk to your spouse (if you have one) and tell them that this time is very important to you. Turn off your phone/Facebook/Twitter/Temple Run. And for heaven’s sake turn off the TV that’s running in the background. This is your working time. Don’t let it be interrupted for anything (save the unexpected trip to the emergency room–this website will never condone neglect).
  • Commit to that time. A plan is only as good as the person who makes it. If you’re not willing to make a commitment and a sacrifice to your writing time, don’t be disappointed when your manuscript never materializes in any tangible way. Writing is not easy, and finding time to create something worthy of the investment of hours by another human being is even harder. If you’re going to write, you have to be in it for the long haul.

What about you? What does your writing ritual include? Let’s discuss in the comments.

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