On Staying the Course

I have a piece on career longevity over at the ITW Debut Author Blog. I find it interesting that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs and courses and conferences dedicated to helping new writers break in, learn to write, all that, but so few focused on helping the career writer maintain and grow their livelihood. 

Kris Rusch (THE BUSINESS RUSCH) does a great job of this, and while I don't agree with everything she says, she's at least talking to those of us who are building a writing career.

So, here's my  two cents on the matter. I'd love to hear if there are other blogs and sites dedicated to the writing career, and if you have tips for great ways to stay in the game, leave a comment. 

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Only six years ago, I was a debut author. I remember the joy, the excitement, the sheer, unadulterated fear like it was yesterday. Now, with 13 books under my belt, I recognize how important it is to treasure the journey. Every moment of your writing career is precious – the good, and the bad. It’s what makes us better people, and stronger, happier, more capable writers.

You must treasure the journey to keep yourself on course to a long successful writing career.

Trust me, I know how easy it is to stray. I had it good way back when – I wrote in a vacuum, with only my own voice to derail me. Now there are so many negative, distracting voices clamoring for our attention -- Facebook, with its siren’s call. Goodreads and Amazon, where you can read your reviews and self-congratulate or self-flagellate at will. Twitter, where you can compare your number of followers and retweets and pithy witticisms with the masses. Blogs are a dime a dozen, and Instagram and Pinterest are a massive time suck.

And then there’s the doubly whammy of family and friends who can, with a well-placed, well-meaning word, create train wrecks of such magnificent proportion they’re hard to walk away from.

It’s all sound and fury signifying nothing. As such, you must find a way to retreat from the distractions, and chart your own course, so you can churn out books like kittens.

The Internet is your number one enemy. Whether you use apps to keep you away (Freedom, Self-Control) or you have the discipline of a general, you have to stay off the Internet. You have to live your life. See and feel and touch and taste. You must hear dialogue, not read it. You must experience all the world can offer – even if it’s taking a break to walk outside. Live, and your prose will be richer, your spirit more content. The only true satisfaction in the writer’s life in knowing it’s well lived.

Learn how to say no. No is your best friend. It is so tempting to agree to everything – guest blogging and touring and conferences and teaching engagements. They stroke the ego, and make us feel important and strong. And some of that is fine. Learn what fills your well socially, and stick to it. Half of us are introverts and half are extroverts. If going to a conference drains you, don’t do it. If it fires you up and you come home raring to tackle that manuscript, do. It’s that simple.

Lastly, respect your work. Respect your time. Get in a habit – find the best time for you to write and just do it already. You’ve already written one book. I know it can be scary tackling another.

But here’s a little secret: every book feels that way, whether it’s your 2nd or your 14th.  It gets worse, not better. All you can do is march those words onto the blank page, one by one, soldiers in your on-going war against writing entropy. Do that, every day, and believe in your work wholeheartedly, and I promise, success will follow.

 

J.T. Ellison

J.T. Ellison is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of fifteen critically acclaimed thrillers and is the co-author of the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. With over a million books in print, Ellison’s work has been published in twenty-five countries and thirteen languages. She is also the co-host of A Word on Words, Nashville's premier literary TV series, which airs on Nashville Public Television. She lives with her husband and twin kittens in Nashville. Visit JTEllison.com, and follow her on Twitter @Thrillerchick or at Facebook.com/JTEllison14.