Why you can’t replicate success by following in someone else’s footsteps

A man in a suit tightens his tie. He’s wearing an expensive watch on his wrist.
A man in a suit tightens his tie. He’s wearing an expensive watch on his wrist.
Photo by Ruthson Zimmerman on Unsplash

“A writer’s notebook is the best way in the world to immortalize bad ideas.”

— Stephen King

The critically-acclaimed author, Stephen King, doesn’t believe in notebooks. This guy is responsible for your fear of clowns, and yet, he doesn’t approve of one of the most common ways to record ideas.

The first time I read this advice, I bought into it. If someone so successful advises against something, you’ll naturally want to listen. Especially since he has a solid argument to back it up.

King’s argues that writing down bad ideas keeps them around forever, and that good ideas will stick around no matter what. There’s some truth to that, but then I realized something that makes it impossible for me to follow his advice. …

It’s harder than it sounds

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Photo by Jacqueline Day on Unsplash

Have you ever wanted to make a deadline so badly that you sacrificed your sanity to do it? Every writer’s been there. Heck, I was there the other month. I spent the whole month editing and revising my manuscript just so I could submit the first 10,000 words to a publication.

A few things happened as a result:

  • I met my deadline.
  • I didn’t feel like I’d actually edited my manuscript all that well thanks to all the rushing and lack of breaks. I basically just settled for good enough.
  • It was rejected, but that’s unfortunately just how it goes in the writing world. …

Don’t be stuck writing for one or the other

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Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

I have always hated being told that you need to write for your audience more than yourself.

It’s good advice, but I hate the implications of it. If I wasn’t writing for myself, I wouldn’t be writing at all. I’d pick some other, far more feasible job. I write because it makes me happy. The problem with writing just for your readers is that it’ll eventually cause you to write something that you didn’t want to. You’ll only be doing it because it’ll sell.

And yeah, that’s what having a job means. However, like I mentioned earlier, you wouldn’t allow that to apply to writing. …

4 ways to name the people living in your head

Giant green inflatable Yoda balloon peers out at the world before him.
Giant green inflatable Yoda balloon peers out at the world before him.
Photo by Stephanie Klepacki on Unsplash

Starting a new manuscript is fun, but there’s always one annoying detail to take care of before you get to the good stuff. What are your character’s names?

I usually figure out my character’s personalities and backstories long before their names, which is what makes this such a consistent issue for me. That’s why I’m partially writing this article for myself as well as you. We all need writing help from time to time.

A character’s name is a vital part of who they are. It’s their label. It’s the first thing your readers will think of when remembering that character. Make sure it’s a memorable one. …

All coming from a self-published author

A black woman wearing a black hat reads a book in a library.
A black woman wearing a black hat reads a book in a library.
Photo by Seven Shooter on Unsplash

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Maya Angelou

My friends and family have consistently told all my life that writing a book is not only challenging, but something that everyone wants to do. They just never get around to it. Whether that be due to a lack of discipline or just a lack of time.

I’ve been writing books since I was ten, so I guess I don’t understand what it feels like to just pick up a pencil and get writing out of the blue. …

Don’t let mood swings prevent you from getting things done

A rainy day in a city with a slick street and cars with shining headlights.
A rainy day in a city with a slick street and cars with shining headlights.
Photo by Nikolay Vorobyev on Unsplash

I swear something about writing guarantees that you’ll be down in the dumps like once a week. And the mood swing comes when it’s least convenient too. Like right before a deadline.

Most of my mood swings are definitely writing-related. Just the classic, relatable dilemmas like “Am I good enough? Am I on the right track? Did I make a mistake?” They’re harsh questions, but what self-respecting writer hasn’t asked them at some point?

It’s not easy to just get over your feelings, but you can keep them from interfering with your work. Writing with a bad mood sounds like an awful idea, but it could help you produce some good work. …

Complexity doesn’t automatically equal greatness

A black man stares down at a notebook that he’s writing in.
A black man stares down at a notebook that he’s writing in.
Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

How old were you when you wrote like someone trying to seal a business deal? With the long, complicated sentences and complex wording? And how old were you when you realized how dumb that was?

Everyone goes through a period of time where they think writing like an “adult” takes their work from a 5 to a 10. And then they actually become an adult and they realize how stupid they were.

Complexity doesn’t always make things better. When it comes to language, there’s a beauty in simplicity. People don’t want to decipher what they’re reading. They want it straight.

I used to read those huge Harry Potter books all the time when I was a kid. I was the only one in my class who did. Everyone thought I was crazy for it. Why read those cinderblocks? In fact, why read at all? Why not just throw a basketball into a hoop? …

It’s way simpler than you think

Man types on an iPad on his desk while surrounded by food.
Man types on an iPad on his desk while surrounded by food.
Photo by Chris Spiegl on Unsplash

When you spend all day typing up stories (nonfiction and fiction), your brain changes in funny ways. It only makes sense, since the average writer has a lot on their plate. All that time spent doing one activity develops certain skills, whether they’re useful or not.

You may think that writing doesn’t do anything for your body other than damage your wrists, back, and neck (seriously, try to maintain good posture), but it’s actually great for your brain.

Of course, this isn’t even about the benefits of writing. It’s about all the weird stuff it does to you.

It took me a few years to notice the changes myself. It’s very easy to build habits without even noticing. Fortunately, you can apply your new habits to other aspects of your life once you’ve discovered them. That, or you can just laugh at all your random new skills. For…

How to procrastinate less and be more productive

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

We, humans, are so dang weird. The more productive we want to be, the less we are. It’s a vicious and nonsensical cycle.

The most annoying way to procrastinate involves putting tasks off because they’d take too long. You don’t want to put in the time it takes to do the thing, so you put it off for as long as possible.

The problem with thinking like that is that the task usually takes less time than you thought. Even if it doesn’t, it’s better to chip away at the time it takes instead of complaining about it. You don’t have to do it all at once. In fact, you shouldn’t! Take your time. …

Learn to hyper focus on your work

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Photo by Christina Victoria Craft on Unsplash

ADHD is a disorder that makes my life way harder than it needs to be.

It’s responsible for my focusing problems as well as my impulsive nature. I acted out so much as a kid just because of my impulses. And that’s before I even knew what they were! Any of my fellow impulsive kids know the struggle.

Symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Difficulties concentrating on any one thing, especially if it’s uninteresting.
  • Impulsive behavior.
  • Hyperactive behavior.
  • The complete inability to just do one task at a time (in my experience anyway).
  • Disorganization.
  • Low temper, or just easily frustrated.

As you can tell, ADHD gets in the way a lot. It’s got benefits (being hyper aware of everything going on is cool), but it makes any job harder than it has to be. Especially writing. …


Kesten Harris

Kesten E. Harris is a self-published author and freelance writer. He’s responsible for The Explorer and this mailing list: https://bit.ly/2SkXash

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