Author Anne Scottlin On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Successful Author or Writer
…Set up your life to support your creative passions. Don’t quit your day job to write your first book. Start submitting magazine articles or short stories, too. Don’t wait for your first novel to be published or provide income before you start your second novel. Keep the hopper full.
Some writers and authors have a knack for using language that can really move people. Some writers and authors have been able to influence millions with their words alone. What does it take to become an effective and successful author or writer?
In this interview series, called “5 Things You Need To Be A Successful Author or Writer” we are talking to successful authors and writers who can share lessons from their experiences.
As part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anne Scottlin.
Anne Scottlin is an Emotional Wellbeing Expert, speaker, award-winning actress, and best-selling author of the book, “Live For Joy”. Anne’s popular Twitter feed draws millions of views a month and she produces a down-to-earth motivational weekly show called #ScottlinTalks. Her energy and enthusiasm attract clients worldwide to her workshops, retreats, and online courses where she helps corporate leaders and entrepreneurs celebrate life again as she teaches them how to harness the genius of Joy to maximize their impact on the world.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
As the product of a counter-culture religious upbringing as well as sociopathic influences in my young adult life, I faced a rigorous journey integrating into mainstream society, finding my power and voice, and becoming an author and emotional wellness leader and influencer. Writing was one of the first ways I found my voice, even as a young child.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
My serious journey as a writer began with a mentor. My first writing mentor was my English teacher, in a tiny country high school. Thank you, to all you passionate teachers out there who really care about your students and give them extra time. Mrs. Peters affirmed my ability to create a story and to be persuasive. She wrote lots of margin notes on my papers that were pure gold. I will always be grateful for her encouragement and belief in me. After that my story journey took several detours, through a graduate degree in Medieval history where I wrote an award-winning thesis on Medieval women writers, to writing screenplays and working as a Hollywood actress. My fascination with story and history culminated in my commitment to change our story in progress in the now, and I dedicated my life to writing and teaching about the power of joy in everyday life and work.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a writer? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
From an extremely isolated upbringing sheltered from the arts, from fiction, from television, I fought the temptation to believe that I didn’t have the training or cultural context to write relevant work that would be of interest. I started by writing and publishing small works within my sphere, first religious content, then community interest, then academic research. Along the way, the feedback I received about my writing was highly affirmative, much to my surprise. And this led to a surge in my confidence and motivation to write more. This also taught me to never underestimate the impact my own mentorship could make in the lives of other aspiring writers and creatives.
Then I hit some bumps in my personal life, gaping potholes really, that made me second-guess everything I thought I knew about myself and my skill sets. My joy hit rock bottom and I bought into the self-sabotaging mindset that all I had to contribute was foolish and less-than. The moody artist camped out in my head for several years, until I gave her a kick in the pants and told her to move on. How? To stop my self-obsession, I began looking for opportunities to help others through humanitarian work, new writing projects, and finding even the little things in my life that brought me joy and helped release my creative flow. I began to practice a habit of mental spring-cleaning of all relationships and messages — past and present — that said “You’ll never do…”, ``you’ll never be…”, ‘’ you can’t…”
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?
I can’t spell to save my life. No, I exaggerate. But there are certain words that challenge my dyslexia to such an extent it literally took me decades to learn the right spelling without having to second guess myself or look them up. Since I’m a raving foodie, I wouldn’t have thought one of those words would be “restaurant”, but it was. So thank my lucky stars for spell check, or I would still be writing my stories in stick figures like I did before I was old enough to form sentences made from words.
Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It’s best for me to treat my stumbling blocks as a game, make it fun, and keep a sense of humor about everything. Oh, and stop being so hard on myself for my so-called “failures”, whether in spelling, or writing, or publishing, or any of it. I’ve had enough epic failures in my life to fill a book of laughs. No, seriously. Stay tuned.
In your opinion, were you a “natural born writer” or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
I am a natural born storyteller. My father was a great storyteller, too. I used to beg him to tell me more stories about the adventures and antics of his own childhood and life as bedtime stories. There were always more. And I loved them. I didn’t have television, which may have helped my imagination run wild. By age eight or nine, I was inventing fictional continued stories that I would force my little brothers to sit and listen to, and eventually any other kids I came across, I could entertain quite adequately as well. I was always a big fan of serial stories to keep their attention and make them come back.
And yes, as a natural born storyteller, I am glad that I was a natural born writer as well. I wrote my first play when I was 10. Of course, I starred in it. I started writing poetry. My father, again, and my grandmother were both amateur poets and gave me copies of their work. That fascinated me and made me curious to try it myself and find other works of poetry to read. I became fascinated with the art of words, and I loved old-school rhymes. Under different circumstances I would have been a natural rapper. But since I had never even heard of rap, poetry it was, until I moved into more complex stories in high school.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am currently writing a book for young gen-z professionals to help them counter the record levels of anxiety and social media depression (FOMO) of their generation. I use a fun and entertaining style to teach them how to adopt a mindset and practices that will unleash the power of joy they forgot they have within them… a power that can transform their life, work, and sense of value.
I rewrote and expanded my graduate work on medieval women writers into a pop history format that I intend to publish under women’s history, highlighting five incredible and motivational real female characters working against all odds to get published. And I also have that proverbial half-written detective thriller (set in a drizzly pacific northwest) which serves at minimum as an indulgent imagination exercise until I have time to dedicate fully!
Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need… To Be A Successful Author or Writer”? Please share a story or example for each.
1. An audience helps!
In the 21st century, you don’t exist as a writer unless you have a strong presence in the virtual world. And most of us hate this. With a passion. We see our gift as a writer as exclusive and rare and sacred. Sorry… it’s not. There are billions of people with the ability to write. YOU ARE unique and talented, but if no one ever reads your work, your gratification (and pocketbook) will be restricted to your own self-enjoyment of the creative process itself.
With rare exception, you absolutely must be on social media. (And just so you know, no, you don’t happen to be that rare exception.) If you don’t know where to start, you’re not alone. Find chat rooms, virtual groups, writers’ clubs, and a host of other opportunities to learn from those who are ahead of you in the game. Starting small is better than not starting at all. Open your social platforms and get those first 50 posts up on each that are specifically dedicated to your writing, your subject matter, or tantalizing samples of your work. If you need it, get help. There are hoards of virtual assistants and social media managers that are ready and willing to help format, schedule, and post your work if that is too overwhelming for your time or sensibilities.
And remember, there is now an entire swath of the readers’ market that are exclusively listeners. Audio books, podcasts, vlogs, and YouTube are as legitimate of platforms to start creating awareness about your writing as the time-weary blog was 15 years ago. Nothing against blogs. But how many views are you getting weekly? And if they are substantial, you truly rock!
2. Money, at least a little. Always have several pots on the stove. I teach and mentor many creatives, and the first lesson I teach is: Set up your life to support your creative passions. Don’t quit your day job to write your first book. Start submitting magazine articles or short stories, too. Don’t wait for your first novel to be published or provide income before you start your second novel. Keep the hopper full.
Find ways to teach or coach around your area of passion to provide supplemental income. If you have a day job that involves a commute and working away from home, consider asking to work remotely (now more possible than ever). Or, if you’re a barista and must be at the counter, consider if there is virtual work you could do from home in an area of your expertise or experience (maybe even copyediting, ghost writing, and (depending on your skill sets) social media management for other authors and creatives. The possibilities are endless. Just ask my coaching clients. Don’t get stuck in a mindset of lack. Keep all those pots on their burners at a low simmer until one of them boils over with abundance. And even then, keep at least a couple saucepans on simmer, always. Many of us have portfolio careers these days already, and we expect it to be a continuing trend.
3. Stay young at heart and curious about your world. I still sit on the floor a lot, I play like a kid, I don’t have children and I swing on swings, I am still in awe and wonder about nature and animals. If you haven’t jumped up and down for joy this week, this month, this year… consider the gravity of your conditioning. What’s the point, after all? I’m serious. Mix it up! Experts about aging tell us that at any age, staying sharp involves constantly practicing new patterns. Challenge your comfort zone of life experience. Listen to new kinds of music, take a different route to a common destination, stand on one foot when you brush your teeth, floss starting in a different direction, the possibilities are endless. Allow these fun and challenging interruptions to form new patterns for your imagination and expand your perspectives.
4. A tough skin and the willingness to take constructive criticism… try, try, try… again and again and again. As a working actress in Hollywood, I turned managing rejection into an art form. It wasn’t just for writing. It was for my age, my weight, my height, my skin tone, my personality, my skill set, that I was in a room of 25 other people who looked exactly like me but had fancier credits, or just the fact that I reminded a producer of his ex-wife. It was literally endless. Actors are the most overstocked commodity in the world. So if you want to cure yourself of the sting of manuscript rejection, perhaps test another industry that is even harsher on the very essence of your existence! But, hey, we love what we do. And that’s the point. Authors, actors, and creatives must love what they do so much, that it is worth any rejection to be in your creative bliss. And you just keep going.
5. Patience and a healthy dose of self-acceptance and love. As writers, what we create feels like an extension of ourselves. It becomes our virtual offspring. Our mental and emotional wellness is easily influenced by the flourishing or languishing of our progeny. We first wanted to create to experience the very joy of it! So if you find yourself being miserable, take a step back. Practice self-acceptance and love. Be patient with your creative genius. You will be most creatively prolific when you are living from a place of emotional wellness, joy, and purpose.
I’ll share a clue from my years of acting. When you are in the moment of creation, embrace it fully as an extension of yourself, feel your characters from within, move your audience as only you can when you are in that divine creative flow. When you are outside those moments of creation, beware of the mind. Don’t indulge in self-criticism. Learn to trust your creative moments, and then step away. Focus on your life, your joys, your tribe, your gratitude — until the next time your creative genius makes an appearance. Learn to trust the flow, the process, the ebb and flow of the tide. All will be well. In some way or another, it usually is in the end.
And finally, stop telling the people closest to you what you’re doing, unless they are already fully supportive raving fans of your work. No one can make your self-doubt go atomic faster than intimate family and friends who think they know what’s best for you. Their “helpful” comments can be a creative’s undoing. Find your tribe instead. Find a supportive community of other writers and creatives who speak your speak, who relate to your wins and losses, and who can help jumpstart and inspire your process if you get stuck. Love your work. Love your tribe. Love yourself.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study). Can you share a story or example?
The one habit I believe contributed most to making me a great writer was the choice to be unreasonable. I have learned to tune out the pragmatic nay-sayers. I wrote even when no one was reading what I wrote. By all accounts, I spent a preposterous amount of time building and writing for my social media audience, but then after a couple of years they started begging me to write a book! Be unreasonable. Live outrageously. Keep those varieties of pots on the stove, take care of yourself, and go have fun!
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
I draw inspiration from literature that moves me. Classical literature, philosophy, a wide spectrum of spiritual works, Shakespeare, and unusual works… like those medieval women writers. And I still love poetry, the classics, the ballads, the works that make me feel, that stir my soul, that make me feel alive.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I began a movement in 2020 that demonstrates the power of joy as a critical element of our best productivity and wellbeing. In 2021 I founded The Power of Joy Institute, a global collaboration of writers and other emotional wellness specialists. We are uniting our efforts and influence to demonstrate the value and power joy has in our workplaces and personal lives. We teach people how to live more joyful and productive lives by using simple tools and techniques. Joy is a universal language, and we plan to maximize this opportunity to make the world a better place.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!