Since keeping a journal as a child, I’ve considered myself a writer, long before being paid a dime. But not until I made an income from my work did I take a closer look at some things in my life that were holding me back from greater success.
I knew I had to make some changes and even give up some habits to gain the kind of success I want to see from my efforts.
Here are Seven
Rejection doesn’t feel good. It is a hit to our self-esteem. We tend to take it personally, so we do anything to avoid rejection. Even staying small. But if you don’t get comfortable with occasional rejection, it can stop you from trying at all.
Mark R. Leary, Ph.D., professor of psychology and neuroscience at the Interdisciplinary Behavioral Research Center at Duke University, explains,
Our brains don’t easily tell the difference between rejections that matter and those that don’t unless we consciously think about it and override our automatic reactions.
It is ultimately up to you how you respond to rejection.
You can use it to make your writing better instead of wallowing in it and creating self-doubt. It’s crucial to keep in mind that a lot of the time, rejection is not personal.
When I started writing, publications came to me and asked me to contribute. This made me complacent. Once this platform got more crowded, the competition better, with more writers vying for fewer slots, I started getting rejected more frequently. Ouch. Why am I not good enough, was my go-to. They weren’t rejecting me; they were rejecting my writing.
So what. In the grand scheme of things, so what.
I can improve.
I had to start looking at rejection for what it is, a gift to help you improve and stretch your writing chops.
Once I worked on a couple of rejected pieces, they were better for it. Lesson learned.
Accept rejection as a gift to make you better.
2. My mornings as they once were
When I put my most essential task — writing — at the beginning of the day, I got a lot more done. Rearranging my mornings to get the most out of my writing time took trial and error until I found the system and time that worked best.
The best time to write is different for every writer, but once you find what works, you’ll know it.
Giving attention to one thing during your power hours — when you naturally have the most energy — takes deliberate focus and practice. But once you make the conscious choice to ignore those things that take your time and attention away from writing, you will be shocked at how much you accomplish.
I was used to giving attention to that which wasn’t adding to my life in positive ways but distracting from what I was claiming I wanted to do — write.
Three hours of focused work is infinitely more productive than ten hours of interrupted “work.” It is impossible to get to deep work while being interrupted.
Once I rearranged my mornings and pushed some things off to later in the day — busy work, email, texts, socializing on Facebook — to get my most important thing done at the beginning of the day, my life shifted dramatically. Started making money from writing.
3. My strong inner-critic
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” — Theodore Roosevelt
As a writer, you have to practice self-love. As an editor, you can get the knives out and look at your work with a more critical eye and edit ruthlessly, but the act of writing needs to come from a place of love. You can’t bully yourself into a daily writing practice. Love it. It can’t come from a place of love if you have a harsh inner critic sabotaging your efforts by comparing yourself constantly to more successful writers.
Real growth comes from comparing your writing a year ago to your writing now.
One way to get out of the comparison trap is to use social media purposefully. For instance, I don’t go onto Instagram and Facebook to scroll. I log on to share my work.
Studies show that too much time spent on social media feeds increases depression and envy and decreases well-being. By limiting aimless scrolling, we’re making a conscious choice to not give into mindless resistance that takes from the writing session.
It isn’t writing that’s hard. It’s resisting distractions in life so that you can sit down and write that is hard.
Remind yourself that comparing your writing success to other writers’ success will only zap your energy and get you farther from your desired accomplishments. Other writer’s ability has nothing to do with you and where you are on your writing journey. We are all different.
No one is like you.
You’ll have your own take on the same topic because you have had your own unique experiences, challenges, and triumphs. Use those. That is what sets you apart from everyone else. If you lean into what you know and your perspective on what you see, you won’t have any competition.
The writers you admire are amazing because they put in the effort, they tried, and they didn’t stop trying until they made it.
4. Distractions I love
I had to get real about my most significant and most powerful time suck — my iPhone and notifications.
I’ve always had a great short and long-term memory. But both have been negatively impacted by the super-computer by my side 24/7. I lost my excellent short-term memory because of being systematically distracted by a beep of light randomly popping up on my phone.
Since turning off most notifications, my memory has improved, and so has my focus. But even that was not enough.
My iPhone sitting there, next to me, distracts me as well. For me, a type- A/OCD and possibly on the spectrum person, even a phone sitting next to me, face down on the table, makes me want to check it. I have always prided myself on restraint and willpower, but when it comes to my iPhone, it wins every time, unless it is in another room in the house, away from me.
Sometimes, while driving fast down the highway, I have the urge to chuck it out the window. Certain areas of my life would dramatically improve if I did.
While that is extreme and one can dream, we have to learn to coexist with technology so that we use it to better our lives and not decrease our mental health.
Since physically placing it in another room, I get a lot more done.
5. Bingeing streaming services
I’m wasn’t a huge TV watcher to begin with; it bores me. But I’ve cut back even further. The more I cut back, the harder it is for me to sit in front of the TV at all.
There is a numbing effect that takes over when you sit in front of the TV for hours at a time. I can feel my brain shutting down.
Reading has the opposite effect. It makes me think and feeds my writing with new ideas to drill down on.
I’m in bed by 9:00 most nights with a great book. My happy place is under my plush-down comforter feeding my mind and soul. There is much good that comes from holding a book at night and reading. It lulls you into sleep allowing your subconscious to chew on those thoughts while in peaceful slumber.
6. Political fighting online with Facebook “friends” and family
I’ve found that people who don’t want to know more about politics don’t because they want to stick to their “beliefs” without having to learn or change. They do not want the beliefs they hold dearly to be challenged or questioned. And some see it as a personal affront.
Those who are in the dark are in the dark for a reason. They’re not going to change from any amount of factual information you offer up to them unless they are willing to.
Some want to remain where they are because it allows them to behave a certain way, cling to internal bias, stick to what they know, and remain in the numb comfort of their lives. It allows them to keep spending their evenings streaming shows and binging mindless garbage. No amount of data, statistics, numbers, polls will change their minds.
Those who look at politics with one viewpoint are getting something out of that mindset for their survival. They have shut down for a reason, and you are wasting your time trying to educate them.
Also, if they were ever a platform not conducive to a thoughtful conversation, it is Facebook.
7. Being the beck and call girl for my family
I had to set boundaries.
Setting boundaries at home for women just got more difficult due to a pandemic that has lasted more than a year and has forced many children to learn from home. Women with children tend to pick up the slack in their families during a crisis, revealing the disparity and inequity between men and women at home and in the workforce. Someone has to look after the kids when school is no longer an option, and this usually falls to women for several reasons I can’t go into for this post. It is real and a problem.
Now that I’m focused on writing, I’m less available for things my family shouldn’t have been relying on me to do in the first place. This has been good for everyone. If my child can’t find a sock, she can’t scream, “Mom, I can’t find my sock.” She actually has to find her own sock. The other day my partner was staring right at the dog food and didn’t see it, “Hun, where is the dog food?”
This is partly my fault.
When I step in too much and take care of things for everyone in the house, my loved ones start to expect and rely on me for things they’re completely capable of doing, handling, washing, cleaning, rinsing, picking up, etc. The less I do, the more they pitch in.
It takes a village to run a family. Have your little ones pitch in from an early age, even if their job is only to pick up every single block they played with, so they won’t be shocked when you ask them to do more when their age allows for greater responsibility.
I found a plaque at a farmers’ market and it hangs on the inside of a cabinet in our kitchen. Feel free to take the advice. It reads,
How I Made 5,613.47 on Medium in January
What you need to hit four figures a month from writing and have the same amount land in your bank account.
You’ll Know When You Turn from Amateur to Professional Writer
When you’re able to stare resistance in the face each morning and sit down to write anyway.
Jessica is a writer, an online entrepreneur, and a recovering type-A personality. She lives in Los Angeles with her extrovert daughter, two dogs, and two cats.