Heather is a published book author and illustrator who writes under multiple pen names and ghostwrites for other authors.
The Truth Hurts
It’s time I came to terms with the truth. I may be better than a lot of writers, but I'm still mediocre, as the world sees it.
If I was "The Best Writer," then I figure I would know it, because I’d be a New York Times Best Seller, sell thousands of copies of my books, have offers for podcast interviews, be hosting writer’s seminars, and have producers knocking on my door to turn my books into box office movie scripts.
Could I be The Best? Ever? Sure, why not? It can happen. I know what it will take to become The Best, I just haven’t pushed for it.
I haven't failed due to a lack of writing skills, or the inability to meet writing deadlines. No, I haven’t risen to that plateau for various other reasons. Being The Best would entail a lot of time, dedication, socializing, and, of course, funding to make it happen.
My hope is that in reading this article you can learn from my habits and decide whether you can be, or want to be, The Best. Find what works for you and gain an idea or two.
I Have Not Done a Perfect Job of Getting My Writing Out
I’ve become a master at utilizing my time and performing a unique balancing act between working for someone else, taking care of my children’s needs, and cranking out articles. However, that’s not enough to be The Best. When you focus on a particular goal, it's understood you need to make your primary focus all-encompassing in order to reach that level.
I admit I haven't done absolutely all I can to get my writing out to the world. I have dozens of unpublished manuscripts that haven’t even left the pages of my notebooks or are lying dormant within an electronic file. I’ve had two computers break down on me. The first time, I lost all of my files and was unable to recover them. The second time, I was prepared because I backed up all my crucial files on an external hard drive. Fortunately, for the most part I have written my scenes, title concepts, notes, and timelines on paper. I do have hundreds of notes and rough draft articles recorded on my phone. Thanks to my cloud account I can back those up and retrieve them anytime.
Why haven’t I completed or finalized the numerous incomplete manuscripts that lay dormant within my creative files? Well, one of the obvious reasons was that for a long time I had no working computer to complete and submit such large files. It put a significant dent in my productivity in progressing further with any of my manuscripts.
Thank goodness for my iPhone and extended app capabilities for documents. If not for my iPhone I wouldn’t have been able to check my Upwork account, write and submit articles for clients, log my time, or log into my Quip platform (a very crucial platform that I use for one of my online freelance jobs).
I Shifted My Focus: I Confess
I have been writing articles for myself and for others online for years. As the years have passed, my writing style, my understanding of SEO, my writing app utilization, and my credibility, I think, have improved significantly. I’ve researched, helped others accomplish their goals, and slowly built a solid portfolio.
However, I confess that I have not focused on improving my already written paranormal books, changing my covers, publishing my unpublished work, or marketing my books effectively.
In large part, I know why that is. My focus has shifted to helping others accomplish their writing goals, keeping my children fed, attending to other domestic duties, and working part-time outside the house in the evenings with local clients for office admin needs. I enjoy helping others succeed. Helping others accomplish their goals can be somewhat of an addictive drug for me, as it satisfies my "need to be needed" syndrome.
My productivity has been high, but has not been laser focused on the areas necessary for me to grow as a writer. So maybe that's why I'm not The Best.
Even Though I Know What it Takes to Write ...
I know all the good advice about how to succeed at writing. I endorse some good advice below.
Things That Don't Matter to Your Productivity as a Writer
- How long you have been writing
- How many classes you’ve taken
- How much research you’ve put into "getting better"
What Truly Matters to Your Productivity
- The action you take based on what you’ve learned
- Being willing to try new methods
- Having the stomach for criticism (so you can take it and flip your work into something new).
- Letting go of your fears of rejection (not everyone will say "yes").
- Being willing to reach out to people and make connections (although this is very tough for the introverted writer).
I'm Amazed That I Managed to Actually Publish a Book
When I published my book Half-Breed Healer (under my pen name, Ann Sharp), I would get up at 5 AM every morning. I didn’t have to stop writing until 8 AM (around the time my children woke up ready for breakfast), because I had help getting my oldest daughter up and ready for school and my two younger children were not attending school.
Now, I have two school-aged children that go to two different schools, plus a very demanding two-year-old. My spouse works long hours and has to deal with a 45-minute commute. He leaves at 5:30 AM and often does not return home till 5 PM or later. My family relies on me solely to be in charge of all meal preparations, cleaning house, laundering clothes and attending appointments. I enlist the help of my slow cooker when I can and try to prep meals for the next day for a quick heat-up when possible. I buy pizza or fast food at least once a week on days when my time margins are too slim. I now get up at 6:30 because I need that extra hour and a half due to interrupted sleep between a toddler with nightmares, bathroom runs with my five-year-old, asthma attacks coupled with nebulizer breathing treatments with my oldest, and, of course, my husband who also demands my attention.
Where Do You Find Time to Write?
I’ve spread myself so thin with a busy schedule, that most days it would feel impossible to accomplish any of my goals. Yet, somehow, I have still made time to write. I write in the evenings when everyone is watching T.V. I write in my car, in the parking lot of my children’s’ schools, while I’m waiting for the school bell to ring. I write when my toddler goes down for a nap. I write after everyone has gone to bed (which sometimes doesn’t happen until midnight). I will jot down notes while my children eat breakfast and I’m drinking my coffee in the morning. I enjoy writing. I write about anything that piques my interest.
Yet, even with all the writing I do, I know it is not just enough to write. I can’t just place words on paper and never submit them to be read by anyone but myself. I also can’t just upload my manuscript and expect it to be final-draft-worthy and devoid of errors. Nor can I expect that people will magically come across my book(s) on their own and read them or share them with other people. I need to do the work, set a schedule, revise my work, even pay people for their time to read it, review it, edit it, and share it if they feel it’s worth sharing, and I need to do that for a while before my work can gain credibility and the attention of a larger audience. Once people read my work they get hooked and they start asking me about my next book. This has happened many times after I gave away books during a promotion or a book signing event.
This Year Will Be a Turning Point—I Hope
Being the Best Author—a successful and "well-known" author, not just a hardworking and talented one—is still a goal that I am striving for. This year, starting in the summer, I will be laser-focused on my goal. My youngest child will be attending preschool (which will free up a couple of extra hours of time). This will allow me to make connections, improve my already written work, and push my writing career to the next level.
But this push will involve yet another demand on my time, in addition to writing—promotion. I will be reaching out to influencers (which is a very scary notion for me) so I can step out into the light and out of hiding.
Giving Away Time and Money to Promote Your Work
We all want to put all the time we can into writing. But sometimes we have to give a little bit away for free before we can gain anything back; this can mean both time and money. It takes time to post blogs, to write emails, and to post updates on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, and Snapchat. I suppose I could pay someone to delegate these tasks, which would free up my time to complete writing tasks or maintain my focus on my next book. Or I could do it myself.
When I write my marketing emails (or my assistant writes them), I'll write about giving away a little: giving away freebies, holding a competition, hosting book-signing events, talking to local businesses about sponsorships, or offering an exchange of services.
Ready to Try Some More
Who knows...maybe my books will make it to the movie screen some day. Wouldn’t that be something? Then I could finally say, “Maybe I'm one of The Best Writers." Or at least one of the most recognized writers.
Too long have I hidden behind the pages of my books and articles. I am ready. Are you?
© 2019 Heather Ann Gomez