Book Review – The Successful Author Mindset By Joanna Penn

Successful author mindsetThe Successful Author Mindset subtiled, A handbook for surviving the writer’s journey is another book by Joanna Penn and the third book I am reviewing from her. You can read the others I reviewed here and here. As part of my focus on authorpreneurship I have been reviewing books from Joanna Penn who has been able to build a successful business from her writing. While the previous books I reviewed focused on the technical aspects of making money from writing, this one is quite different. It deals with you the writer and explores the kind of mindset you need to have to be successful. Writing is not easy because it is a lonely exercise and many times when we do want to write we can be our own biggest critic because of our self-doubts and other negative thoughts going through our mind. Joanna hopes to use this book to encourage us. She writes that:

So this book collects the mindset issues that writers go through, that I have been through myself over the last nine years, and that perhaps you will experience yourself as different times on the author’s journey. These words are an attempt to help you understand that what you’re going through is normal and to be expected as part of the creative process.

The book is divided into three parts. Below are the topics you can learn about from each part of the book.

PART 1 – MINDSET ASPECTS OF CREATIVITY AND WRITING

This part of the book goes through the potential issues writers may face during the process of their writing. Here are the topics you will read about in this part of the book:

  • Self-doubt and imposter syndrome
  • Need for violation
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of rejection and criticism
  • Your inner critic
  • Fear of judgement
  • Perfectionism
  • Writers block and procrastination
  • “I’m not creative. I don’t have any ideas.”
  • “My writing isn’t original”
  • “Why write? There are already too mnay books in the world.”
  • “I don’t have the time or self-discipline to write.”
  • I’m not finding writing much fun. It’s hard work.
  • “I keep starting things and not finishing them”
  • Dealing with family, friends and writers groups
  • “How do I find my voice?”
  • Comparisonitis or “Everyone else is better than me.”

PART 2 – MINDSET ASPECTS AFTER PUBLISHING

This part of the book deals with what happens after publishing a book and when you start publishing even more books. In this part of the book you will learn about the following:

  • Anti-climax and creative dissatisfaction
  • What is your definition of success?
  • What happens when you tell people that you’re an author?
  • “I’m overwhelmed.”
  • Dealing with fans. Authenticity and drawing the line.
  • Haters gonna hate
  • Ambition, fame and fortune
  • Giving up

PART 3 – TIPS FOR SUCCESS ON THE AUTHOR JOURNEY

Here you will read about tips for successfully managing the author mindset in order to foster a long-term career. This final part of the book has the following lessons:

  • Know thyself
  • Understand and hone your creative process
  • Develop professional habits
  • Manage professional relationships
  • Take control of your writing career
  • Find your community
  • Keep learning
  • Schedule rest and take time off
  • Think long term. Create a body of work

MY PERSONAL LESSONS FROM THE BOOK.

I took away some key lessons from the book that can help me in the writing space as I also have a goal to write ebooks. Here they are.

  • Self-doubt  and imposter syndrome: Even successful authors have self-doubts and sometimes feel like frauds so don’t let feelings of self-doubt prevent you from writing. Joanna says that:

Embrace self-doubt as part of the creative process. Be encouraged by the fact that virtually all other creatives, including your writing heroes, feel it too with every book they write. In fact, if you don’t feel any kind of doubt, there’s probably something wrong! And if you’ve reached the heights of imposter syndrome, you’re probably doing pretty well in your writing.

  • Need for validation: Here’s a great quote on this subject,

There is a deep longing to feel legitimate in the world, to feel that others hold us in regard – Cheryl Strayed.

And another one:

We all feel a need to be heard, valued and recognised. We want people to validate our writing and tell us that what we write is good and we might keep asking ourselves, ‘am I good enough’, questions. This feeling of wanting to be noticed can influence the way we write and the decisions we pursue. Joanna writes that:

It makes indie authors chase after the latest marketing fad, hoping it will help them get noticed in a sea of books.

This need to be noticed will never go away so it is necessary to harness that need in a way that sustains you as a writer and not destroy you.

Measure your worth by the dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures – Elizabeth Gilbert

  • Fear of failure: Even Stephen King with his immense success feels the fear of failure.

I’m afraid of failing at whatever story I’m writing – that it won’t come up for me, or that I won’t be able to finish it – Stephen King

  • Fear of Criticism: Not everyone will like what we write so we may be criticised but that should not prevent us from writing. As we write we may get criticism from family, friends, other authors, bloggers, reviewers and the list goes on. Some of the criticism is good as it helps to improve your book but a lot you will need to ignore. You will need to build up thick skin to deal with the criticism and make sure you don’t spend too much time thinking about it. And remember, the fear of the criticism itself is often worse than reality.
  • Your own inner critic can even be worse than the criticism of others. This is the voice in your head that tells you how bad you are at writing. It is important to recognise those thoughtsm and calm them down. You can’t banish the inner critic totally as you can actually use it to your advantage to improve yourself but don’t let it take over. And more importantly, sit down and write, don’t let the inner voice stop you from writing.
  • Don’t let the fear of jugdement be a barrier. When people judge your book remember they are not judging you because you are not equal to your book. It is a good idea to have some people around you who understand you and can encourage you. Joanna suggests that you can deal with this by using a pseudonym. If you are so scared of judgement then don’t use your real name as the author on your books.
  • There are a host of other things that can be a block, for instance perfectionism, not enjoying the writing or believing you don’t have the time and of course starting and not finishing. A lot of these are things exist in our head. You will need to make up your mind and write irrespective of how you feel. Your writing can never be perfect so get into the habit of setting a standard and sticking with it. Set small amounts of time for you to write, even if it is 10-minutes daily and if you are consistent you will finish.
  • Even after publishing a book you might still not feel satisfied. You might be disappointed with the sales or something else. The truth is as humans, however much we achieve, we may still want more. See this as part of our nature and you can use it to motivate you to do more but don’t use it as a way to tell yourself you are not good enough. Embrace it and do the best you can.
  • How do you define your writing success? You must be clear about why you are writing and how to measure your success. People may have different reasons such as wanting to see a published book, wanting to see their book on book shelves, wanting to earn money or something else. Make sure you are clear about why you write.
  • The whole process of self-publishing a book can be overwhelming. It involves a lot of things to learn and do such as:
    • write multiple books,
    • edit your books,
    • design covers,
    • build an author platform to publicize your work,
    • build an email marketing list,
    • market the book and more
  • If you find the whole process overwhelming it is important for you to decide what is really important and then say no to everything else. Also, get over the fear of missing out (FOMO). You can’t do everything.
  • Be ready to deal with the reactions of people if your book is a success. Some people will want to get to know you and there are people that will still criticize you. You have to be able to manage your emotions to deal with both situations. Create boundaries to ensure that you don’t over expose yourself to your fans. And for the haters – don’t give them your time. Don’t take their comments personally and don’t respond to them.
  • You may get to the point where you feel like giving up on writing for various reasons. On this Joanna writes that:

First of all, don’t feel guilty if you are thinking of giving up writing books. The writer’s life is not for everyone, and if writing is just another job, then consider that many people change careers in a lifetime, so it’s inevitable that some decide to pursue other paths.

  • Be aware of yourself:
    • Be aware of what excites you and what drains you in the writing process so you can map your time and energy appropriately to them. Also, be aware of when you are most productive and schedule your writing to those times.
    • Be clear about what you really want. Spend time understanding yourself and thinking about what you really want. Identify what will help you achieve your writing goals
  • Understand and develop your creative process:
    • You must find and understand the creative and writing process that works for you.
    • Show up to write and the words will come. Don’t wait for sudden inspiration.
    • Find the tools that work for you. Joanna uses a tool called Scrivener. Find a tool that works for you.
    • Joanna’s writing process is something like this:
      • Thinking about what to write to develop ideas and plots
      • Concentrated thinking and focus without any distractions
      • Getting ready to write
      • Writing before doing anything else
      • Thinking of writing time as playtime
  • Develop professional habits:
    • While writers write, it is how they write that differs, so you must develop your own writing habits.
    • Schedule your writing time and do it even if you don’t feel like it. You can’t only write when you feel like it.
    • Balance writing and marketing. You can’t just spend all your time writing. To be a successful authorpreneur you have got to schedule in time for marketing.
    • When you are writing focus on it. Don’t mix it with marketing. When you are maketing focus entirely on marketing.
  • Manage professional relationships:
    • Build positive relationships with people in the industry such as agents, editors, publishers, professional freelancers, bloggers and other authors and most importantly readers. You may need their help later and most certainly you need people to read and buy your books.
    • According to Joanna:

Writing is a long-term game and over the years, you are likely to run into the same people in the publishing industry.

    • Be generous. Find a way to help other writers and be generous to your potential readers too.
    • Where possible cooperate with competing authors. Joanna calls this ‘co-opetition’.
  • Take control of your writing:
    • Make sure you are working towards your goals. Are you writing mainly for money or also want to write books you enjoy writing? Go for what is important to you. Of course, you do want to make money but it may not be the only reason why you write. Don’t focus on money at the exclusion of the other reasons why you are writing.
    • Set clear goals and track your progress. 
    • Be an indie author. Don’t wait for a publisher to pick you. Pick yourself and publish your book.
  • Find your own community:
    • Writing can be lonely so find an online community that works for you.
    • On the importance of finding a community, Joanna writes that:

It is so important to find a community because there will be times you’ll want to celebrate with others and times you will be down and need support.

    • Find a community of people doing similar things to what you are doing online. You can search through social media to do so.
    • Spend time to get to know your peers and other authors.
  • And finally, keep learning and improving over time, make sure you look after your own wellbeing by resting and taking time off when you need to and don’t be in a hurry. See your writing as a long term process where you can create a body of work that will serve you well in the future.

This is another insightful book from Joanna. If you want to know more about the writing journey then I do recommend this book. It’s particularly great for developing a good mindset if you want to be an authorpreneur.

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