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The Secret To A Successful Writing Career

By Stephen Hart

I have discovered how you can be successful in your writing career. It works regardless of the type of writing you’ve chosen as your career path. If you want to be published, this will help you. If you need to get over writer’s block, this will speed you past the hurdles. If you need to handle rejections with less tears, this will dry your eyes.

And the best part is, it’s painless and it’s something you already know how to do! It’s nothing more than a gentle nudge, a soft reminder of a simple lesson. You ready? Here it is!

Move Forward- at least one step every day.

Progress, and the belief that you’re farther along today than you were yesterday, is a solid foundation on which to rest your fragile writer’s ego. No matter how thick the writer’s block is or how high the rejection letters pile up- Move Forward!

The easiest way to drive this point home is to remind yourself every day that you have to make progress. I have a sign hanging in my office with the words Move Forward drawn in capital letters. Just seeing this when I sit down at my desk gives me inspiration to do something. The more I look at this sign, the more I get done. It’s a great mind game I play with myself.

If I’m lucky, the tiny step I take gives me the shot in the arm I need to complete one of the day’s tasks. After I’ve completed a rough draft of a magazine article, I’ll tell myself to just type up the label for the magazine. That’s all. Just the label. Then once the label is done I might pull up my query letter form and customize the address information. Before I know it, the template letter is complete and I’m polishing up the piece. It will be ready for the mailbox tomorrow morning!

Forward motion is what makes anything do-able. If you want to drive to the grocery store, get in your car and step on the gas, or step outside and walk there. Keep moving forward and you’ll eventually get the cookie aisle. The same train of thought works for writing.

Hopefully now you understand just how forward motion, no matter how small, will eventually lead you to publication. Another benefit is that by moving on, and ahead, you leave the battle scars behind you. Things that defeated you yesterday and last week grow smaller in the mind’s eye as if you were watching them fade away in your side view mirror.

But let me now warn you that there’s one tiny area that needs consideration. It is the loophole in this otherwise perfectly simple plan. It’s called Speed. Move Forward is the constant. Speed is the variable.

The speed at which you move directly influences the achievement of your goals. If a race takes you 200 steps to finish and you take a step each day, you’ll be finished in approximately seven months. But if you take three steps a day you’ll finish somewhere after only two months.

The same holds true in writing. You are in control of your destiny and how many steps you take each day. Only you decide how quickly you get published, how many book proposals you send out, and how many guidelines you request from magazines. Sure there are editors and agents and rejection letters along the way. They are all part of the race. But you don’t stop running just because the road gets a little bumpy, do you?

Move Forward and Speed are two methods that when tailored to your own individual needs, will create writing nirvana: Contentment. If, when you rest your head on your pillow at the end of the day, you can say that you are farther along than where you were in the morning, then you can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s up to you to decide whether your goal is one step per day or several. Just understand that the fewer steps you take each day, the longer it will take to get where you want to be. You will get published, I guarantee that. You just may be 90 years old when it happens.

We all tend to get bogged down in a day’s events. There’s always something other than writing that has to be done. If that’s your thinking, you have to accept that the converse of that statement is also true: there’s always something other than getting published that has to be done.

If you spend your day procrastinating and doing the dishes, the laundry, and caulking the bath tub, you’ll have reached a silent goal of ‘having a clean house.’ The trick is to apply the same thinking to your writing.

When you decide to paint a chair, understand that it’s just as easy to finish a chair as it is to finish an article for a magazine or write a query letter for an agency. All of the activities require that energy be spent.

It’s up to you where you want to spend you energy. So if you set out to paint that chair and do your spring cleaning, don’t be upset at the end of the day when the house smells like pine trees and lemon, but you still haven’t published that novel. The truth is, you set your goals for the day and you succeeded. The house is clean!

If your priority isn’t writing, you won’t succeed. If you don’t at least try to move forward, even by small steps, you’ll never do it. Writing isn’t any more disciplined than painting or doing laundry. Writing is a task no different than the others that clutter your day.

Give writing the time and attention it deserves. Give it the time and attention you know you want it to have- and you’ll get published, or at the very least, be one day closer to getting published.

© 2002 by Stephen Hart

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