I followed Guy Kawasaki’s Twitter feed yesterday as he gave some practical tips for getting your writing done and getting your writing published. He knows a thing or two about both aspects.
As both of you loyal readers of this space have noticed (repeatedly, I’m afraid!) I always say I want to write. Yet, as you’ve also undoubtedly noticed, not much happens in that direction.
Here are Guy’s tips (with my related thoughts):
- “If you really want to learn how/why to write, read If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland.” I first discovered this little book when I read Garr Reynolds’s PresentationZen. I’ve given away about five copies to friends and colleagues who wanted to write. Of course, I told them this was a great book, blah, blah, blah, and all the time, I needed to do what she says. It’s old, and it seems a bit dated, but it’s encouraging and inspiring.
- “Write every day. No matter what’s going wrong, how busy, whatever. Get into the habit.” Almost every artist and creator I know is adamant about the habitual nature of their craft. This has been the biggest obstacle for me in trying to write.
- “Use Word. Sure there are better, cheaper, more elegant, whatever but Word is the standard for everyone. Go with the flow.” I like my Moleskine, Mirado Black Warriors, and Pilot G-2s. But I wonder if that’s just because of the hype about the Moleskine’s illustrious reputation as the tool for creatives. I also know that I don’t type really well. On the other hand, my handwriting falls apart within a couple of lines, to the point that it’s totally illegible. My hero, Michael Hyatt, is not a fan of Word, and prefers other more elegant, less cumbersome tools. I think Guy may be onto something, though. My students use Word. It’s readily available wherever I am, and if ever the day comes that I actually get published, I’ll have to get it into a Word document anyway. (Please note I am writing this post in the WordPress editor).
- “Start building your social media platform the day you start writing, not after you’re finished.” Guy, Michael Hyatt, Jeff Goins, and others are pretty big on building your platform to promote your writing and creating. I get that. I know if you want to be noticed, you have to increase your exposure to those who might benefit from your art or your service or your product. This might be my biggest obstacle, next to the simple act of sitting down every day and doing the work. It sounds to me a lot like blatant self-promotion. In reality, there is a fine line between confident exposure and brash egotism. I’m afraid of trampling that line.
- “Hire a copyeditor. The odds that you’re a good writer and copyeditor is 0.” I don’t know enough about the ins and outs of copy editing, although it sounds like fascinating work. I guess that’s the grammar Nazi in me! Anyway, if Guy Kawasaki says you need a copy editor, then you – and I – need a copy editor. Period.
- “Hire a cover designer. The odds that you’re a good writer and designer is 0.” See copy editor above.
- “Test your ebook on every platform. Assuming that deployment works on every platform is an illusion.” I know this to be true. I have read books on my Kindle Touch, and the same ones on the Kindle app for PC and the iPad. The formatting is often inconsistent. This is distracting. The fact that Guy couches this tip in terms of “assuming” warms my heart. After all, I tell my students all the time that “assume” is one of my favorite words because when you assume, you make one out of U and ME. Let the reader understand.
- “If you want to simplify your life, just sell your ebook through Amazon Kindle. It’s 75% of the action alone.” Again, I plead ignorance of how publishing works. It only makes sense that Kindle has the lion’s share of the ebook market.
- “Think like NPR: provide such great social media content/curation that people tolerate the telethon. In other words, provide value to earn the right to promote your stuff.” This goes along with the part about building your platform. NPR is annoying, but they are annoying mainly once or twice a year. The rest of the time, they provide programming that attracts passionate followers. Those passionate followers gladly tolerate, and even participate in the fund-raising. My current social media involvement is a far cry from this ideal. I’m stuck in the early days of blogging, when you blogged to tell folks about your life and times. I can see where social media has evolved; I just haven’t successfully navigated the current. On the other hand, I consider myself a curator of sorts, so this might be easier to overcome than I imagine.
- “Ignore the naysayers. Odds are that you haven’t written a good book, but if you listen to naysayers, you won’t know for sure.” This great point reminds me of the old proverb: “Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the one who is doing it.” Vincent van Gogh reportedly said the artist must silence the voices that say you can’t. Sometimes those voices are the voices of family, friends, and critics. But often, those voices are screaming from the inside of our own heads. Either way, you won’t know if you can do it, or how good it is until you do it.
Obviously, Guy Kawasaki knows what he’s talking about. My challenge – and yours – is to glean what we can, get busy finding our own voice, and let it be heard.