What are the things career authors don’t do? In this “9 Things Career Authors Don’t Do” mini-series, I’ll be sharing my experience as a career author and the habits you need to form to go from struggling writer to career author.
Life comes at us at a blinding speed every single day. We’re bombarded with issues to face, things to fix, people to deal with. Very rarely do things go exactly as we plan them, which means that most of the time, we’re putting out fires because something went wrong.
When you’re a writer or a publisher, both problems can be magnified because your creativity is connected to your business. It can become impossible to separate what you do as an artist versus what you do as a business owner.
How we respond to crisis can vary from person to person. Even within yourself, you probably deal with similar situations differently at different times, based on other variables. So, when something goes wrong, and you’re trying to figure out what went wrong or how to fix it, you have two choices: You can accept the responsibility as an oversight or shortcoming on your part, or you can turn your blame outward and find something or someone else who you believe is the cause of the problem.
In the new political climate of the twenty-first century, blame is ubiquitous. Whether you are on one side of the aisle or the other, or even if you stand somewhere in between, wherever there’s a failure, you will find no shortage of blame.
It’s easy to sink into this mindset as an author. Our stories and our work are so precious that we can’t fathom the possibility that something we did caused them to be anything less than excellent. Maybe our editor missed something? Maybe the cover designer didn’t choose the right image? Maybe it’s Amazon’s fault because the algorithm didn’t favor us in the way we expected it to? And those readers leaving negative reviews wouldn’t recognize a great story if it smacked them in the face. You can assign blame for everything quite easily.
Career authors, however, accept responsibility for things that go well and for things that don’t. Even when I was most upset about something that happened to me or my business, when I gained some distance and reflected on the situation, I was almost always at fault. I wasn’t trying to intentionally sabotage my own work, but sometimes that is precisely what we do, and it’s nobody’s fault but our own.
It’s hard to accept blame, to take responsibility for something you did. Nobody wants to admit causing self-inflicted pain. It makes us feel foolish, stupid, and unworthy of the profession we’ve chosen. But if you’re going to become a career author and be known as a true professional, you will accept responsibility for shortcomings, even if they weren’t entirely your fault.
Why? Why would you possibly accept blame unconditionally when things go wrong? Because that is the true path of learning. Scientific studies have proven that we learn far more from our failures than from our successes. If we can step back and analyze the situation and be honest with ourselves about how we performed, we’re much more likely not to make that same mistake again. Conversely, if we automatically take credit for everything, even if the effort was not attributed to us, we gain a false sense of security and knowledge.
It hurts to admit fault and face your mistakes. I’m not saying that it is easy for any human. But if you cannot acknowledge what you don’t know or what went wrong, you can’t learn.
There are many colloquialisms about excuses that I would not share in mixed company, but it’s safe to say that we all hate hearing them, and yet, so many of us insist on using them. Accepting responsibility for your actions is the quintessential definition of what it means to be an adult, and doing so professionally can encapsulate what it means to be a career author.
Being a career author is not about how many dollars you made per month or how many figures you earn per year. It’s not defined by how many five-star reviews you’ve accumulated or how many readers you have on your email list. A growth mindset defines a career author, and an insatiable desire to grow and to learn. Therefore, excuses are irrelevant. A career author never makes excuses.
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