Fortunately for writers, we don’t work in a profession that requires us to make snap or immediate decisions. We are not flying commercial aircraft or conducting brain surgery. Our day-to-day work does not involve life-or-death decisions.

In fact, there are very few times in my publishing career where I was forced to decide on the spot. We have the luxury of thinking about how we are going to make decisions, and when. If we are not comfortable deciding, often we can kick the can down the road and make the decision at a later time.

When your primary activity as an author is to write words every day, the frequency of decision-making is less, and therefore, our skill is less developed. Decision-making is a skill just like any other. The more you do it, and the more you practice it, the better you will become.

Especially in fiction, decision-making is baked into the creative process, and that is not the same as the decision-making process used when you are running your own business. The consequences of a poor decision in fiction pertain to a character and can usually be fixed in revisions. But the consequences of poor decision-making when it comes to your business can be more severe or downright catastrophic.

I learned as a musician that there is a tremendous difference between rehearsing songs at band practice and playing them in front of a live audience. You can know the songs inside and out, and without a live audience, playing them in practice feels more relaxed and easier. Plus, there aren’t many decisions to be made during practice. For example, if an amp fails during practice, the band simply stops, fixes the problem, and starts again.

But if that same problem arises on stage in front of a live crowd, then the decision must be made on the spot by the person having that problem—without the ability to consult the rest of the band. I’ve been on stage when problems occur, and when it happens, time slows so that even just a few seconds can feel like hours.

The same phenomena apply, to a lesser degree, to authors. We don’t usually write for a live audience. We’re not normally required to make snap decisions while people are watching. Therefore, our decision-making skills have developed differently than those in other professions who do require this type of mental processing. Fortunately, like many skills, this is one that can be practiced and developed, but not alone at your desk.

Because there can be as many as a dozen people on a mastermind call at one time, decision-making skills are required when you are on the hot seat. You’ll be forced to process and respond to divergent perspectives and opinions about a problem. You have to think through the consequences of each suggested recommendation as well as respond to the person making it.

Practicing this type of problem-solving technique, even if you are not the one on the hot seat, will improve your decision-making skills far faster than you could on your own. When I am not on the hot seat, I’m thinking about what I would do in the situation and what type of decisions I would make because that will not only help me with future problems, but it will help the person who is on the hot seat.

Good decision-making strategies usually revolve around the ability to identify a pattern and react accordingly. This is why dancers, musicians, and performance artists—including athletes, practice game-like situations. It gives them the ability to detect patterns and anticipate what could go wrong and how. Real-life does not always play this way, but the ability to anticipate several scenarios will make you a better decision-maker.

This is another example of where the regular meeting of a mastermind group can pay dividends over time. Training our brains to process information and make decisions based on the best information available to us at the time is something that is practiced in mastermind groups. The very nature of participating in the hot seat discussion gives both the person on the hot seat and the other mastermind participants an opportunity to sharpen those decision-making skills, to look for patterns so that when a problem arises while were sitting alone at our desk, we will have the ability to make some of those difficult decisions.

This is certainly true when it comes to doing a scene analysis in a mastermind group. When we are writing the scenes, we are usually doing them by ourselves without any input from anyone else. But once that scene is shared with the group and the others have an opportunity to ask questions about the decisions we made in writing that scene, it sharpens our own thought process and forces a level of clarity that can make our writing improve much faster than it would if our only method of revision was what we’re doing on our own.

Although improving your decision-making skills on its own is an important part of becoming a career author, it also translates into other aspects of our lives. Once we leave formal schooling, most of us do not have the opportunity to practice our decision-making skills among a group of fellow professionals who can help make us better. We’re often expected to be the expert and know the answer unequivocally, but we know that is not realistic. Time spent in a mastermind group refining our decision-making powers will not only make us better writers, but inspire us to be better business people, and simply, better people.

Want to take your writing chops and business savvy to the next level? Check out The Author Success Mastermind group at