10 Tips to Becoming a Much Better Writer (Part 2 of 2)

Write Craft with Sean and Johnny

You shouldn't read tips 6-10 without first reading 1-5, which you can find right here. Don't worry, I'll wait.

Are you back? Great. Enjoy Part 2.

6. Understand the 10,000 Hour Rule

We bought a Nintendo Wii for Christmas last year.

One of the included games was Wii Sports: Resort. Other than the sword fighting game, wakeboarding was my son’s favorite. Like a perfect arcade game, wakeboarding is wonderfully simple and highly addictive.

For the first few days, my son and I ran neck and neck, scoring around 300 points every time we played. Then, out of the blue, my little man found his rhythm and landed a whopping 800.

"Daddy, daddy! I got 800 points!! I got 800 points!!! See if you can get 1,000!!"

I tried, but it was hard.

I spent two days trying to hit 1,000, but couldn't even come close. My highest scores were hovering around 500.

I kept trying.

The following evening, I managed to pass my son’s 800, peaking at 901. I jumped up and down in celebration, then slapped the reset button and tried again. No matter what I did, I was stuck. Finally, it was bedtime, so I set the controller down.

"Can you make it to 1,000, Daddy, or do you think it's impossible?"

"Yes, when you wake up in the morning, you'll see,” I said.

I was prepared for a long night, but the daddy and 12-year-old inside me agreed — success was non-negotiable. I turned the Wii back on and nailed 1,354 my first try.

1,600; 1,700; 1,800 — the numbers continued to climb. After a half dozen games I scored a few points shy of 3,000. I turned off the Wii and smiled.

Success is a lot like a well-designed video game.

It starts out extremely hard and you think there's seemingly no way you'll ever be able to beat it. The levels are too confusing and the boss is too hard. But you keep on trying, learning the rhythm of the levels and looking for the chinks in the boss's armor. Eventually, the impossible becomes simple and new high scores are as easy as showing up.

You can substitute points for profit, but there isn’t much difference. Learn the rhythm of your online levels and look for chinks in the boss’s armor. What once seemed impossible will be simple soon enough. 

The 10,000 Hour Rule, which I first learned about in Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, claims that it takes at least 10,000 hours to achieve mastery of anything. From Mozart to Stephen King, there are no prodigies. Do your time, and do it every day, and you will eventually make a great living as a writer (and it probably won’t take you anywhere near 10,000 hours!).

7. Delegate the Drudgery

If you’re not willing to delegate the drudgery, then you're wasting time not doing what you do best — writing. And the less you write, the further you are from realizing your dreams.

I learned this law early. When I ran my flower shop, there were many times when I was forced to do everything myself, from stripping thorns from the roses, to answering phones, to emptying the buckets, and keeping things clean. Every time I wasn’t talking to a bride, booking a big party, inking the best possible deal on our international roses, or helping a hapless dude pick out flowers for his dudette, it was costing me and the business money.

I understood this truism before switching to writing, but my many excuses kept me from implementation. First, I was too poor. I just wasn’t generating enough money to justify the expense, so I wrote keyword articles for pennies that kept me running in circles, instead of building the base I needed for the business to grow. I also had a business partner who preferred to keep everything in-house. Though we didn’t share perspective, I saw where he was coming from, and it wasn’t as though we had the revenue required to argue. Once we started growing fast, we could barely keep up. We spent more time scrambling than outsourcing.

These are flimsy excuses, and I’m only writing them here so they don’t happen to you. Delegate the drudgery. Always.

If you’re not doing what you love, you’re distancing yourself from your passion and the true money you could be making.

Outsourcing travels in all directions. When you write copy for a client who doesn’t want to do it themselves, they are outsourcing their work to you. For you, writing is easy. For them, it’s difficult. Some of the things you don’t want to do, aren’t especially good at, or take you far too long, are tasks other people are exceptional at and enjoy doing — coding, WordPress work, blog design, research, and all the other stuff your business needs to grow.

Don’t spend your time building links or sweeping the floor of your blog. Let other people do that for you so you can spend your time writing more.

8. Adapt Quickly

You will make plans and they will fail.

If you’re lucky, this will happen often. Adaptation makes you stronger than the other guy. It’s not the smartest, the fastest, or the prettiest that will make their dreams come true — it’s those who know how to quickly adapt to any situation.

Successful entrepreneurs and writers understand that the world and environment around them is in constant motion. Smart writers focus on their endgame, adapt their strategies, and effectively meet the needs of an always-shifting market.

Can adapting quickly be taught? Absolutely. And sure, some people are better suited at this than others. I started selling Garbage Pail Kids and baseball cards on the playground in third grade, so I was bitten by the bug early. But even if it isn’t instinct for you, I believe you can understand the basics needed to succeed, then groom those qualities in yourself.

I’ve had to shift course more times than I can count, sometimes dodging earthquakes while weaving through tornadoes. But learning to dodge and weave has done wonders for my ability to grow. As it will for yours. Once you know you can zig when everyone else is zagging, and come out ahead at least most of the time, you should find ways to help others.

9. Help Others

You can use your growing authority to profit in many ways, but one way stands above the rest. And if you're as awesome as I think you are, you’ve probably been doing it since preschool.

Helping people is one of the fastest ways to build your personal brand, and something you should be doing regardless of where you are or where you’re going. 

When was the last time you went out of your way to help someone else when nothing was in it for you? Do you consistently put the needs of others above your own, even when it's inconvenient? Do you help other people achieve their goals? 

You should.

Do it because it's the right thing to do, or do it to build your business faster, but do it. Read and tweet other peoples’ content, answer every email as thoroughly as you can, and do it for free unless it's costing you money you can’t afford to lose.

There isn't one right way to help others.

Be the best possible version of YOU and keep your eyes open for ways you can help others in your niche.

Don't wait for people to ask. It can’t be a one-time thing. It must be in your blood. When you log onto Twitter, ask yourself, how can I help others? Be a leader who is willing to help and you will find more people are happy to follow.

10. Stay Focused and Finish

If you are unable to finish your passion projects, your dreams will linger on the wrong side of your horizon. One of the worst things in the world for a writer is having a hard drive packed with projects that are 80% finished.

Believe me, I’ve been there. If you find yourself straying off course (and you probably will) try any of these following suggestions:

  • Stop interrupting yourself. Do yourself a favor — turn off the computer ding and disable the popup that tells you, “You’ve got mail!” Like dogs salivating to Pavlov’s bell, when you hear the ding of email, you race to check your messages, interrupting your flow and veering focus from the project in front of you. It takes eight to 20 minutes to return to your groove. If the bell never tolls, you’re more likely to stay on track and complete the task that will inch you forward. 
  • Spend time doing nothing for at least 10 minutes each day. Take a break, clear your mind, and you’ll be surprised how often solutions become blindingly obvious and getting new ideas is as easy as closing your eyes. It’s called inspiration — and it arrives without struggle when your mind is still and more easily able to focus on what’s important.
  • Imagine the world you can create instead of getting overwhelmed by all there is to do. Picture what you hope to achieve — see yourself standing amidst all your products or happy customers. Envision how you hope to change the world. Be in that world. Know it exists. Allow yourself to truly feel it, then emerge from your state and record the three to five things you could do immediately to render your dream to reality.

The most important thing you can do to clear projects from your plate, and the area I still have the most growing to do, is to focus on a single project at a time. Do each thing well, and evolve as you go.

Everything you do aggregates to the someday total of who you are and what you stood for as a writer and a person. Most people will never be able to build such a legacy as You, the writer.

Treat your ability with respect.

Tell your story and tell it well. Your legacy belongs to you, no one else. Good times are always worth celebrating and bad times make a good story great. After all, isn’t conflict what keeps readers turning the pages? 

Look forward, never give up, and ride toward the sunset undaunted.

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