How Writers can Stay Out Of Their Own Way

If I’ve learned anything about writing in the last few years (especially since the Self-Publishing Juggernaut started stomping all over the landscape), it’s that far too many writers are trying to mimic what other writers have done to become successful. It’s okay…you can admit it.

I’m guilty of it, to be honest. Especially when it comes to trying the latest Amazon magic trick.

Here’s the sad thing, though…doing this works for some people. But for others, it’s the equivalent of building a second Great Wall of China between you and your writing goals.

Far too often, we as writers are the biggest obstacle in our way. I know this all too well because I am constantly tripping over myself.

But right around the time I finished Nests, something changed. I wasn’t really looking to what other writers were doing in terms of their writing and marketing. I didn’t use someone else’s standards to etch out my path. Instead, I wrote what I wanted and I marketed the way I wanted (which, honestly, isn’t much and often hit or miss).

And here’s the weird thing…within 6 weeks or so, my sales started improving. And they have been steadily climbing ever since. I’m not making huge numbers by any means, but compared to sales 6 months ago, the change is pretty drastic.

Also, best of all, I decided to start writing two books that I was pretty sure would not be very popular. I still get a barrage of WTFs from the ending of Nests…but I sort of like that. So I am writing stories that I wouldn’t have if I were taking all of my cues from what “successful” indies are doing.

Are you getting in your own way? Not sure how to tell? Here are some things to think about.



I admit…this one makes me a hypocrite, as I recently asked Ksenia Anske how in the world she managed to get 44K followers on Twitter. But I asked not only because I also would like that many followers…I asked because I was genuinely curious. Why does Twitter work for some and not for others? Why do some find success (and fulfillment, blech) in Facebook while others don’t?

It’s because regardless of what any so-called expert will tell you, there IS NO SECRET formula for success in social media. It comes down to how nice and relatable you can be on a screen. And I suppose tact and creativity also come into play. But don’t let this worry you. You’re a writer, not a social media expert. Don’t let social media get in your way of writing.



Busy? Yeah, me too. I ghostwrite most of the day while also keeping the kids out of danger (as best I can) and trying not to blow a gasket to not snap every other ten minutes on one of the days when the baby gets into the Tupperware drawer, the 5 year old has smeared peanut butter on the floor, and the 7 year old is practicing her attitude for when she turns 16.

Here’s the thing. There’s still always time to write. Got 15 minutes between two tasks? Use it. Don’t fool yourself by saying 15 minutes isn’t enough time to write. That’s a lie that procrastination likes to plant in our heads.

15 minutes is plenty of time. Ever take a power nap? Aren’t they awesome and refreshing? Do that with writing. Make your writing the equivalent of a power nap. Do it whenever you have a sliver of time and a keyboard at your fingertips.



If you’re indie publishing, you don’t have agents or a publisher to appease. You can write what you damn well please. Take advantage of that. Of course, whatever you release into the digital ether will be a representative of you, so you want it to be good. But don’t find that comfort zone that you’ve been looking for and kick your heels up.

Challenge yourself. Like the ever-intelligent Mr. Bixler from My Girl said (and, more impressively, John Bush later on): “Be dangerous and unpredictable…and make a lot of noise.” Surprise yourself as well as your readers. Don’t get in your own way by limiting yourself to what you think is a great story FOR NOW. Always be thinking about how you can evolve and stray from what you KNOW you can do. Then, get good at that new thing and venture elsewhere.


So tie your shoelaces, lest you trip. Hold the scissors blades-down lest you fall and stab yourself in the chest. Get the hell out of your own way and just write.


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