“As most of you know,” I told the crowd at my book pre-launch party in Oregon a few weeks ago, “it took me ten years to publish Waiting at Hayden’s.”
“Too long!” My comedian-sister, Casey, heckled me from the audience.
While she was obviously kidding (she’s seen how much goes into writing and publishing a book) as I thought about her joke afterward I realized that on some level she was right.
Of course it does take a long time to write a novel—or accomplish any big goal—especially since most of us have to support ourselves financially in the pursuit of it. During these past ten years I finished college, worked 5-6 jobs at a time so I could keep writing, and wrote another novel while waiting for this one to be picked up. But had I made the shifts I made this past year sooner, I probably could have published the book years ago.
I’m very glad I didn’t. Shopfiction™ wouldn’t have been possible years ago. The technology wasn’t there yet and fashion blogging wasn’t as popular as it is now so I wouldn’t have had the idea. This experience convinced me that timing really is everything and I’m forever grateful I didn’t learn these lessons until now. But I want to share what I did learn in the hopes that it might help you as you pursue your dreams. Everything changed for me when I applied these five unconventional tips.
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1. Instead of Joining Support Groups, Try This Instead: For a long time I did what most “aspiring” authors did—I joined writing groups with other aspiring authors. The thing I realized this year was that while those used to be helpful on some level, I didn’t want to be an aspiring author anymore. I wanted to be a published author. And I noticed that published authors were actually living rather exciting writing lives.
I follow my favorite authors on Instagram. One of them, Emily Giffin, checks into hotels sometimes when she’s writing her novels. Now, I couldn’t afford to check into hotels to write, so what did I do? I got a job working at one so that I had the option! And guess what happened? My writing improved dramatically—and at a much faster rate than when I was in those writing workshops. Why? Because I felt like a famous author and I think this shift gave me access to a different part of my brain, where all the information I’d learned over the past years from reading, practicing, and attending all these workshops was stored. There is a time and place for workshops and support groups. Then there is a time for making a shift inside ourselves.
2. Dress Like You Would in Your Dream Life: While I don’t believe that clothes—or any material possession for that matter—make us happy longterm, I do believe that what we wear affects how we feel and how we feel is everything when pursing a dream. Personally, I’ve always loved dressing up. When I used to dream about my book tour, I would envision the outfits I’d wear to my signings. And when I pictured my dream life, boxes of clothes would always show up at my doorstep and I’d have endless cute options for what to wear. However, the reality was, for years I didn’t have the money to buy the clothes I loved. For a long time I felt bummed out about this. But last year I decided to go and try on dresses at Nordstrom for a book tour as if I had the money (and as if I had a book tour planned to go on). I had a ball! And I ended up investing in one dress. I wore it to every interview and pitch, and it made me feel like I was a successful author. Other people picked up on this and it helped me get where I am today.
3. Follow Your Own Unique Impulses: There are hundreds of books about how to get your novel published—or start a business, etc. I read most and I tried to follow as much of the advice as I could. But this year I decided that nine years of that hadn’t gotten me anywhere. So, I decided that instead of following what’s worked for other people, I would tune into what felt right to me. I didn’t do a single thing by the book. It was my own gut impulses that led me to come up with shopfiction™. All of us have access to different ideas because of who we are and what we’re interested in. If we follow our own unique impulses it’s likely we will see them come to fruition.
4. Make Believe: Most of us lose this very important skill as we grow up, but in order to become someone we want to be we have to dream and imagine we are that person first. I’m not just saying visualize. I’m saying convince yourself that you are successful in your chosen field. When I first turned Waiting at Hayden’s into a trailer, it made me believe that one day I could see my book turned into a movie on the big screen. That changed my writing and led me to the idea for shopfiction™.
5. Find yourself: And everything else will follow.