You want to write for a living, right?
You’ve dreamed about it for years.
You might even have a few successful writing projects under your belt.
Now, for better or worse, you’re finally ready to give it a go—a serious go.
You’re ready to take your writing to the next level.
Whether it’s a book, a blog, or a freelancing business, you’re gearing up to launch your words into the world.
And you know you’re gonna’ need help, practical advice from others who’ve gone before you.
Along the way, you’ll encounter multiple perspectives:
- those who say, “just do it,”
- those who say, “be cautious,”
- those who say, “follow me to the shortcut,” and
- those who say, “it’s all about mindset.”
In a matter of days or weeks, you’re gonna’ feel overwhelmed, perhaps worse than before you started.
You’re gonna’ read success stories, failure stories, school-of-hard-knocks stories, and a fair share of metaphysical hooey.
You’re gonna’ need to develop Hemingway’s “built-in, shock proof, shit detector.”
While scams and scammers abound, I’m gonna’ share three common traps, three setups I see writers succumb to every day.
Read on to discover every writer’s toxic trilogy: build it, visualize it, and put on the blinders…
Toxic Trap #1: Build it, and They’ll Come…
Remember the movie Field of Dreams, the one with Kevin Costner’s character indulging an odd compulsion to build a baseball diamond in his backyard? The voices in his head told him, “Build it, and they’ll come.” I remember thinking, WTF does he think’s gonna’ happen? And BTW, what or whom are they, anyway?
However, they did come, and it made for an interesting fantasy piece.
The problem is that this fantasy is repeated everywhere:
- Just Do It!
- Feel the Fear, and Do it, Anyway!
- Jump off the cliff, and your wings will appear!
This mindset sells tons of books, movies, and seminars, but it’s particularly toxic to writers.
We work for free.
It takes a lot to get up every day and work for free, cranking out our beautiful, heartfelt, original widgets until someday, after some indeterminable time period, we get paid.
Between clicking the publish button and getting paid, we put everything we have on the line, and sometimes they just don’t come. Actually, most of the time they just don’t come because we’ve fallen prey to too many similar build it myths:
- The cream rises to the top.
- Create quality work, and you’ll get noticed.
- Do what you love, and the money will follow.
The sad thing is that most creatives give up long before getting paid, losing more than just their time, energy, and money in the process. They lose something precious, something far worse than time, energy, and money: they lose their self-esteem.The sad thing is that most creatives give up long before getting paid, losing more than just their time, energy, and money in the process. They lose something precious, something far worse than time, energy, and money: they lose their self-esteem. Click To Tweet
When they finally admit defeat, whether they believe it or not, they choose and assign themselves a label:
I’m a failure.
I’m just not good enough, smart enough, lucky enough, fast enough…
So how do we mute this launch-and-wait death dirge?
I call it step two. Nobody talks about step two because it’s neither glamorous, nor exciting.
It’s what happens after you get the girl, after you get the big job offer, after you launch your blog, business, or book.
You market the hell out of yourself, every day, for as long as it takes.
Then you do it all over again.
And you’re gonna’ need solid resources to gain an advantage. Marketing is a science, and great resources already exist:
- Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
- Fascinate: How to Make Your Brand Impossible to Resist by Sally Hogshead
- Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout
Toxic Trap # 2: Harness and Deploy The Secrets of the Universe
This second trap really burns me up.
Type Law of Attraction, LOA, The Secret, or Manifestation into the search box on Google. The first entry, Law of Attraction, returns over 31 million results.
You’ll find websites, webinars, books, tapes, courses, podcasts, videos, and clothing items. I wish I was making this up. This snake oil ideology has been around forever. Today, with our 24-hour news and digital devices, we like to believe we’re smarter than our ancestors.
Not so much.
We find its origins in folktales and fairy tales. It goes something like this:
- Visualize what you desire, and it will show up in your life.
- Like attracts like.
- Raise your vibration, and attract anything you want.
If this is your writing or marketing plan, I’m gonna’ let you in on another secret:
You’re being played.
Please don’t misunderstand.
I’m not trying to discount the merits of visualization or the benefits of focusing on pleasant thought or ideas. I’m saying these activities aren’t going to get your book written. They’re not going to bring you an avalanche of eager customers, either.
LOA and Manifestation prey on fear: that we’re not smart enough, talented enough, or connected enough to create success on our own. We need spiritual woo woo to rush to our aid. When you think about it, every time you find yourself looking for a shortcut, you’re trying to overcome fear.
This Secrets of the Universe, Attraction B.S. tells you that you can have anything you want by thinking about it. When it doesn’t show up, it means that there’s something wrong with your vibration. You need books, courses, and practitioners to remove your “blockages.”
It reminds me of the time my parents sent me and my five siblings on a two-hour snipe hunt in the backyard, so they could enjoy an evening to themselves and their friends. They provided each of us with a paper grocery bag for added realism.
Over time, when the coveted object or lifestyle doesn’t show up, you buy more books and tapes, feeling worse about yourself because there must be something wrong with you, something “blocking” you from receiving.
It’s the perfect con.
Instead, spend your money on a classic novel and a Salted Caramel Mocha Frappuccino.
How to fix it?
Arm yourself with science.
The next time you feel tempted to visualize your way to another shortcut, set your writing timer, and get to work.
Toxic Trap #3: Putting All Those Eggs in a Single Basket
Whether we’re discussing a social media channel, an online community, or a specific link-building technique, your livelihood’s at risk when you rely on a single medium for traffic or exposure.
In the fall of 2012, one of my websites lost 90% of its traffic due to a single Google algorithm change. I have friends who lost all of their online traffic (and revenue) when Facebook began throttling posts. In September of 2016, when Twitter changed its character count, impressions plummeted overnight.
Protect yourself by diversifying your marketing channels:
- Host your own blog on your own domain.
- Build an email list; it’s under your control.
- Send social media followers to your opt-in bribe.
- After gaining traction on a single social channel, set up camp on another one.
- Become an early adopter. Seek out developing trends, and capitalize on their popularity.
- Turn your articles into podcasts, videos, and infographics; share them on multiple channels.
- Create video trailers for your books, and upload them to multiple platforms.
- Guest post on other blogs in your niche.
Adapt and shift your attention when the need arises. Change is inevitable. Tomorrow’s traffic is never guaranteed. Widen your net, and protect yourself from relying too much on a single marketing outlet.
What toxic mindsets have stalled your progress?
Share your story in the comments below.