Writers, whenever we try to compete with other writers, we lose.
Writing is not a race. If it was, it’s safe to say that James Patterson, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, or insert some other famous author’s name here has already beat us to the finish line.
Many writers want the same things. You want to have great writing career. A popular blog with lots of comments. Writing full-time. Landing an agent. Getting a publishing deal. Winning awards. Getting on bestseller lists. Rave reviews. Book tours. Movie deals.
Sound about right?
And you might even celebrate these accomplishments.
But you still have to do your own thing in your own way.
It’s easy to assume that if you follow the path that someone else took, you’ll get to the same destination.
But that is a myth that is commonly believed on the internet. It’s just flat out not true.
Do this, and you’ll get that. Nope.
A Real Life Example
My friend author Don Pollock landed his agent through a short story that he wrote in a small college newspaper. That college newspaper had distribution to a few hundred people. Think about that. Crazy odds, right? When he told me that story, Don said, “I know…I’m really lucky.”
Don’s story gets even better. When he put out a book of short stories, Knockemstiff, it was read by author Chuck Palahniuk. Chuck absolutely loved Don’s work so much that he invited him to come along on a book tour all over the world.
Clearly, you need to write short stories and submit them to college newspapers if you want to tour the world with a major author like Chuck Palahniuk, right?
The truth is there are no writing formulas other than showing up and telling stories.
Real life is pretty messy. You might start out writing about minimalism, and then write a screenplay that lands you a movie deal. Or maybe you’ll start out writing fiction and then decide that you want to try your hand at podcasting. I know of several great novelists that started out as copywriters at agencies, like Steven Pressfield.
The real takeaway from other writers is that you must experiment to find the success you want. It’s a requirement. There is no other option.
Models Of The Past Are Broken
In the past, the path of the writer often looked the same: writers had to wait to land an agent before getting a publishing deal. But now, instead of following a path with a gatekeepers, each of us is now a media production company.
That phone in your pocket (the one you might even be reading this on) is a tool that can be used to create movies, videos, podcasts or books.
It is actually easier to be a writer now than any point in human history: you have absolutely everything you need.
But it is also harder to be a writer now too, because there are more choices than ever before. So what can we do as writers to grow our readership and find our own path?
Embrace The Triple Threat
The Triple Threat is a basketball term where the player with the ball gets into a position where he can shoot, pass, or dribble. Just apply that to what you create as a writer. You already know that stories often start with words. Remember, you’re also a content production company. You’re in the business of creating great content that engages the audience. Here’s how the (non-basketball) Triple Threat works.
Step 1) Start With Text.
That’s right, good old fashioned words on a page. If that’s where you want to start, that’s fine. Start there. But, in most cases, this one area is not enough. You have to take it further.
Step 2) Turn Your Text Into Audio.
Remember that phone I mentioned? You can record yourself reading the text you’ve written. Boom — you’ve got an instant audio clip that is perfect for people on the go. Podcasts are growing in leaps in bounds because they are a great way to learn and be entertained while driving on the commute or cutting the yard. You don’t have to list it in iTunes and get a Libsyn account right out of the gate, either. You could just put it up on your website or YouTube at first.
Step 3) Try Your Hand At Video.
Speaking of YouTube, when you use your phone, you can easily record a video as well. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just be helpful and do your best to have high energy.
Remember the audio I just mentioned in option 2? Once you know your content well, you can just record once. Make a video and just lift the audio for free. Just Google Youtube to Mp3 converter, and you’ll find lots of great choices.
So, How Can You Not Compete?
Start with your strengths. All too often we overlook the easy path in favor of the hard path. Use technology to your advantage. If video sounds easiest, start there. If writing is easiest, start there. Whatever you do, the key is to create. Create a lot. Then revise and edit and share.
And then listen. Listening is often overlooked in this age of noise. Listening will help you create more great content that helps change lives.
The world awaits your content — but you have to create it and share it with them.