The publishing world is evolving, and no one knows quite when it will end and what it will look like. As a writer, you’ve probably been spotting new trends, new entry points, new expectations, new leaders, and new technology, wondering how you can possibly keep up with all that change.
Well, you’re not alone. Everyone’s seeing all that new—all that change—and wondering how they can possibly keep up with it all.
There’s only one way to have a chance at keeping up—and it’s the same way any of us has a chance at gaining an advantage and keeping an edge, and that’s…
To learn something new every day.
I know it’s frustrating to hear that when all you want to do is write.
“I don’t want to be figuring out fancy software and spending all that time on social media,” you’re thinking. “I don’t want to maintain a website and read about the industry all the time. Why can’t I just be a writer who, you know, writes?”
And it’s true that a legal pad and a Bic pen should be more than enough to keep a writer churning out words, hitting daily word count goals, avoiding distraction. And I absolutely agree that a writer must write first and foremost.
But if you want to try to get in the game—if you want to try to submit to literary journals or see your byline in a magazine or run a freelance writing business or pitch agents—you’ll have to learn some new things. I daresay it’s best to learn a little something new every day…at least on average.
The Growth Mindset Helps Learning
If you have a growth mindset, like we talked about last time, you know that nothing’s fixed and forever. You and I can learn new skills and grow if we set our minds to it and implement or integrate what we learn. So that shouldn’t a concern—you can teach an old dog new tricks.
The Curious Lifelong Learner Loves to Learn
It helps to be a lifelong learner who’s curious and creative, because with those traits, you’ll follow the spark of curiosity to dig for the information and training you want or need and follow up when you unearth another layer of skills you can develop or knowledge you can gain.
You’ll poke around to figure out who to ask. You’ll research which is the best free or paid course to sign up for. You’ll subscribe to podcasts with the best information and watch YouTube videos with easy-to-follow tutorials.
You’ll get books to read in line at the post office and audiobooks to listen to on a long drive or while exercising. You’ll save up to attend a premier conference or an intimate writing workshop. You’ll apply for a grant or fellowship.
In doing this, you’ll learn a lot of different things.
If you read and learn about the industry, you’ll discover ways to respond to those changes as a writer. You won’t waste time on old methods—you can quickly “pivot,” as they say, and adjust your plan to suit what editors, agents, and ultimately readers are looking for.
This doesn’t mean you abandon your vision and write for the market, but it’s good to be aware and thoughtful about what you see around you.
Learn Something New About Content
Learn in the area of content and you’ll collect ideas for your nonfiction projects. If you write on a nonfiction topic, you’ll have a chance at becoming an expert in your field.
If you write fiction, there’s no end to what you could learn because characters need jobs and hobbies; they need to visit interesting places and struggle with illnesses. You can learn about almost anything and pull it into your work.
Learn Something New About Craft
You’ll write better when you learn more or different techniques and implement them each time you put a pen to paper. When you’re making lists of things you want to learn, add craft to your list and develop your own personal writing course based on skills you want to gain.
Learn Something New About Technology
Technology scares a lot of writers. If you pick the thing you feel will make the biggest difference in your life as a writer, though, you can focus on that and each day learn a little something new about how it works. Watch a tutorial and implement the steps to make the system do what you want.
You’ll feel so empowered when you do, and little by little you can learn another system and another. And you’ll have to, because there will always be a new one coming around the bend. You’ll master Instagram just in time to see a video-centric social media app rise up as the next big thing.
Break Down Your Learning into Steps
If you’re an autodidact committed to learning something new every day, none of this is going to scare you. You’ll break it down into steps to methodically, incrementally, gain all you need to take your work to the next level.
You’ll get in the game.
By staying abreast of changes and learning how professionals approach their work, hearing from gatekeepers how their process is changing, figuring out how business strategies can move you toward your goals, you’ll be ahead of others who are still scratching out a draft on that yellow legal pad.
If they don’t learn at least one simple technology tool that will get that draft into the hands of others, that legal pad will sit on their desk or slip into a drawer and never see the light of day.
Writing Takes Precedence over Learning
Now, if push comes to shove and you only have 30 minutes free on a given day—if you must choose between learning something new for those minutes or writing—then write. You must write. Prioritize that over everything, because you must have something written, to be read.
If You Aren’t Learning, You’re Falling Behind
Don’t use learning as an excuse to procrastinate from the work. Don’t let learning distract you from the work.
But if you aren’t learning, you’re falling behind others in the industry.
If you want to be a writer who’s read, you’ll have to learn and keep learning—and you must act on what you learn. Use the knowledge and implement the skills you learn so readers can find you and read you. After all, isn’t that the main reason any of us sits down to do the work? To be read?
- Ep 109: Improve Your Writing with a Growth Mindset
- Ep 35: Want to Be a More Creative Writer? Get Curious!
- Ep 55: Writers Should Say Yes to New Experiences
- Ep 107: Learn from the Best: Copywork for Grownups
- Ep 106: Learn from the Best: Imitate but Don’t Plagiarize
- Ep 102: Grow as a Writer – Surround Yourself with Excellence
- Ep 104: Learn from the Best – The Book Is Yours When You Write in Its Margins
- Ep 56: To Learn How to Write, You Have to Write
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