Today, I’m excited to be talking to my good friend, Jeff Goins, who writes the blog goinswriter.com. Jeff has been writing for years, but he recently had some huge breakthroughs: He built a blog from nothing to thousands of subscribers in a year. He guest posted for some of the most respected blogs on the web, like Zen Habits, the Huffington Post, and Copyblogger. He published articles in several magazines. And he got a book contract. Not a bad year for a writer.
Jeff recently released an ebook called You Are a Writer in which talks about how a change in mindset led to all of these breakthroughs. If you’re serious about improving your craft and getting published, you’re going to appreciate this interview.
Hey Jeff. Thanks for joining us today. Now, we all have a lot of dreams for our writing. Finishing a novel, getting published, and if it’s not too much to ask, the bestseller list and international stardom. But your book talks about something a little different. What is every writer’s dream?
Every writer’s dream is to write without having to worry about the hassle of marketing and self-promotion. It’s to focus on the craft, not all the other crap that comes along with a life dedicated to the arts.
All writers dream of one day being their own gatekeeper. The good news is this is possible like never before.
Tell us about how you accomplished your writing dream?
Well, I can’t say as though I’ve arrived, but I sure am enjoying the journey so far.
There was, however, a dramatic shift that happened in the past year. I went from someone who was waiting to be picked to someone who decided one day to pick himself.
I think it was a mix of reading Steve Pressfield, Seth Godin, and the advice of a friend who said, “You ARE a writer. You just need to write.” That’s what set me over the edge. After that, I started acting like a professional.
And the craziest part is that I began feeling like one, too.
One of the things I hear from writers who are trying to build their platform is that they’re struggling to balance building a platform and working on their great work. How do you balance the two?
I don’t see my platform and “work” as separate. I love Apple’s model of business. In many ways, their products ARE their marketing. The same is (hopefully) true for my platform: It’s not a marketing vehicle for the work; it IS the work.
Practically, that means I try to publish my best content on my blog—I put in the same amount of effort I would with a magazine piece or a book section.
You post on your blog every day, are writing a book, and have published a couple ebooks in the last few months, all while working a full time job. How do you discipline yourself to get so much done?
Ugh. Tell me about it.
I don’t think it’s discipline as much as it is tricking myself into doing things I’d rather procrastinate. I reward myself with little “treats” every day. I get up at 5 or 6 am to reward myself with an hour of writing. I work all day at my day job and reward myself with short breaks to stay motivated. And I tell myself at the end of the day, I get to write again.
I blog and do stuff on my platform (which is sometimes a discipline), because I remind myself of the fact that it allows me to get to write and sell (or sometimes give away) books.
I don’t really believe in self-discipline. At the end of the day, you do what you want. The trick is figuring out a way to do what you have to do in the mean time. I find that bribing yourself ain’t a bad way to go about it.
What resources are out there to help people accomplish their dream?
Tons. This blog is a great one.
All of Pressfield’s work on writing (especially The War of Art) is great.
Websites like Problogger and Copyblogger are excellent about teaching people to blog well.
I personally love Seth Godin, Anne Lamott, and many, many others.
The real resource, though, is you. Learning that you are an asset is an important mental shift that all writers need to undergo at some point.
Who are some of your heroes who inspired you to start doing this?
I’ve watched Michael Hyatt’s success with building an online platform over the past few years, and his growth has been really inspiring.
I also love the writing of Ernest Hemingway.
I really don’t have a lot of standout heroes, not people you’ve heard of anyway. But I know (in some sense of the word) about a hundred people who have built a powerful content platform online that has translated to a career of writing and sharing ideas. And I find that irresistible.+ Do you have any success stories from people who are using these principles to accomplish their writing goals?
Absolutely. A woman just emailed me the other day, saying she applied my principles for magazine writing to get published. Another friend who’s been reading my blog and snatches up every eBook I create just got a book contract. The stories are the best part.
This seems to make a lot of sense for authors who write non-fiction? Any tips for creative writers?
Yep. Follow Sean Platt. Do everything he’s doing. He’s done a brilliant thing with building an online tribe of writers (through writing mostly nonfiction on blogs) who help him reach a mass of fans with his fiction (which is what he really loves doing).
Joanna Penn is doing something similar.
Both of these people are inspiring and seeing a lot of success with self-published, fiction work.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I can’t emphasize enough what a gift The Write Practice is to me and others. I hope your readers don’t take that for granted. In an age where content is almost expected to be free, it’s easy for us to forget how valuable communities like this are. Thank you for building it.
What is your writing dream?
Write about about your own struggle to believe you are a writer. Then, make a declaration to the world that you are one.