Every Writer’s Dream: Interview with Jeff Goins

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.

you are a writer

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.

Thanks Jeff! For more about how to go pro and accomplish “every writer’s dream,” check out Jeff’s new book, You Are a Writer, available here and here.

What is your writing dream? 

PRACTICE

Write about about your own struggle to believe you are a writer. Then, make a declaration to the world that you are one.

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

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  • http://pathoftreasure.wordpress.com/ Anna @ path of treasure

    What an inspiring interview! Jeff, I love that you picked yourself and began acting like a professional. that you put your best content out on the blog, and the mental shift of “learning that you are an asset.” I’m shifting, I’m shifting! Wonderful success story (and still in the process of growing!)
    Thank you Joe and Jeff.

  • http://oneminnesotawriter.blogspot.com/ Kathleen Mickelson

    This was a really motivating post. Nice interview and I love this: At the end of the day, you do what you want. Perfect Friday morning read.

  • http://rebootingworship.com/ Jamie Kocur

    My writing dream? To sort through the jumble that’s always in my head and get it out and in some kind of cohesive order on the page in front of me. And hopefully connect with some people in the process who can say, “I struggle with that too! I feel that too!”

    For a long time, I called myself an “aspiring writer.” In You Are a Writer, I realized that I was “sabotaging my work and subverting my genius” by using this word. I just figured I didn’t have a right to call myself a real writer with no published work. I was just someone fumbling and floundering around, playing with words and piecing them together. But I’m realizing that this is all part of writing; the painful, gut wrenching, joyful, life bringing process of writing. So… yeah. I AM a writer.

  • http://www.relentlesswriter.com/ Christelle Hobby

    I think I’m a victim of information overload. I want so badly to be the best that I do more reading and studying and researching than I do writing. (It’s not my fault though, if you and Jeff didn’t write such great stuff maybe I could focus on my own writing haha).

    But truly, I get scared that I’m not experienced enough, I’m not good enough, I haven’t practiced enough to publish and I haven’t researched enough to dig deeper into my – many – novels. I want to get started, but as soon as I do, I retreat a bit and convince myself I’m not ready.

    You all really inspire me and I’m taking steps I never have before, but I know I can take leaps and I’m not doing it. I AM A WRITER and I can do this.

    Awesome to see Jeff on The Write Practice, big time saver for me :)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Ugh. I struggle with this, too. Lots of distractions.

  • http://www.pjreece.ca/blog/wordpress PJreece

    Yeah… the psyche… she’s a b—-. I remember having to convince myself to believe in myself. Every night before I dropped off to sleep, I’d lie there saying to myself, out loud!–“I am a writer. I AM a writer. I am a WRITER. Etc. Until one day I could say it and believe it. Then other people believed it. “So, what do you do?” “I’m a writer.'” Just saying it with deep inner conviction put me on the writers map of my city.

    • Yvette Carol

      Yeah that’s the stuff PJ. Conviction. That’s what it takes man, nothing short. Hey, I’m curious, how did you come up with that stellar title to your book ‘I swallowed a saint’?

      • http://www.pjreece.ca/blog/wordpress Pjreece

        Well, you see, Yvette, my protagonist, Conrad, swallowed a saint. Of the necklace charm variety. Saint Christina the Astonishing. She’s been inside old Conrad for years. Imagine that! Chistina is the patron saint of lunatics. Doesn’t that just explain everthing!

        • Yvette Carol

          Yeah everything… with a whole lot of questions left dangling!! Ha ha, you made me laugh

  • Dharma76

    Nice interview, and some very inspiring words.
    I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was seven years old, but “life got in the way.” There was a lot of family drama in my older teen years, I moved in with my then-fiance, and the realities of earning a living and raising a baby crowded out my pie-in-the-sky dreams. Fast forward about five years, life calmed down, the baby turned into a kid, and my dreams came creeping back. These last few years have been VERY exciting, with the advancement of e-books and professional blogging. The Internet has been an absolute godsend for anyone who wants to further their career without a controlling middleman. I’ve published several short stories in various webzines, an e-book anthology, and I have my own webzine-type blog that is slowly slowly taking off.
    I AM A WRITER!

    • Naruto

      i wanted to blame life for not letting me write, too! but its not like all authors that write are dead. -_- they are living beings and they can write and have lives. i just have to learn self discipline like he (didnt) say :P

      • Dharma76

        When all of your self-discipline goes into watching every dollar so you can buy diapers for the baby, it’s hard to channel that energy into an abstract that may or may not ever put food on the table. Not saying it can’t be done–Stephen King did it–but for me it was very difficult, and the stress and insecurity slowed me down. I never did stop writing completely; I kept a journal privately, but my efforts at writing creatively and getting published got put on standby until our lives were more secure and I was free to think past the next paycheck.

        • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

          This is a tough road to travel. Stay encouraged.

  • http://www.atlumschema.com Andy Mort

    Yeah! Great to see the inspiring words of Jeff everywhere at the moment. The new book is really helpful – thanks for doing this interview, Joe. You guys are great.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Andy!

  • bill polm

    Good interview Joe. Great ideas, Jeff.
    Inspiring and practical. I downloaded both books “You are a Writer” and “The Digital Writer’s Guide.”
    If you writer you’re a writer, period. You may not be a humongous success, not yet anyway, but you are a writer.

    • bill polm

      Another typo! Make that: If you WRITE you are a writer.

      • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

        lots of grace here, Bill. Thanks for your kind words.

  • http://KatieAx.blogspot.com/ Katie Axelson

    By writing dream is three-fold:
    (a) be able to make a living writing (check)
    (b) publish a book (no check–but I’m part of the team on two plus one of my own)
    (c) have a successful blog (define successful…)

    Katie

  • http://www.nurturingcreativity.net/ Denise Smedley

    Nice interview. This really stood out to me – “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.” – very encouraging words.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks, Denise. keep creating art.

  • http://bikerider.Writing.Com/ Angelo Dalpiaz

    I started writing about three years ago. I never even considered that I might someday be published. I wrote simply because I enjoyed writing.

    On occasion I’d bring something I wrote to a writing class I had joined. The instructor, a very experienced writer, told me on a couple of occasions that what I had read in her class was, in her opinion, publishable.

    I accepted her compliment and put it in the “encouragement” column. A couple of months later I learned about an anthology that was being published for the 10th anniversary of September 11th. I submitted three stories to the publisher and they accepted two of them for inclusion in the book. I walked on Cloud 9 for a long time after that.

    A couple of months later a fellow student suggested that I enter a story in another anthology that was open for submissions. I sent in a story and it was accepted. I took another trip to Cloud 9.

    I’m not making a living from writing. I didn’t even cash the check from the first anthology publisher. It’s matted along with the contract and hangs on my wall in a nice frame. But what I did get from those experiences is a lot of confidence. If it were not for my teacher I would never have thought anything I wrote would be good enough to be published, but finally what it took was the courage to at least try.

    I know that having three short stories in print is not a novel, but now I have to admit that when I write, a part of me is thinking, “maybe.” After reading this interview, I know that thinking that way is not vanity, it’s something that I should require of myself.

    Something every writer should keep in mind, and I think this is what Jeff Goins is saying here.

    No one will will ever think more of you (or your writing) than you do.

    • Ichigo

      do you just randomly come across these anthologies? they seem like a great idea! i have lots of short story ideas/ideas that could become a novel if i wasn’t so lazy and also didn’t have so many other novels going on at the same time… but i have no where to publish the short stories :) well i have to write them first. -_-

      • http://bikerider.Writing.Com/ Angelo Dalpiaz

        I hear about publishers calling from submissions from on-line searches and from friends who I meet while attending writing groups and conferences.

      • Marianne Vest

        Goggle Duotrope. They have lists of magazines that publish various genres and forms.

  • Gaara

    there are a lot of things that i wish but wishing doesn’t get words on the page. :) i really have to learn to trick myself into doing things that i don’t want to do. actually that is self discipline. in my opinion anyway. i guess you can call it whatever you want to. i have to learn to juggle that many things because if i cant then writing will be the one think i have to drop and that cannot happen because writing is practically my life :)

  • Laura Mills

    Just discovered Jeff’s blog and I have to say it’s one of the most inspiring and helpful blogs I’ve had the pleasure of reading (Along with the Write Practice, of course!) Thank you both for sharing your ideas and words of encouragement. I love the part about “tricking” yourself into doing what have to do, and at the suggestion of Jeff in one of his posts, I’ve started using the Pomodoro Technique. It has been amazingly helpful!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Laura!

  • http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/ Beck Gambill

    At the moment I’m enjoying the journey of discovering who I am as a writer and who I want to be. I don’t feel the need to rush and I’m learning to savor the process. I think rejection is my biggest hurdle to seeing myself as a writer. I’ve always thought I had tough skin but I’m finding out it’s not as tough as I thought it was! I want to love what I write so that if others don’t I still have enjoyed the process.

  • Yvette Carol

    What a brilliant interview. Good job Joe! And Jeff, in answer to your question, I can’t speak for the others but I appreciate the heck out of this blog. It’s my fave without any doubt, and I tell people so all the time.

    A few years ago I went to a wedding and ran into a girl I hadn’t seen since we were 5 years old. To my utter astonishment she asked me, ‘Do you still write stories?’ Wow, you could have blown me down with a feather. I stuttered over the answer ‘yes’ but I had to ask her ‘how do you remember that?’ She said it was because writing stories was all I wanted to do when we were at school. It was a real AHA moment in my life. I realized this really is something I have always done.

    However I didn’t think about making money from it.

    30 years ago (when my oldest was first born) I was stuck at home and my go-to was to write a children’s book. I put it away in a drawer.

    20 years ago I worked as a freelance journalist. That was fine. But the articles that were the most fun were the ‘features’, because they were the most like stories. Slowly I gravitated in that direction and once I started going I couldn’t turn back. I left journalism behind. I got another deadend job and concentrated on writing children’s stories in my free time. Clock up another three books in the sad drawer.

    10 years ago I married for the second time. I had my two youngest children. I put away another three books, and had to shift them from the drawer to a large box. I loved that man. I trusted him. I respected his opinion. Then one day we had a fight. We shouted at each other outside in the garden. I turned away to the front door. That’s when he said, ‘You’re NEVER EVER going to get published either!!!’ I swear to you I felt those words physically enter my body as if they formed the blade of a knife. This severe pain lodged itself in my chest. I walked in the house, and sank onto a chair, my hands over the wound, breathing hard.
    I stood up. I said out loud, “I’ll make you eat those words if it’s the last thing I do!” I started work on my current trilogy (literally) that same day. No more books have been added to the unloved box since then.

    And later on, even after we divorced and the dust had settled, I still thank him for what he did that day — he played devil’s advocate and fired up the furnace in my soul that’s what I believe — it took me from playing at writing in my spare time, to taking that vital next step in to writing in earnest. With a view to getting published, damn it.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks for sharing your journey, Yvette.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Wow. What a story. I hope you make him eat em, Yvette. I know you will.

      • Yvette Carol

        You know I will! Thanks Joe ….

  • http://www.gabbingwithgrace.com/ Gabber Grace

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of seeing platform-building as a part of the growth, the discipline, the job. It’s a whole new mindset and it’s so helpful. After all, if we can’t build an audience of people who want to read us –in ANY format— than what makes us think we can get folks to go out and purchase books and magazines? Love Jeff. So wise!

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  • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

    It was a great book! I just stumbled upon your website. Excited to read your posts.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Thanks Sundi :)

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