Mastering Patience as a Part-Time Author
“No matter how great the talents or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”
Warren Buffett, who said that line, is one of the most successful investors in history. You may think patience is easy for him, as someone with a $103 billion net worth, but it pays to remember he’s self-made. Buffett didn’t inherit his fortune. He took 19 years to make his first million and another 61 to become a centibillionaire. There were times when he had to work for his money, uncertain of whether a payoff was coming. In that way, his story shares a lot of parallels with the average author.
Often burdened by a full-time job, many of us are initially limited by how much time we can invest in our dream. We work long hours for meagre returns. As we get better at writing and selling books, however, our success compounds. And those who succeed eventually get to live off their royalties, invest more time than ever in their writing career and see massive returns in terms of wealth and happiness.
Longing to go full-time can be frustrating when you’re seeing little measurable progress. Indeed, the challenge is too great for many authors who feel that their breakout moment will never arrive. But consistency works in mysterious ways. Remember, while you’re struggling, you’re learning; finding your perfect genre, sharpening your tools, building a relationship with readers.
Holding on until the point of critical mass isn’t easy when you can’t see when, or if, it will happen. There are strategies you can use to accelerate the process but sometimes time is the vital ingredient. Master patience, though, and not only will you be better equipped to endure the struggle but happier in the midst of it. So, if you’re feeling frustrated, hang in there. Today’s blog post won’t make you an instant bestseller, but it will give you coping strategies to help you enjoy part-time authorship until you can make the jump into writing full time.
Science indicates that practicing gratitude improves the happiness of both well-adjusted test subjects and those who consider themselves to have poor mental health. According to a Berkley study published in Greater Good Magazine, it “unshackles us from toxic emotions.” Their study asked 300 adults to write regular letters of gratitude to recipients to see the effect it had on their wellbeing. Only 23% sent their letters but the act itself was enough to cause all tested subjects to report feeling happier in comparison to a control group. The benefits weren’t immediate, though. It took four weeks to see any difference in the data and 12 weeks to notice massively increased happiness levels.
What we can glean from this study is that regularly practicing gratitude can improve your happiness even if your circumstances don’t change. Knowing this, why not create a gratitude journal or even make a habit of considering a reason to be grateful every night before bed? Your reasons could include:
- Opportunities the internet gives you
- The health of your family
- A new coffee shop that helps you be creative
Try to come up with a different reason every day so your practice doesn’t lose its sense of novelty. It may feel pointless at first but the long-term effects of this activity are impossible to ignore. Focus on your reasons to be grateful and it will make you a happier author who is less frustrated and more able to enjoy being creative when you do have the time.
Reframe Your Job
Success coach Marie Forleo acknowledges that even dream jobs come with unsavoury tasks. Yours might be getting up at 5:00 am to write before your day job or learning to use Facebook ads. These moments are unavoidable. Thankfully, though, it is possible to improve your attitude towards them so they don’t seem too bad. The key is positive reframing – the idea of telling yourself that something is good even when you don’t enjoy it to change your own perception. Forleo has condensed the process into one action that simply involves repeating the following mantra during the unpleasant tasks:
“And this is what I want.”
It doesn’t matter what the task is; if you can convince yourself it’s something you’re choosing to do to help you achieve your dream, you can shift your emotional response to a task to one that’s more positive. Exercising to become a healthy author? Say, “And this is what I want.” Writing at 2:00 am to meet a preorder deadline? “And this is what I want.” Working a day job to afford your first edit? “And this is what I want.” With that last one, you could also change your language to reframe the job into something positive. It’s not a “job” you have to do; it’s a “training opportunity” you get to experience and a “revenue stream” you plan to minimise as you grow your book royalties. Frustrations diminish when you take control of your mind and reframe situations.
Seize Opportunities at Hand
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to escape your day job, but sometimes it’s necessary to wait until you’re ready. Jump ship too early and you could end up in an even worse position and, later, be forced to re-enter the rat face, setting yourself back even further. Hence, assuming you’re stuck for now, you might as well make the best of it. This idea is again linked to positive re-framing. Only instead of telling yourself your current situation is something you want, how about asking yourself what you can gain from it other than a steady paycheque?
What could you gain from excelling at your job? You may have approached work on autopilot for so long, focused entirely on your books, that you’ve failed to notice its opportunities. Could you get paid to develop a productivity process that you could then transfer to your own publishing business? Have you turned down a training session on accounting software that would help you be a better authorpreneur? Could you pick your manager’s brain to become better at co-ordinating freelancer designers? “Bloom where you’re planted” – that is, do your best in the job you already have – and you may find the drudgery less frustrating when you see it benefiting your author career.
View Failure as Education
When you start writing books, you may feel like becoming a full-time author will be easy; that many people try to write but they don’t have your skill and or work ethic. Then you learn about the complexities of the industry and see how thousands of authors are working extremely hard. You learn that you can’t knock out a book a month as easily as you imagined. And you struggle to make an ad platform work for you. A book launch flops and sends you into a mental tailspin. Given experience, you see the glaring holes in your intricately woven plan and become jaded.
Facing such adversity, many authors abandon their dream. A minority, however, see their failures not as evidence of intrinsic and unchangeable shortcomings in their personality or the system but as educational opportunities, and are more patient as a result. Having failed, they ask themselves two questions:
- Why didn’t it work?
- How can I change my actions to get a better result?
Countless studies show that these people who exhibit a growth mindset – believing everything is a learning opportunity – consistently win out over their peers who believe they can’t change and learn. Plus, they live a happier existence, full of optimism. Adopt a growth mindset and so will you. You will still experience setbacks, but you’ll relish the challenge rather than fretting when there’s no end in sight. Every experiment will teach you what does and doesn’t work, keeping you engaged while inching you closer to your coveted author career.
Enjoy the Process
All creators briefly fall out of love with their creative work when they get too fixated on outcomes they can’t control. Chasing success metrics, they make desperate, short-sighted choices or end up procrastinating after turning their passion into a source of exasperation. If this sound like you then consider redirecting your focus away from the outcomes you can’t control and towards your process, which you can. Don’t think about making $3,000 a month in royalties; aim to write 500 words a day. Doing so will ease the pressure, bring back your passion and solidify your writing habit. It might seem counterintuitive but, by not looking for success, your will be more likely to take actions that result in the financial gains you crave.
Productivity expert and YouTuber Ali Abdaal discusses this phenomenon in depth in regards to gaining his first few thousand subscribers. In a YouTube video, he attributes his success to focusing on making 100 videos, regardless of their metrics, and trusting the process to build an audience. He explains, “I found that, by focusing on quantity, it developed the habit of video editing […] and the quality naturally came out of that.” You can follow a similar philosophy as an author. By writing instead of spending time refreshing your KDP dashboard, you can release more books, improve your craft and build your backlist faster than if you spent every day fixated on selling units without having the content to make a profit on follow-up sales.
Some people treat patience like it’s a binary skill – that you either have it or you don’t – but it actually swells and shrinks like the tide. Mastering it is a life-long lesson that requires mindset maintenance. Follow the tactics outlined in this article, however, and you will become more patient and learn to enjoy each moment, now as a hobbyist and for the rest of your writing career.
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