If you want to have any kind of long-term career as a writer, you’re going to have to slog through a bunch of tough days. You’ll face rejections, writing slumps, doubt, and people who want to say bad things about you.
It’s just a fact of life for a writer.
That’s why New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin’s handling of the recently concluded season provides many pointers you’ll be able to use to get ahead in your writing life.
1. Don’t let the doubters win. People will doubt you and your work. They’ll do it if you are new and feel you have something to prove. And they’ll do it if you produce something they don’t like. They’ll even do it if you produce something good and they wonder if your next project can measure up. Doubters can shake the confidence of anyone, if you let them.
Coughlin faced serious doubt as recently as the middle of December, when fans called for him to be fired, after his team fell to 7-7. He experienced a four-game skid starting in November, reminding people of seasons past. But how did he handle it?
This is what he said here: “I just try to do the best job I possibly can; put the blinders on, go to work and be the best you can possibly be,” he said. “Once you have done everything that you possibly can, you’ve put forth your greatest effort, then I can live with whatever’s next.”
He realized he could not focus on the negativity spewing from others’ mouths. All he could do was focus on doing the best job he could. And so it is with you. If you are a writer, try not to spend so much time dwelling on or even thinking about bad things people say about you. Everybody has an opinion. Don’t make their opinion your reality.
2. Be tough. A writing career isn’t for the timid or constantly hurt. Of course many timid people write, and that’s OK. Your writing career will make you stronger. You have to be strong to have a viable writing career. That’s because if you publish your work for public consumption, then you’ll have naysayers (see above) and you’ll have people who want to tear apart everything you write. You ‘ll even have people who second-guess what you do. And you’ll have lots of misses.
Sometimes you’ll work hard and it just won’t pan out. You might lose. Coughlin has been there. His team missed the playoffs for the past three years. And he was on a familiar skid this year, having a late-season pile-up of losses.
But he knew he had to be tough. He had to hang in there and keep showing up. He had to keep performing. He had to keep working it.
So if you are a writer and you’ve been dealing with your own misses, don’t count yourself out. Be tough. That means hang in there and keep showing up. So what if another agent has rejected your work. So what if another publisher has turned you down. So what if a fellow writer you don’t think is quite as talented as you seems to be getting ahead more quickly than you. So what. You just keep pushing on. Keep refining what you are doing and keep working hard.
Coughlin could have given up and just gone through the motions for the last game of the season, that pushed his team into the playoffs. But he didn’t. I know. And I know only too well. As a Dallas Cowboys fan, I felt the pain of seeing my team fall to Coughlin’s team in the last game of the regular season. And it was because Coughlin and his team showed toughness. They hung on and were the ones who won when the game clock showed 0:00.
Longevity in a writing career isn’t about how you handle good times. It’s about how you handle tough times. It’s about letting your tough times make you tougher. I’ve been writing for a long time now, and I’ve had some tough times. I’ve had times when I’ve wondered if I could make this thing work, and even times when something didn’t turn out quite the way I expected. But those misses made me stronger and tougher. They allowed me to keep moving forward so I could finally produce the results and get the success. Now, I’m celebrating my 10th year running a writing business and also my tenth year as a published author.
So be tough. Toughness will carry you far.
3. Believe. Saying you must believe in what you are doing sounds a bit like feel-good motivational talk. But it’s more than that. Many people want to succeed and some will even go through the motions of pursuing that success. But far fewer actually believe.
You see, if you don’t believe you can hack it, if you don’t believe you can actually make it, then you’re not going to do so. Belief shows up in your actions. If you don’t believe that you will be successful, then you won’t put into place all the actions to make it happen. Sure, you’ll do some things. But you won’t give it all you’ve got. You won’t lay it all on the line. You won’t leave every single thread of your energy out on the field.
But if you believe, then that belief can sustain you and take you through dark days when others doubt you and things aren’t going right. When you believe, that allows you to keep at it, even in the face of what seems like obvious evidence that you won’t make it.
I have done some writing for self-made multimillionaire motivational speaker, trainer, and author Les Brown, and he said something about belief that I think fits here. He said actually earning his first million wasn’t the hardest part. The hardest part was believing he could earn it.
So you’ve got to believe if you want this writing career to happen. If you don’t believe, you won’t get there. But if you are struggling with belief right now, that’s OK. Just keep working and keep doing your best and let your belief catch up. Because you will need it.
Giants safety Antrel Rolle said during interviews this week that the team expects to win. That’s some powerful belief.
I do believe the New York Giants can beat the New England Patriots today, despite being a three-point underdog. They’ve done it before. The Giants defeated the Patriots four years ago after limping into the post-season, battered and much-talked about. They went on to spoil the Patriots’ perfect season by winning the game by three points on a last-minute touchdown.
So remember this: You can succeed in this writing business, if you remember to put blinders on and tune out the doubters, be tough and work hard even in the midst of drama, and believe you can pull it off, even in the very last minute.
Have you faced tough times as a writer? What carried you through? Leave a comment and tell me what helped you.