Ollin Morales is a fiction writer and professional blogger for hire. His blog, Courage to Create, has been featured on popular sites including The Huffington Post and Colorlines.com, and was named one of the Top Ten Blogs for Writers two years in a row, by WritetoDone.
Morales: The types of posts that get the most attention on my blog are the posts that deal with the psychological aspects of writing and life. So many people struggle with that negative inner voice in their head — the voice that I call the “inner saboteur.” The “inner saboteur” is this nasty part of us that is always trying to thwart our progress. It’s always trying to make us afraid to grow or try something new. It talks us out of taking risks, becoming vulnerable, or putting ourselves out there in a meaningful way.
Feeling motivated is also a popular topic with readers. It’s no surprise why motivation is a struggle: most of us are overworked, overwhelmed, overburdened, stressed, exhausted, and we’ve also placed incredibly high expectations on ourselves.
One of the jobs I do well (at least one of the jobs my readers say I do well) is removing all that pressure and stress. Removing all the fear, the barriers, the confusion, and getting you to that writing desk, or getting you to fulfill that passion you’ve been putting off.
Recently, I surveyed 100 of my readers and an overwhelming amount of them said that they needed the most help with the psychological aspects of writing and life.
This is very telling.
WL: How has your own life influenced your work as a writer?
Morales: My life is really the only thing I can draw any inspiration from, so I guess it’s influenced my work in every way possible.
In the future, if someone were to ask me to write an autobiography of my life, I would probably point them to my fiction and say:
“There it is! I already wrote it!”
WL: How has technology helped you in your writing career?
Listen, 20 years ago, if I was at the same place I am now with my novel, I would be a nobody.
I would have zero fans, zero readers, zero followers. If I came out with a published book back then, I would have to have relied on the old model of word-of-mouth and press tours. It’s a good model, but compared to the Internet model, it’s painstakingly slow.
It already takes an eternity to just build a strong readership online, but at least it’s more quantifiable.
For instance: I can tell you that I have at least 1,100 loyal fans of the blog because they are subscribed to my blog through e-mail. I can tell you their average ages, I can tell you their biggest problems, I can also tell you approximately where in the world they live.
No, I don’t have a hired staff, and I don’t even make money from my blog. All this information was given to me free (and rapidly) through the power of the Internet.
In the old days, you would have to hire a huge group of experts to gather all this important information. But these days, all you need is a free WordPress.com blog account and an elementary knowledge of blogging, and you’ve got a huge head start right there.
WL: What is the best advice you have for someone whose challenge right now is related to growing a writing career?
Morales: Start a blog.
I’ve gone back and forth on this over the past two years, but I’ve reached a conclusion: if you are a writer today there is NO reason why you should not have a blog.
If you hate blogging, then you should really reconsider being a writer. Because blogging is JUST writing on a consistent basis. And a writer has to be able to do that.
If you can’t do that, then you need to build your skill sets: buy a book, get a writing coach — do something about it.
If you struggle writing a 500-word blog post, twice a week, on a consistent basis, then maybe you need to reconsider pursuing a writing career.
Because a writer should be able to write well and consistently.
WL: What is the biggest mistake you see new writers making?
Morales: They don’t do anything to master the style of “blogging.”
Blogging has its own style, and you should learn it as soon as you get the chance.
Learn how to be a Problogger. It really isn’t as hard as you think it is.
WL: What are two ways new writers can use their words to earn income and make an impact in the world around them?
Well, sometimes your writing may earn you income, but it may not have an impact on the world around you. You know, it might not “change the world” but it gets you paid. Which is good.
Sometimes your writing may have an impact on the world around you, but it will not generate income. You’re helping people — selflessly. That is also good.
Then, there are the lucky few who can do both: impact the world and make income from it. I’ve interviewed many of these lucky few on my blog. What I’ve learned from them is that you have to be patient—you also have to be willing to understand that giving up is a choice.
Writers who earn income AND make a living writing what they love AND have a positive impact on the world are writers who are willing to spend their entire life trying to achieve that very goal.
They are willing to fail 1,000 times. They are willing to look crazy. They are willing to sacrifice A WHOLE lot. They are willing to be broke for long periods of time. Ha ha!
They are wiling to understand that the journey is worth it — even if they never succeed.
Does that sound like a pretty rare person that can do all that? Yes it is. But it takes a rare person to reach such great heights, wouldn’t you agree?
WL: Please tell us about your book project. How is it going?
Morales: The specifics about my book are under lock and key. All I can say is that it’s a fiction novel. It’s a fantasy book inspired by Mexican-American mythology, history, and folklore.
I just gave someone a draft to read, and I trust this person’s opinion and respect what she has to say. She tells me that I’m pretty close to finishing the novel. So I’m very excited!
WL: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received about writing or life?
Morales: The best piece of advice I’ve received wasn’t given to me by a person, but by an experience.
For those who don’t know, what led me to my blog was a long series of unfortunate events that happened in 2009.
The whole story is too long to fit here, but believe me when I say that the experience literally brought me to my knees and the only thing I had the energy for was writing my novel.
Out of that dark place of my life, my blog, Courage 2 Create, was born. Since then, the blog has been a shining light in my life as well as in the lives of others.
But that dark experience in 2009 taught me one of the most important lessons about writing and life:
That my worth and value cannot be determined by external factors or other people. Who I am and what I am capable of can only be determined by me.
The outside world will always have its doubts, its labels, its judgments, and its criticisms of you. But you are the only one who holds the key to your true worth. You’re also the only one who has the key to unlocking your true purpose in this life.
I went through a lot of pain to learn that lesson, so I hope you take it to heart. You’ll be spared a whole lot of suffering if you do.
Visit Courage 2 Create to learn more about Ollin Morales, get writing inspiration, and to join his mailing list.