Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Jeff Goins on his lessons learned from making a living as a writer.
Jeff is author of the book, Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life. Jeff is also author of The Writer’s Manifesto, a small, free eBook to help you fall back in love with writing. It’s about getting back to the heart and art of writing for writing’s sake.
Jeff also has a blog where he shares what he learns about how successful writers make a living, what it really takes to get published, and how to master the writing craft.
I asked Jeff if he would share his lessons learned to help authors make a living in the real world. I wanted Jeff to help light a torch of hope and a guiding light for so many who have books in them, waiting to be born.
What I really like is that Jeff reveals what’s behind the curtain — it’s perseverance, passion, and purpose. What I also like is that, no matter what your passion is, you can use Jeff’s insight to share more of your art with the world.
Without further ado, here’s Jeff Goins on lessons learned becoming a writer and pursuing his passion …
Two months ago, my wife went to work for the last time. She told her boss she wouldn’t be coming back from maternity leave. She decided to stay home and raise our newborn son. As for me, I now had two jobs: a day job and a new career as a writer.
She shed some tears, and her boss told her he’d miss her, but he understand (he’s a dad himself). Then we went out for lunch to celebrate our new life, the gifts we’ve been given, and the opportunities we have.
A year ago, none of this would have possible. We never would’ve believed we’d be where we are now. And what made all of this possible was passion — something so simple, but far from easy.
How do you pursue a passion? How do you live the life you dream of? It comes down to habits. We didn’t set out to change our lives; that was a byproduct. What my wife and I set out to do was re-prioritize our lives according to what mattered most to us.
There were three habits that made this possible for us; maybe they’ll work for you, too.
Habit #1: Faith
I’m not talking about pie-in-the-sky type stuff; I mean real, tangible belief.
For five years, I wanted to write, but it was only when I decided to start calling myself a writer that I started created work I was proud of.
As it turns out, in order for you to do what you’re made to do, you first have to believe it’s possible. You may even have to call yourself it before you do it — like I did.
Habit #2: Generosity
I believe in sowing and reaping. Or, as my dad taught me: “What goes around, comes around.”
In a world of “me first” and “gimme gimme” attitudes, it’s refreshing to find someone who cares about others. It catches your attention, causes you to stop and wonder what that person is all about.
If you make your story about other people, they will make it about you. Some people call this reciprocity. I just think that if you do enough good, it comes back to you. Plus, it’s a whole lot more fun to be generous than stingy.
By giving away my time, talents, and resources, I built an online community that cared enough about my work to support me.
Habit #3: Perseverance
People often ask me what my best writing advice is, and I always say the same thing: “Don’t give up.”
This vocation is more about time than talent. In other words, you can outlast and outwork most people, even the really gifted ones, if you simply persevere.
Most people won’t do this with their passion. They’ll give up or get distracted. They may even get discouraged and move onto greener pastures. And that’s fine, if this is just a hobby — but if your passion is something to which you are called (something you can’t not do), then you don’t have that excuse. You have to do it.
You can’t write a book or launch a business or create a piece of art if you’re just playing around. It takes work — hard work — and a diligent attitude. Because there will be trials and temptations, opportunities around every corner to fail.
And what separates the amateurs from the pros is this one essential element: commitment. An unwillingness to quit — that’s the stuff heroes are made of.
This is what we’ve learned. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been good. And it all came down to passion — a love for the work.
Without five years of failing, I couldn’t have had one of success. Without a year of building trust with an audience, nobody would’ve cared about the launch week of my book (except my mom, of course). And without my wife’s constant encouragement, we would’ve been doomed from the start. I would’ve quit long ago.
What is it that you need to do? What’s your passion? Maybe it’s time to commit, to step into the work and believe in something you can’t quit see. Maybe it’s time to give yourself away to a story bigger than your own and submit to your life’s call. I hope you will.
About the author: Jeff Goins is a writer who lives just outside of Nashville with his wife, pup, and son. He blogs at Goinswriter.com, and recently released Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable life. Find out more at wreckedthebook.com.