Angela Looks Back: Why We Must Invest If We Want a Writing Career

One thing I am terrible at is taking the time to glance back. You know, pause and think about how far I’ve come on this writing journey of mine. Usually my gaze is fixed ahead on whatever is next and figuring out how to juggle the load. But today I want to take a minute to do this because there are some important lessons there.

I started just like anyone else…green.

I didn’t know it of course; I thought my writing was awesome…but okay, maybe it needed a touch of polish. So even though it terrified me, I stepped outside my comfort zone to find other writers. I made my first investment in my career…a critique group.

Well, it didn’t take too many critiques at The Critique Circle to see I had a loooooong way to go. I dug in, investing my time and energy, losing count of the critiques I wrote online and off somewhere after 1000. Boy, did I learn a lot.

During that time I made a financial investment, moving up from a free plan to a paid one, but it was so worth it because I could submit work quicker and therefore improve faster. The price wasn’t huge but I agonized over it as I wasn’t making any money from writing and so felt guilty spending it. Any of you feel that way? Looking back, I wish I hadn’t beaten myself up so much, but more on that later.

FUN FACT: Becca and I met online at The Critique Circle. Can you imagine if I hadn’t taken the leap to try something outside my comfort zone? We would have never met!

The next big investment came when I reached that magical point all writers reach: you have grown enough to fully grasp just how much you don’t yet know. So, Becca and I took an entire year away from writing fiction to study the craft. We devoured writing books, everything from Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey to Snyder’s Save The Cat, to Wood’s Description. I don’t know how many books we read in total, but it was a lot. Switching gears was such a smart move for us as we grew a ton that year.

Another investment? Attending my first conference. Oh, the GUILT! A stay-at-home mom, I certainly saw no income from my writing. My husband was starting to prod, suggesting maybe it was time for me to try something else. But I knew this was the path for me, and part of that road is seeking out learning opportunities. So in 2005, off I went to SIWC (Surrey International Writers’ Conference) to listen to gurus like Donald Maass and Diana Gabaldon. My hand cramped from all the note-taking. I had to navigate the social events, too. *cue introvert terror* But I had to figure out the networking thing if I wanted this as a career.

FUN FACT: In October 2017, I returned to SIWCas a speaker. (Donald Maass and Diana Gabaldon were there, too. Life is crazy, right?)

Fast forward a bit, and Becca and I were basically joined at the hip. We’d started submitting our work to agents and editors and this mysterious word, Platform came up. Ugh, MORE to learn? Oh yes…that’s the writer’s life, isn’t it. So, we started a blog. Totally clueless, no idea what we were doing…but we did it anyway.

FUN FACT: Since May 2010, The Bookshelf Muse blog has accumulated 4.2 million hits. In 2015, we moved and became Writers Helping Writers. It’s accumulated 2.6 million more.

The time investment in building this site into what it is now? HUGE. But worth it? Oh yes. This is where we connect with all of you and it allows us to follow our passion of helping others.

Many more investments followed. Paying for online classes, more conferences, books on writing craft, workshops. Taking the time to learn how to build presentations and give them. Spending time with publishing experts to learn the industry to increase my chances of success. Investing large amounts of time to learn how to market, run a business, and self-publish. And finally, a crazy leap into the world of writing software to build One Stop For Writers, which for me, has been the biggest energy investment of all, but unbelievably  rewarding. I love One Stop, and love knowing something that I help to build is in turn helping others.

FUN FACT: I started this journey in 2003.

Maybe you think after 14 years, I’d be done with investments? Nope! I’m attending my first 5-day writing retreat this fall with Margie Lawson. I am always learning and strengthening my craft, and this retreat will give me more valuable tools for my toolbox. I’m determined to never stop growing.

NOT-SO-FUN FACT: None of this was easy.

Sometimes I wanted to quit. Especially in those hard, discouraging times. I could have said, No, this is just too much to invest or let the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) suggestions to move on get to me. But I kept believing in this path, and in myself. I kept investing. And now?

So please, wherever you are on the writing road, no matter how frustrated you might be or how unsupported you feel, keep going. Do whatever you need to to learn. Find mentors, read, write, rewrite, work. It doesn’t happen overnight, but if you keep investing, it will happen. Don’t let guilt or anything else stop you!

 

How have you invested in your writing career? Let me know what some of your best investments have been in the comments!

 

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About ANGELA ACKERMAN

Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
This entry was posted in About Us, Critique Groups, Critiquing & Critiques, Motivational, The Business of Writing, Uncategorized, Writing Craft, Writing Lessons, Writing Resources. Bookmark the permalink.
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deborahlyn
deborahlyn
3 years ago

Hi Angela, A big thank you to you for your post of 7.13.17 and recommending The Critique Circle!!! I have been hunting for an online writers community where I might find a writing buddy, get more critique practice, and grow my writing skills. I have joined and am super grateful for your inspiring story. Wishing you all the best, deborahlyn (littlewren on cc)

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[…] But if we want to be successful, Angela Ackerman reminds us that we must invest if we want a writing career. […]

Lois Simenson
Lois Simenson
3 years ago

I almost gave up on my novel today, after being told it’s one giant cliché. I had a good cry, then I read this blog. Like Karma…so I climbed back in the saddle and jumped into my first 10 pages to ready for manuscript review to the Anchorage Writer’s Conference. I almost cancelled out on that. So I have a cliché. Now my challenge is, what to do with it? Because I’m sure as heck not throwing out my story line and plot! Also, I am interested in the Surrey writer’s conference. Would I fly into Vancouver? I’ve been dying to go to one with Diana Gabaldon in attendance, OMG! Thanks, Angela. You always come through for me. Wish I could hug you or something 🙂

Lois Simenson
Lois Simenson
3 years ago

The Surrey conference is sold out! Rats! Had I known earlier I would have registered right away. Now that I know about it, maybe I can go to the 2018 one 🙂 I am going to try to get into the Erma Bombeck conference in Iowa in 2018. That one will be hard, sells out within an hour. It will be like trying to get tickets to the Elton John concert that sold out in Anchorage in 15 minutes, haha! I know, I want to meet you in person. It will happen one of these fine conferences 🙂

Laurie Evans
3 years ago

Thanks for all your hard work over the years. I love your books, and recommend them to everyone.

Sacha Black
Sacha Black
3 years ago

Do you know what one of the early investments I made was? The Emotion Thesaurus! I’ve invested SO much, both financially and mentally. I’ve sacrificed EVERYTHING out of my life, I don’t watch TV, I removed myself from poisonous social groups, keeping just the close friends. I think time is probably my biggest investment because it’s not just me, my wife’s had to sacrifice time with me too. But I’ve also invested 000’s in software, tech, courses, books, study. And do you know what, it’s been worth every penny.

ChemistKen
3 years ago

Hey, just wanted to thank you for all the work you’ve put into helping us other writers learn more about writing. This website is one of those places I couldn’t do without. Thanks again.

Jay Hicks
Jay Hicks
3 years ago

Angela, how inspirational this article is! Confession time: I’m addicted to learning, but being an impatient type, started writing a novel two years ago, and as I’ve progressed, it has become much more than I’d ever imagined. But that little seed, the kernel of my idea is being nourished and nurtured and will one day be released into the real world. I know it – I have something that makes people smile when I tell them the premise.

So now, as I near the 100k mark, I need to go right back to the beginning and flesh it out, embellish and expand, and delete as much as I add. That is the hard part. It’s new territory for me and I’m terrified!

By the way, Margie Lawson is coming to Australia to spend the weekend workshopping for the Omega Christian Writers Conference here in October. We are so excited.

Jay Hicks
Jay Hicks
3 years ago

Unfortunately not Angela, I only signed up to RWA just after that Conference. I do notice we have quite a few mutual RWA friends though – no wonder…

Iola
3 years ago

Angela, I didn’t go to RWA when you were there, but I did do a Margie immersion in Melbourne the week after the conference. It was brilliant. I’m looking forward to meeting her again at the Omega Conference.

Jay, we met at the Omega Conference last year. It will be great to see you again!

Jay Hicks
Jay Hicks
3 years ago
Reply to  Iola

Hello Iola. You actually recommended Margie Lawson to me there. I’ve certainly been working hard this year and have since done a lot of learning and writing. You’ve got to do both to progress! It will be great to see you again. Perhaps at the Krispy Kreme counter at Sydney airport first! I’d never had one before meeting you there, and it’s a good thing I live a few hundred kilometres from my nearest outlet.

:Donna
3 years ago

Congrats to Nora!

And I have to say, it’s hard to imagine you and Becca not meeting. What the two of you have accomplished is MIND-boggling! I’ve invested years of my life working on craft and networking, for sure. It’s been a sporadic journey with stretches doing absolutely nothing with writing (life stuff), but for over 20 years I’ve been reading books on craft, took a few courses back in the 90s, then dove more into it starting in the mid-90s with PBs. In 2003 I started tackling a novel (which will never be finished), then began attending NJSCBWI conferences eventually heavily involved in its organizing including A.R.A. under R.A. Kathy Temean. I have SO many craft books (including all of yours!), which I hope to delve into deeply some time soon. I’m gearing up to focusing on my novel series. I REALLY want to write them.

Now, unfortunately, I still haven’t landed an agent or contract, but have come close. I’ve thought of quitting the past few years because my life priorities need to shift and this hasn’t brought IN anything, just taken a lot of $ I have never had OUT. It’s hard to let go of a passion, especially having invested so many years and so much money. You two are SUCH an inspiration (though I never intend to self-publish, etc.!)

Jay Hicks
Jay Hicks
3 years ago

Funny about that quitting thing – just two days ago I was saying to my writer friends as we travelled to a book release/luncheon for Monica McInerney, that I sometimes wonder if it’s all worth the time, energy and devotion to write fiction. “Perhaps I’d do best just getting paid to write columns and submit articles for journals,” I whinged. That very night in my inbox arrived an announcement that I am a finalist in a short story competition and WILL BE PUBLISHED in their upcoming anthology. I feel like an invisible wall has just been broken down, regardless of whether I actually win a prize. Recognition and inclusion in this anthology, small as it may seem, is a wonderful thing and I’ve earned it by my commitment to learning. So keep going Donna. I’m going to…

Jay Hicks
Jay Hicks
3 years ago

Well, since reading your post about how you both shelved your writing for twelve months to study, I am tempted. But then, there are a lot of hours in the day which could be better spent reading those crafting books instead of following fiction book recommendations in genres I probably have no cause to dabble in. Really, if I want escapism, I can find that on Netflix after dark…. Can you hear that Angela?
It’s the sound of a new leaf turning over! So thanks.

BECCA PUGLISI
Admin
3 years ago
Reply to  Jay Hicks

I can honestly say that this was one thing that boosted our writing level considerably. So I would recommend this idea to everyone. However, you don’t have to do a whole year. You could always do 3 months, or 6, or choose to do 3 books that you’ve really wanted to dive into, etc. If you don’t have someone to do this with, you can always do it on your own. But we found that having someone to discuss and debate the content with helped to solidify things for us.

BECCA PUGLISI
Admin
3 years ago
Reply to  Jay Hicks

Congrats! It would be easy to say that this is one success in a seeming backlog of failures or disappointments, but in truth, all those less-than-satisfactory moments from the past have worked together to build and grow you to this point. Good for you!

Tracy Perkins
3 years ago

You will have so much fun with Margie. She is such a hoot and a fantastic instructor. You will work your mental buns off. But who’s going to complain about earning writing buns of steel?

Have fun with your conferences!

Juneta
3 years ago

You are Amazing. I have been watching and following for a long time. You guys are so inspiring. Love this post. Congratulations and Much Continued Success ALWAYS.
Juneta Key

BECCA PUGLISI
Admin
3 years ago
Reply to  Juneta

Thank you, Juneta! Seeing writers like you who are faithful to your craft year after year is encouraging to me. Keep up the good work!

Avery K Tingle
3 years ago

Okay, okay!!! Thanks to this informative, inspirational and very correct post, I will begin investing in my career.

Debra L. Butterfield
3 years ago

Angela, thanks for this encouraging post. I’ve done all these same things except for attending a writing retreat. Lack of belief in myself and my abilities has sabotaged my success. I have gained a degree of success, but for the amount of time I’ve been doing this, I know I could have seen more. I’m in a season of discouragement, but I’m going to keep plugging away and soon the door will open, the dam will burst, the wall will fall. Thanks for sharing your journey.

paula cappa
3 years ago

Great post today, Angela. I’ve never done a cruise but I do get a lot out of being with other authors. I am co-chair of a small authors group in my town, which we formed at our local library, and that provides regular opportunities to support, share, and encourage each other in writing, book marketing, and reading too. Some great friendships have developed over the years. I applaud your advice to keep going with positive energies!