Is my writing good enough?

A writer emailed me a question the other day:

“The thing I struggle with most is the fear that my writing will stink. The fear comes from my tendency to compare my (theoretical) work with things I read, which tend to be classics — some of the best works ever created. I would enjoy any discussion related to this “tyranny of comparison” when it comes to writing.”

I hear versions of this a lot from writers and artists, including those who are very successful with their craft: “Is my writing good enough?” What I have found is that many (most?) people deal with this. Today let’s talk about how to move past the fear that your work isn’t good enough and how to better manage comparisonitis.

Dealing with Comparisonitis

Social media and the web can be wonderful tools to connect us. But they can also become an unending stream of “Wow, look at all of these amazing things that other people are doing! Hmmm. Maybe my work isn’t good enough compared to them.”

For a writer or artist, it is easy to scroll through social media and feel that there is so much great work out there, that perhaps there is no room left for what you create.

In truth, there is plenty of room for what you and your creative vision. The question you ask shouldn’t be “Is my work good enough?” But rather, “Is my work good enough for me to move forward and grow as a person and a writer?”

Because that journey happens one step at a time.

Meera Lee PatelI try to dig into this topic with successful creators I speak to in my podcast. When I interviewed illustrator and writer Meera Lee Patel, I asked her if she deals with comparisonitis. She replied: “It is an absolute daily struggle… you have to push it aside and make the work you want to make.”

It’s worth noting that Meera’s work is incredible and she is able to make a full-time living as a writer and illustrator. I highly recommend her books:

Dani ShapiroOne of my favorite quotes from a writer talking about the success and the creative process comes from Dani Shapiro:

“Not only does it not get any easier, it actually gets harder.”

What she means is that we hope that success makes creating easier. That the validation of being a bestselling author removes the doubt that we may feel in our work.

But that isn’t what happens. She continues:

“There isn’t one single piece of writing that I have done in the last 20 years, that did not begin with my thinking, “Here goes nothing, this time this is not going to work. Whether it’s a book review, an essay, a blog post, or a book. That feeling that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew here.”

You can listen to my interview with Dani here.

I highly recommend her book Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, plus her newest book, Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love, is another bestseller for her.

No One Knows What Will Work

I watch a lot of music documentaries. What astounds me is how often a song will be created, and everyone will say, “This just doesn’t work. No one is going to like it. You shouldn’t even release it.”

But then it does get released, and it goes on to be a massive hit.

Some examples of this I have heard recently from the music world:

  • Jack White tells the story of the moment he created the riff for his song “Seven Nation Army.” You may not know the song, but you will have heard this riff. This is the moment he created it: My friend Ben was with me at and I wrote the riff for Seven Nation Army. I said, “What do you think of this?” Ben said (in a disinterested dismissive voice), “Meh, it’s okay.”
  • In the middle of a 4-hour documentary I watched about Tom Petty, he talked about the moment his longtime drummer started to move away from the band. The drummer just wasn’t feeling good about the new songs, and chose not to play on the recording session for the next song they were doing. It turns out that song was “Free Falling,” which went on to become one of their biggest songs.
  • In the 1970s, Meatloaf and his band had recorded the album “Bat Out of Hell,” and it was rejected by every record label. No one wanted anything to do with it. It took more than a year, but they finally got a record deal, and it went on to sell more than 40 million copies.

This is why I study the career paths of successful writers and artists. Their journeys are filled with unbelievable stories. Did you know that after NBC had developed the show Seinfeld, they decided it didn’t work. They offered to simply give the show to the Fox network free of charge. Fox said no!

If you are looking down at the page of what you just wrote and thinking to yourself, “I love this, but I just don’t think anyone else will,” please remember that this feeling is a natural part of the creative process. They key to success is to keep going.

The Only Failure is if You Don’t Create

The most important thing is that you continue to create. You continue to improve your craft. You continue to share your work. Here is some advice on how to move through the fear that your creative work isn’t good enough:

  • Develop your creative practice. Don’t judge your work constantly, instead double-down on how much time and energy you can put into it. Create more. Create often.
  • Share your work. The more you hide your work from the world, the more likely you are to feel that your work isn’t ready, isn’t good enough, and that they only way to ensure it will succeed later on is to hide it right now. Share your work. Austin Kleon has a great book that digs into this: Show Your Work! Oh, I have a book on this topic too! Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience.
  • You need colleagues. Don’t isolate yourself. Knowing other creators will keep your anxieties at bay because you have a support system. This is something that nearly every professional writer and artist I speak to has. It’s also the reason I have spent years developing my Creative Shift Mastermind program, to help writers develop meaningful connections to other creators, and me!

Yesterday I was watching a guitar instructional video with John Mayer. He was illustrating how he had done his own cover version of a famous song. He ended it by saying, “Being a guitar player, we all think we can pick up someone’s style and be just like them. But we can’t. We are our own little bad imitation of it. You are not good enough to sound like Jeff Beck. Instead, you are good enough to sound like you, but with a little of that Jeff Beck flavor in it.”

I’ll end with one of my favorite videos of all time, about the value of investing in your own unique creative vision. It’s a video that is less than 2 minutes, that I must have watched hundreds of times over the years.

Thank you.
-Dan

Author Website Essentials

I want to invite you to a free 5-day program I am running from February 18 – 22 called Author Website Essentials. Each day, I will share a video that walks you through the purpose of an author website, the essentials you need, what content to share, and how to create (or optimize) a minimum viable website. This program will be as useful to authors who currently have a website, but want to improve it, as it will be for writers who don’t yet have one. Just join my private Facebook Group to access it all.

In this program, I will share practical tips based on my work with authors. Let me give you some background…

Over the past 20 years, I have worked on hundreds of websites. I was a part of the first dot com boom working for startups in the late 90s and early 2000s when the web felt like the wild west. From there, I worked closely on the web strategy for 50+ publications, including Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. I dug deep into web analytics, helped launch 300 blogs for these brands, plus set up newsletters, social media, and connected it all to each brands’ editorial mission and business strategy.

For the last nine years my full-time focus has been working directly with authors here at WeGrowMedia, where I have built, optimized and set strategy for hundreds of them, and helped train many other writers to develop aspects of their own websites.

But there is something I keep in mind amidst all of this background: I want your author website to be simple. It should serve a clear function to you, the author, and to your ideal audience of readers.

Everything I share in the free Author Website Essentials program is meant to give you clarity and actionable steps to understand:

  • Your website’s purpose.
  • The key elements your website needs and why.
  • Setting a content strategy for it (which may include blogging, a newsletter, and more.)
  • Tech essentials to get your site launched or optimized.

Of course, I’ll be doing a Q&A during the program as well to answer your questions. To access all of this from Feb 18-22, join my ‘Reader Connection Project‘ Facebook group.

Oh, and please spread the word to other writers. Your support means so much to me. Thanks!

-Dan

Human-Centered Marketing for Introverted Writers

I’m excited to announce a brand new program I’m launching called Human-Centered Marketing for Introverted Writers. I invite you to join me for a four-week program to create an outreach plan to find and engage your ideal audience.

Right now, only 10 spots in the program are still available.

What you receive in the program:

  • The Reader Connection Plan template and videos to guide you through it.
  • Direct feedback from me each week – we personalize your plan together.
  • Outreach scripts to show you exactly how it’s done.
  • Simple micro-actions to immediately get started.

I’ve helped thousands of writers develop their author platforms, launch their books, and create marketing strategies that work. The Human-Centered Marketing for Introverted Writers program outlines the system I have developed to ensure you reach your ideal audience in a way that feels meaningful and authentic to you.

This four-week program isn’t a course where you are given too much information, then you languish by yourself to make sense of it all. Instead, this is a collaboration. You will get personalized feedback from me each week. I will walk you step-by-step through the process, and together, we establish a simple process that will supercharge your ability to connect with your ideal audience.

When you master this process, you will be miles ahead of 99% of authors out there — knowing who your ideal readers are and forging meaningful connections with them.

Too many writers spin their wheels chasing social media followers, worrying how to go viral, and searching for book marketing trends. In the end, they feel overwhelmed by everything they have been told to do, and frustrated that nothing they try seems to work.

Don’t be that person.

Instead, focus on meaningful connections to a real people. Identify who you want to reach and what resonates with them. Let me guide you through this four-week program to do exactly that.

This becomes the basis for your:

  • Author platform
  • Social media strategy
  • Marketing campaigns
  • Book launch preparation

Many writers I speak to describe themselves as introverts. They fear it prevents them from reaching readers. But being an introvert is not a liability, it is a strength. Use it to connect with readers in a way that feels natural:

  • One-to-one.
  • On your terms.
  • Focused on listening.
  • Empathetic.
  • One step at a time.

This program is 100% geared towards writers who are introverts, and connecting with readers in a manner that feels authentic to who you are.

The Human-Centered Marketing for Introverted Writers program runs from February 4 – March 1, and costs $450 to join. There are just 10 slots left. To read more about the program and register, click here. You can also watch this video where I take you through exactly how it works:

Thanks!

-Dan

500 Writers Came Together for This

Last week something unexpected happened, I’m still trying to process it. I announced a weeklong free program I was going to run called Social Media for Writers. I invited people into a Facebook Group that I had used for a different program back in the Fall, there were 203 writers in there from that time.

Last Friday, the group quickly grew to 250 writers. Then 300. Then 350. Then 400. Right now there are 536 writers in there.

That blew me away.

You see, I’ve been doing this work full-time for nearly nine years. My days are spent in the trenches with writers who want to double-down on their creative vision and ensure it reaches an audience.

In that time, I have:

  • Sent out 400+ newsletters.
  • Run more than 14 mastermind groups.
  • Worked with hundreds of private clients.
  • Taught thousands of writers in online courses, webinars, and workshops.
  • Wrote and published a book.
  • Published more than 50 podcast episodes.
  • Spoken at dozens of conferences and events, and run a few of my own.

Yet, you never know what will work — what will resonate. This past week, I had the privilege of engaging with these 500+ writers. They were from all corners of the world: Dublin, Ireland; Albany, New York; Pismo Beach, California; Auburn, Alabama; the mountains of North Georgia; the Cooloola Coast in Queensland; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Wellington, New Zealand, and hundreds of other places.

I spent time on typing each of these places into the map to see what they look like, and to consider what it means that all of these individual writers in these unique locations have come together with me in this group.

And this relates to something I have been thinking a lot about in terms of how writers should consider social media, author platform, marketing, and book launches. The information alone is not what brings people together. It is how we connect that matters just as much.

Each day last week, I recorded a video from my studio in New Jersey, welcoming everyone into this space, a 12×10 room. In return, they shared their challenges, their goals, and lots of conversations sprung up.

I shared my philosophy for how writers should approach social media in four videos, each about 12 minutes long, and today I shared more than 30 minutes of video where I answered questions.

What I heard in their questions illustrates why we write, and why that writing is complete when it connects with another human being. People asked:

  1. How can their voice be heard when it seems so many others are talking?
  2. How can they find readers who would resonate with what that author writes?
  3. How can a single person balance creating and sharing?
  4. How can we go deeper — to meaningful conversations and connections — not just shallow “likes” and “follows.”

The context of theses questions — social media — is a modern context for questions that people have considered for years, centuries even.

This week, it was a pleasure to engage with these writers to help them find answers that feel right for each of them. For the 536 people in the group, there are 536 unique and personalized answers.

That is both the opportunity we each have as writers, and of course, the challenge.

For the past six months, I have been completely rethinking not just how I view social media in terms of how it can connect you to readers, but how it is a part of a bigger process of engaging readers.

Next week I’m going to unveil that system. This is partly the culmination of years of working with writers, and partly a new vision that I have been challenging myself to fully flesh out. When I started, this is what it looked like in my mind:

… and the work of the last six months has been to make it simple. More on that next week.

In the meantime, if you were curious about the free Social Media for Writers program, but hadn’t joined yet, you can still do so by joining this group. Once you get in, click on the “announcements” tab and you will see the four main videos, plus all the Q&A videos.

Thanks!
-Dan

Social Media for Writers

I want to invite you to a free program I am running from January 14th through the 18th,  it’s called “Social Media for Writers.” That week, I will share advice on four steps to develop your author platform via social media in a manner that encourages meaningful connections with readers. You can join me in this program by simply joining this Facebook Group.

This simple system will help you establish and grow your social media presence. But this is about more than just getting followers and likes; it is about knowing how to share your creative vision with the world, and engaging in meaningful ways to real people. In this free one-week program, I will share daily videos and prompts to help you:

  1. Identify which social media channel(s) to use.
  2. Figure out what to share on social media that is both authentic to who you are, and strategic to your writing goals.
  3. Grow your audience on social media.
  4. Get deeper engagement beyond just ‘likes’ and ‘follows’.

You will also be able to engage with other writers to brainstorm and get ideas to establish and grow a social media presence that feels authentic to who you are. I will end the program with a Q&A session.

How this works:

  • Click here and join this private Facebook Group. (this is the same group I used in the Fall for the Reader Connection Project, so if you are a member of that, you are already in!)
  • Each day starting Monday January 14, I will upload a video to the group that outlines my advice and suggested actions you can take, which aligns to the four areas above.
  • Throughout the week, you can share your questions, your progress, and learn from how others are doing this.
  • You will have the chance to submit questions for me to answer on a final video to be shared at the end of the week.

That’s it! As context, I will say that I have been thinking about social media is changing, and how the way in which writers think about social media needs to change as well.

What I want to share in this program is not just ‘the usual advice’ on the mechanics of social media, but a new vision for how you can not only make social media a part of your career as an author, but actually have it feel good, and like you are connecting with real people.

So many writers I speak to worry about social media — they are told they must do it, but then they feel like they are shouting to the wind.

The program I share next week flips all of that on its head.

I hope you can join me.
Thanks!
-Dan