This article by Melanie Stiles is from the April 2019 edition of Nink, the monthly newsletter of Novelists, Inc.  (NINC). Nink, which is packed each month with informative articles for career novelists, is a benefit of NINC membership

Ask any number of your writer friends if there is something they could change about the mechanics of their writing career and most (if not all) will respond with a yes. So, as writers, why don’t we take action, instead of merely thinking about it? The answer tends to be as varied as the tasks. In the end, many writers are more than tempted to give up and remain in the status quo.

Change almost never takes place instantly. Real change is usually accomplished through a series of gradual, purposeful actions. The beautiful thing about change is that even one small adjustment contains the possibility for a myriad of beneficial outcomes. So whether you view change with a fair amount of chagrin, or embrace change as eagerly as a leaf is carried on the autumn wind, by engaging with a few minor examinations that require minimum effort, you can move forward into the C.H.A.N.G.E. you need today.

C = Community
When it comes to our money, most of us look for competitive interest rates on credit cards. We want to pay the lowest cost for the greatest amount of insurance, and we want the best sale price on major purchases. But when it comes to our communities, we tend not to give them a second thought. If we have fully incorporated a person into our writing life, they are apt to be there for the duration. If we accumulate enough folks, we simply don’t have room for more. People are definitely not as interchangeable as credit cards, but writers can do themselves a great disservice if they do not periodically take stock of their own community. We tend to travel in genre herds, aligning ourselves with those who speak our lingo. That’s great for critiquing particular projects or for shoring up our comfort zones, but it’s not always conducive to expanding our writing horizons. Branching out can offer new opportunities. Writing communities should support several basic areas; it’s rare that one group does it all. For example, if you haven’t already, consider adding the following:

  • A Social Media Partner – When it comes to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all of the other outlets on the web, it hardly matters whether the writer you connect with writes in the same genre. If a writer likes to post more than you do, he/she is a community treasure trove for you! A simple weekly telephone appointment can change the nature of your own social media presence as you trade information or navigate mutual chores.
  • A Marketing Partner – Marketing partners do not necessarily have to be other writers. Successful sales people make great connections, as they are innovative and often gregarious about thinking outside of the proverbial box. As writers, we can always use a fresh approach that differs from what we already know about.

Adding and subtracting community, when done deliberately, can push us to the next career level.

H = Habits
We generally recognize when someone else practices habits that are different from ours. This can create a silent message that winds its way through our brain saying, “I wouldn’t do it like that.” Interestingly, most of us never consider a secondary message, the one that says, “But, is his/her way better?” Consider performing a short, three-question survey. Ask questions, of other writers, that relate to areas in which you deem yourself most entrenched. Examples might include:

  • How do you maintain a consistent word count?
  • What does your social media management look like?
  • What is your most successful marketing tactic?

These simple inquiries can often encourage us to make small habit changes that can lead to greater productivity.

A = Attitude
Winston Churchill said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” It seems to be true for an army of writers such as J.K. Rowling, Dr. Seuss, John Grisham and Madeleine L’Engle, who never let multiple rejections stop them. To make mental adjustments in our attitudes, it’s often necessary to redefine or reframe our challenges. We have to believe and accept that there are no dead ends, only redirections that move us one step closer to our goals. In the end, attitudes are always a choice. Contemplate writers who have traveled before you and what their lives could have been like if they had quit.

N = New routines
Let’s face it. The evolution of new apps, software, computers and most everything related to writing and publishing, is traveling at exponential speeds. By organizing our learning endeavors so that they are both purposeful and scheduled, we can increase our skillsets gradually and successfully. We already have a lot on our plates, so pacing is primary. Try attending seminars or participating in online classes with a partner. Having a study buddy automatically increases consistency. There will always be something new on the horizon, so why not make our educational experiences as pleasurable as we can?

G = Goal centered activities
The average American now spends a little over five hours a day watching television ( and a little less than one-half hour thinking. In order to ascertain whether or not an activity truly supports our goals, we will have to exceed this sad, thinking statistic. Taking the time to simply ponder or daydream about the end result of a project carves out an imaginary path to its completion. By mentally plotting our way, we can easily see what fits and what is irrelevant to its success.

E = Extending the vision
No writing career is complete if it doesn’t include the acknowledgment of the people in our surroundings. We must extend our knowledge, time, and pens to include helping those who are new to the writing journey. It is our way of repaying those who were there for us.

By tweaking the things that we already do right, we can effectively hone our lifestyles to increase our maximum productivity. As we apply the components of the C.H.A.N.G.E. acronym at least twice a year, we can create a lifestyle overview that quickly ascertains what is missing, what we need to let go of and what is going well.