Want to Be a Successful Author? Burn Your Ships

Kristen Lamb, WANA, Author Kristen Lamb

Original image via Karen Lynn Klink WANA Commons

Want to be a professional author? A successful professional author? To become more than what others are, we must be willing to do what others won’t. We must go where they fear to tread.

We must burn our ships.

When Alexander the Great arrived on the shores of Persia, his forces were hopelessly outnumbered, and yet he gave the shocking order to burn all the boats. Legend tells us that he turned to his men and declared, “We go home in Persian ships or we die.”

Your day job is a means, not an end. It is no longer a safe retreat in the event of failure. Cast off your fear. Let go of the voices in your head, the siren’s song to play it “safe.”

Safe=DEATH

Lash yourself to your desire to be a novelist. You are not an “aspiring author.” You are a pre-published author and the rest is just details. Having too many “escape routes” and “backup plans” diffuses energy and focus. It affords too many opportunities to make excuses.

Years ago, when I decided to become an author, I burned the ship of “working in sales.” Sales paid well. Really well. It also came with a company car, an expense account and the admiration of others because I had a “great job.” When I vowed to be come a professional author, I burned that ship.

Sure, it meant living with my mother, shopping for my clothes at Goodwill, and losing most of my “friends.” It also meant avoiding most of my family because they 1) thought I’d lost my mind and 2) they kept finding me “real jobs.”

To gain everything we must lose everything. We can try and keep a foot in both worlds, but it has a price.

Many of you have families depending on you, so I’m not suggesting you go pull a Kevin Spacey on your boss. What I am suggesting is total focused commitment. Make writing your priority.

I burned the “sales ship” but I allowed myself to take the “writing ship” even when that meant hopping on the “dinghy of writing instructions for software” (which kinda just made me want to put my head in a wood-chipper). But, at least I was writing. Eventually, I had to burn the tech writing ship. It paid too well and kept me from my dream of being an author.

Expect to burn numerous ships along the way, but do it. Commit.

Burning our ships isn’t easy. My recommendation? Blogging is a great intermediary ship. It accomplishes a lot at one time:

1) Blogging is writing.

2) Blogging develops discipline & trains us to keep a professional pace and meet self-imposed deadlines.

3) Blogging builds a permanent platform far more resistant than any other form of social media.

4) Blogs can eventually be harvested for content and made into books.

5) Blogging (the WANA way) cultivates your 1000 true fans.

My methods harness the same imagination you use in your fiction, and teaches you how to blog in ways that connect to readers, not just other writers.

We don’t need more writers writing about writing, and we certainly don’t need another writing blog. Readers don’t read them.

The WANA approach is efficient and an ideal choice for those who still have to “clock in” for the meantime and registration is now open for my Blogging for Author Brand class. A WANA class is more than lessons. You will be surrounded by fellow soldiers writers, a permanent team to help you keep charging when you desperately want to go back. Why?

Because we burned our ships, too.

You must trust  in others or success is impossible.

~The Clone Wars

We are not alone.

What are your thoughts? What do you fear? What is keeping you from “burning your ships”? Have you burned your ships successfully? What advice would you offer? Tell us how you did it. For the WANAs out there, maybe share your story. Did being a WANA make burning your ships easier?

I love hearing from you!

How to Quit a Job with Kevin Spacey (caution: adult language and content)

To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

NOTE: December’s winner is Steph Scottil. Please send your 5000 word Word document or your synopsis (no more than 1000 words and in a WORD doc) OR your query letter to my assistant Chad at c carver at wana intl dot com.

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of January I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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  1. #1 by Laura E. Perez on January 15, 2013 - 10:59 am

    Eloquently said and so very true…Thank you…

  2. #2 by Jane Bailey Bain ('LifeWorks') on January 15, 2013 - 11:03 am

    Some people live their whole lives on default settings, never realizing that they can be customized. Go for it and live your own life!!!

  3. #3 by Leanne Shirtliffe (Ironic Mom) on January 15, 2013 - 11:04 am

    Agreed. Blogging has done more for my writing (and community and platform) than all other social media platforms combined.

    I won’t quit my day job (actually, I find keeping it at this point actually affords me a certain type of freedom in my writing), but I admire those who do.

  4. #4 by Tricia Drammeh on January 15, 2013 - 11:05 am

    I quit my day job a few months ago and was starting to wonder, “What was I thinking? What made me believe I could be a writer?” Thanks for this post today. It was just the boost I needed to recommit to myself and my dreams.

  5. #5 by T. W. Dittmer on January 15, 2013 - 11:06 am

    I’ll be chewing on this one for a while. ;-)

  6. #6 by Ruth Layne on January 15, 2013 - 11:07 am

    Ai! That one hit where it hurt. But sometimes a kick in the gut is necessary. Thanks!

  7. #7 by 1 Story A Week on January 15, 2013 - 11:09 am

    Ha ha! If you get a chance, check out my “Some of My Favorites” Page. I have just lit ALL my ships and I gotta tell you, the fire is not taking the edge off the chill of fear in my head!

  8. #8 by Jennette Marie Powell on January 15, 2013 - 11:11 am

    Plenty of successful authors have day jobs. If I understand this correctly, you’re suggesting we ditch the day jobs that saps our energy or creativity, but I wouldn’t want people to think this is the case for any day job. Sure, we must take risks for our art, but make them calculated risks. Worrying about money would sap my drive to write much more than my job does. We each have to do what’s right for us.

    • #9 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 15, 2013 - 11:19 am

      No, ergo the Kevin Spacey reference. It’s the mental transition from hobbyist to professional. A hobbyist plays at writing and uses the day job as the excuse and the safe point. A professional gives everything to the art. If you want to keep the day job, too. Great, but not if it is at the expense of your soul and your dreams.

  9. #10 by Catherine Johnson on January 15, 2013 - 11:13 am

    I am terrible at lighting matches but I will keep trying even at a snail’s pace.

  10. #11 by howmyspiritsings on January 15, 2013 - 11:15 am

    I got FIRED from a job! Then couldn’t find another. I realized it was because I wanted more than anything to do what I am compassionate about! I have not just one blog but several all on topics related to my novels! My husband tried to talk me into getting a “real job”. I worked for about 6 weeks and hated every minute of it. Quit in November. Now when my daughter is asked what her mother does, she says I am a writer! I am happy with what I do, now if I can just make it pay! You are always inspiring Kristen! I love your work!

  11. #12 by Solomon on January 15, 2013 - 11:18 am

    I’d be all-in for this, and indeed will be, but I have to settle a few more things this year, once and for all. Then, I will embark on my next books and never look back. In fact, I’m going to try and write a novel in the midst of my big push, because why not? I got this.

    I do realize that if you are not fully dedicated to doing this craft, you’ll never finish much, if you finish your quality will be lacking, and most of all, none of it will ever go anywhere. If you are going to do it at all, do it like you mean it, or bail out. It is a profession that doesn’t tolerate half-hearted attempts.

  12. #13 by Davonne Burns on January 15, 2013 - 11:19 am

    I have to admit when I saw the title my first thought was ‘omg not my SHIPS’ but I was thinking of entirely different ships (as in relationships between characters) of which I have a plethora. Having got over my initial shock you made some nice points.

    Taking a good long look at our circumstances, both professionally and monetarily will let us know if we are indeed ready and able to burn our ships. This probably doesn’t equate to burning bridges though. Kinda need those ;)

    I myself have recently burned a ship in that I cut my hours at my job to 2 days a week. I can do this because my husband’s job allows us to still pay our bills so I can focus on promoting my book and expanding my readership. I know not everyone is so fortunate and there are countless authors, some best sellers, who worked full time and wrote when they could. One famous writer worked at an assembly line and wrote his entire novel on post-it notes. So even more than burning ships, being fully dedicated to writing no matter our circumstances will set us apart.

  13. #14 by Kevin O. McLaughlin on January 15, 2013 - 11:21 am

    I might just need to take that blogging class. Not because I don’t know how to write a blog article; I do. Not because I can’t attract readers to the blog. I have. But because I am doing the typical “write about writing and publishing” thing. Rather than writing about things that readers of my fiction will appreciate more.

    I mean, there IS overlap… Most writers are avid readers, and a large percentage of avid readers are also writers or want to be writers. But it’s still not ideal.

    I’ve been spending tons of time immersing myself in the culture of publishing, indie and otherwise. I wonder if some of that time would be better spent immersing in the culture of core SF/F readers?

    As for the main thrust of the article, can’t agree more. David Farland just posted something similar to this recently, saying “get rid of your back up plan”. When we make contingency plans for failure, we tell our subconscious mind that we are preparing to fail. And the thing is, we WILL fail; all of us will, at some point or another. But failure isn’t the end of a journey. You just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and say “won’t make that mistake again”, then move on.

    When we end up in a career, it comes with all sorts of siren things like security, and stability, and friends/family feeling like we’re regular, sane people.

    But if that’s not what you want to be doing, it’s more like a tar pit.

  14. #15 by Jeff Dawson on January 15, 2013 - 11:27 am

    All valid points, however, one must have income. If they are wanting to jump into the writing arena, then by all means start blogging. Like Kristine says, don’t do it about writing. There is such a deluge out there, it will get lost in the pack. Write about everyday events like the gal who did Julia and Julie. Who would have thought her travel in cooking all of Julia Child’s recipes would turn into a best seller and movie? It won’t an easy journey, but then, those that are worth it are never easy. Kristine is living proof. Carry on

    • #16 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 15, 2013 - 11:31 am

      We can mentally burn a ship. Change the relationship we have with the day job. It becomes a means not an end. The focus and priority becomes the writing. Some of us can literally burn it and walk away, but most will have to make the mental shift, which is why it is even more critical to be part of a team that keeps you focused forward on the real objective.

      • #17 by John Hayden on January 17, 2013 - 11:04 pm

        This is a welcome clarification. I find the advice to “burn your ships” troubling. I hope that none of your readers will make reckless decisions. Burning your ships and burning your bridges is, for most people most of the time, unwise, to put it mildly. To expand on an example in the above post, Alexander the Great may have burned his ships, but 1,000 great (and successful) generals would NOT follow his example.

        Can you imagine Gen. George Washington, Gen. Robert E. Lee, or Gen. Dwight Eisenhower taking such an imprudent and extreme measure? In fact, they would make all reasonable efforts to protect their ships, even as the army moves forward. They would burn their ships only if necessary to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy.

        A general does not go forward expecting to lose, but sane generals know they can’t predict the course of the battles ahead. The wise general has alternative strategies in mind, and understands that sometimes it is necessary to retreat and regroup, and live to fight another day.

        To use another example, the pilot of a small aircraft makes sure to have extra fuel and should always be looking for places to make a safe landing in case of emergency. The pilot is confident the plane will arrive safely, but at the same time, the pilot acts responsibly.

  15. #18 by Yvonne Hertzberger on January 15, 2013 - 11:28 am

    It seems, that to be successful in this business, as in so many others, it is necessary to take risks, often big ones. The trick is knowing when you are cutting off your nose to spite your face, in knowing how much risk you can handle without going over the edge into meltdown

  16. #19 by MonaKarel on January 15, 2013 - 11:32 am

    My late husband was a fabulous artist, and cartoonist. But he was an art teacher “first” since that was a “safe” place for him to be. Not that being a teacher isn’t a grand career but he never hitched his wagon to that star of being an artist first.

    • #20 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 15, 2013 - 11:34 am

      My father died working in a bike shop for $8 an hour. He had an IQ so high it couldn’t be measured and was far more talented than I am. He always wanted to be a writer, but he couldn’t let go of a pay check and pleasing his father. He let fear rule him and it won.

      • #21 by MonaKarel on January 16, 2013 - 12:02 am

        that explains something about your dedication

  17. #22 by Miriam Joy on January 15, 2013 - 11:42 am

    I thought for a second you were going to say to be a writer, you’re not allowed to ‘ship’ your characters and you had to burn your ‘ships’ in that sense… I was about to cry! I have two characters who are literally my OTP and it’s not even canon. And it’s my own book. It’s incredibly sad; I really need to get a life.

    I realise this comment makes very little sense without background knowledge of what ‘shipping’ and ‘canon’ actually mean.

  18. #23 by fannyfae on January 15, 2013 - 11:42 am

    Your posts are always timely Kristen and came when my commitment has really hit home. The ship is burning, and whether or not it was me that lit it, or necessity, is immaterial. It’s time to do it.

  19. #24 by Marilyn Hudson Tucker on January 15, 2013 - 11:44 am

    Thanks for the wonderful advice. I posted your link to SARA and SAWG on Facebook.

  20. #25 by chloefb on January 15, 2013 - 11:57 am

    I am lucky to have a husband who doesn’t mind settling for a lower household income for me to earn nothing writing for a few years. But even so, I felt like I burned my ships when I gave up working and looking for work just to write. What if it didn’t work? Nobody would employ me if my work history included two years of “trying to be a writer”. My degree would be worthless. etc. etc. But I struck the match and watched the ships burn with a sinking feeling. Well, two years later I just signed with an agent for my first novel. I’ve finally realised that I’d rather risk being stuck on the beach, with a chance of getting a Persian ship, than to play it safe and watch the battle from afar.

  21. #26 by luckyfind on January 15, 2013 - 11:59 am

    Great encouragement and reminders. I have written so much, and sacrificed much to be able to write, but it has never turned out the way I hoped. The ship burning image is great, and gives impetus to go after it one more time. Thanks.

  22. #27 by Poke N Grits on January 15, 2013 - 11:59 am

    Thank you for posting this! Very helpful!

  23. #28 by Mars Dorian (@MarsDorian) on January 15, 2013 - 12:13 pm

    Luv that – so much fire in your writing. Booom. A lot of my former “friends” did say you shouldn’t be too extreme about your creative career – what if it fails ? What if it doesn’t work out ?
    Do something more secure instead.
    Meh. I “fired” them – I hate it when people think that small with their tunnel vision – I went 100% into my creative career and worked my face off ever since.
    People who fear the uncertainty for such a creative career should probably not pursue it – you have to be the kind who feels comfortable burning your ships.

  24. #29 by thomasmcauley on January 15, 2013 - 12:19 pm

    Thank you for this inspirational article. I’ve gone back and forth a number of times concerning the benefits vs the perceived distraction of blogging in relation to the professional-minded writing path. One never wants for opinions on this matter whenever it comes up in any gathering of writers. I’ve blogged about my writing since 2006 and had recently stopping, having been convinced by some select peers that it was nothing more than an excuse not to write. I feel like toggling over right now for my first post in two months!

  25. #30 by David Erickson on January 15, 2013 - 12:19 pm

    I wrote my first novel when I was 14 and I expected to become a world renowned photo-journalist. Instead I went into the Marine Corp and when I got out I went to business college because that’s what I was told was the secret of success.
    I continued writing in various formats, but mostly business writing. I still dreamed of becoming a published author and in 2008 I did, But I let my day job and family responsibilities kept me from pursuing my true desires.
    I should have listened to my heart, not my head. But come January 31st, I’m leaving that behind and pursuing writing full time. My family thinks I’m crazy and will never make a living at it, but I don’t feel I have to impress them and, rich or poor at least I’ll be writing.

  26. #31 by shahjehan Khan on January 15, 2013 - 12:24 pm

    I love this article and I love reading your blog too. How many books have you written? How do you come up with ideas that you write everyday? You are an inspiration.

    • #32 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 15, 2013 - 12:39 pm

      I have written three novels. My first is being used in Guantanamo Bay to break terrorists. I’ll tell you where the bombs are just not another page of that boooook! Two others won awards in a small contest and I am cleaning them up to publish one day soon (hopefully, LOL).

      I’ve had two published NF books. I am finishing my third social media book, and have two others outlined in detail.

      I just get my ideas like all writers. I pay attention to life, to the world around me. I use the same techniques I teach in my blogging class, which helps make the world your muse. Thanks for the compliments :D and so thrilled you like the blog.

  27. #33 by Gerri Brousseau on January 15, 2013 - 12:29 pm

    I took a few weeks off from writing over the holidays, and having just started a new job really seemed to rob me of my time and energy for writing. After a few frustrating events, I realized I was ignoring what I loved to do. I was leaving my career in the dust. What did I do? I sat down and started revisions on a work in progress. Thank you for reinforcing what I knew to be true. A job is putting food on the table and a roof over my head right now, but it is not my future. Writing is.

  28. #34 by lisawiedmeier on January 15, 2013 - 12:38 pm

    I burned my ship in October, leaving my accounting business I started fourteen years earlier. Was it easy watching it burn knowing it was my ‘safety net’? No, but let’s just say that I poured more gasoline on the fire and made an inferno. I figured it was better to go out big than to find out that I’d had nothing more than a fizzle later on.

    In the words of many great people, “Without risk, there is no reward.”

    The hardest part is taking the first step, from there it’s just baby steps. :)

    As always, Kristen, thanks for the reminder.

    • #35 by Becky on January 15, 2013 - 3:07 pm

      Good for you. I’m with you too

  29. #36 by lythya on January 15, 2013 - 12:53 pm

    I hope to next year go to the university to study medicin. Maybe that’s too big a ship. I should probably burn it right away and pick something else that leaves time for writing … but that’s THE fear! ‘There are so many others, I need a backup job if I fail’.
    The answer: DON’T FAIL. Gosh, it’s so hard!

    • #37 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 15, 2013 - 1:03 pm

      It is hard. I was accepted to a prestigious law school right as I made the decision to take a menial tech writing job. One was the road to my dream of being an author, the other was the road to pleasing everyone but me. It’s hard and only you can make the decision. But the upside is a lot of the best-selling authors are M.D.s. Just stay true.

      • #38 by lythya on January 15, 2013 - 2:02 pm

        Thanks :) The thing is that I also love learning and am very interested in thsi field. It would also be a huge opportunity of getting to know people and different costums, so in that sense you could call it a massive bunch of research x)

  30. #39 by MonaKarel on January 15, 2013 - 1:00 pm

    Kristen, you continue to inspire me. I leaned heavily in your 2013 postings for today’s blog. I hope it helps more people see themselves as who they are meant to be, and give them that always needed kick in the rear. My late husband “settled” for been an extremely good art teacher, and an artist part time, which he enjoyed, instead of taking that leap into the abyss of being a great artist all the time. Seize the day.

    • #40 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 15, 2013 - 1:07 pm

      So happy to provide you with material. Share! Share like the wind! :D *hugs*

  31. #41 by C.S. Severe on January 15, 2013 - 1:04 pm

    I truly appreciate your advice, Kristen. I’ve actually found more clarity, peace, and happiness when I made writing my top priority. It’s difficult not to obsess over results, but I’ve learned to focus on the present moment and just write. Like you said, everything else will take care of itself as long as we devote the hard work to writing. And of course there will be the voices that tell us that we’re crazy, have our heads in the clouds, unrealistic, blah blah blah. I tune it out and their noise sounds like that teacher in Charlie Brown. It takes a lot of bravery to burn ships, but I believe we will end up better than before when we do what we love. Much happiness to ya! :)

  32. #42 by TLJeffcoat on January 15, 2013 - 1:29 pm

    Hmm… quit my day job… I would love to, if I was single, I would have. I’ll keep it for now, it actually doesn’t sap my creativity and attention as much as playing video games does. It’s challenging and keeps me on my toes. It also lets me meet a lot of very different people. Someday, I will quit, when I don’t have to rely on it financially. That someday maybe a long way away, but I hear what you’re saying. If push comes to shove and I have to choose one or the other, writing will win every time.

  33. #43 by Sandra Wagner-Wright on January 15, 2013 - 1:39 pm

    Ok, can’t help it, I’m an historian. Legend says Cortez also burned his ships when he reached Mexico for the same reason Alexander did. When the only option is forward, you will get there. If there is nothing to lose, you will risk it all. An important lesson for us all.

  34. #44 by jambulee on January 15, 2013 - 1:47 pm

    Hi Kristan I always look froward to your blog it has been very helpful even though I am not a fiction writer. This post and supporting article were encouageing and also the the follow up post in the Technium from artist Robert Rich and his experince give a nice balance to your proposition The reality of depending on true fans http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/04/the_reality_of.php

    Thank you

  35. #46 by Sharon T. Rose on January 15, 2013 - 1:56 pm

    I burned my ships two years ago this month. I cried the first year as I watched everything I’d worked for slip away: house, car, independence, friends … I moved in with my parents, who were seriously considering putting me in a mental hospital. Not kidding. Now, I have no health insurance, no vehicle, no steady means of income. So what am i doing with my life?

    I’m WRITING. I have a website that I update not with a blog but with serials. I’m writing my novels 1,000 words at a time and putting them on the internet for the world to see. I’m compiling the finished works and editing them for book release. I’m syndicated and have sold a couple of short stories. I’m not rich, I’m not self-sufficient, but I am living my dream. I am happier and less stressed than ever I was when pulling in over $70k a year doing something I hated.

    No, it wasn’t easy. If I had dependents, it would have been even harder. I still fall prey to doubt and sometimes cry about not having my own home and gripe about my mother’s constant nagging to “get a real job.”

    But I burned my ships and jumped off the waterfall. Day by day, I’m learning to fly.

  36. #47 by Thomas Linehan on January 15, 2013 - 2:30 pm

    Great and thought provoking (Kevin Spacey) YouTube. Playing safe for 40 years is not the way to go. Even if you’re not publishing a book you could be improving your writing. I’m now retired and am getting out my old writings of 40 yrs ago to polish or just to see where I was and where I am in my writing today. Just sent my novel off to Amazon Contest and if it comes back empty “handed” it’;ll be off to the editor and am starting the next novel.

  37. #48 by mhb8 on January 15, 2013 - 2:31 pm

    I burned my ships back in 1997. I was trying to keep working through the travel agency I was at. My computer was linked with their computers, so I could run tickets there. But I was having such trouble with my MS, that when people would call in the afternoon when I was having such trouble staying awake. I was making mistakes that I’d never made before. So I just quit and am now on Disability. I started trying to write in 2000, but haven’t got published yet. I’m hoping this new book I’m working on will be my first. So I sit here typing trying to wrap this book up. I started out good, but have gone downhill lately. I just want it to be over! Lol. I have a blog, but haven’t kept up with it. I haven’t had any visitors, even people I know. I ‘plan’ to get better and have a good blog that people will come read. I can’t afford any of your classes so it’s just learn on your own.

  38. #49 by stephanieberget on January 15, 2013 - 2:33 pm

    Hi, Kristen. Another blog to help me be a better blogger. That is an area I struggle with and you’ve shown me a better way. Thanks.

  39. #50 by sally on January 15, 2013 - 2:36 pm

    Great post. Lots of parallels for me here. I have ended a very successful career to allow me the space and energy to develop as a writer. I am scared quite a lot, but that is improving all the time. Despite the financial security implications, I know I have done the right thing. One life, one chance to do what’s right for YOU.

  40. #51 by Janet Boyer (@JanetBoyer) on January 15, 2013 - 2:53 pm

    This is GREAT, Kristen! I recently “burned the bridge” of being a traditional (and indie) Mind/Body/Spirit non-fiction author so I could become a novelist. It was scary. I drug (dragged?) my feet for a year. I finally took the plunge, re-tooled my blog/platform, and am now writing a cozy mystery series with an established, traditionally published author (her agent has our series proposal!). It’s scary and exciting…but so worth it. I KNOW I made the right decision. And, you’re also dead-on about blogging, too.

  41. #52 by katbiggie on January 15, 2013 - 3:26 pm

    Really great advice! I could be done with my book if I had made it a priority- right behind my kids of course!

  42. #53 by katbiggie on January 15, 2013 - 3:27 pm

    Reblogged this on noholdingback1212.

  43. #54 by Joe Owens on January 15, 2013 - 3:41 pm

    Kristen – I have burned the bridge of doubt and “one day i will get started”. I have already submitted my work several times this year, feeling that even if i get rejection messages I am moving forward and making an effort. You are a great source of encouragement and practical knowledge. As others have so eloquently expressed the ultimate ‘bridge burning” is a bit to extreme for me right now. If i was single and younger perhaps i could, but i have too many people dependent on my place in the workforce to choose that option.

  44. #55 by Susan Faith Corl on January 15, 2013 - 5:10 pm

    Just what I needed. I have been so complacent with my writing and life. Ready to burn some ships!!!

  45. #56 by Susan Lower on January 15, 2013 - 5:31 pm

    Kristen, I’d love to burn the “day job” ship, but after being a stay at home mom for eight years my husband got laid off and I took a job to help our family. This year, by the grace of God, my husband is working again and I’ve burnt half my ship and am now working part-time with the hope that this year will be the year my writing takes off and I can be at home again doing what I love – taking care of my kids and writing. I’ve still got a few more ships to burn and am slowly setting the fires and getting ready to bail from them. Like waiting for the day I can burn the “pre-author ship” and join the author cruise ship. One of the goals I’ve set is to blog more and stay focused on publishing a novel this year. My kids are helping to keep me motivated, they love it when I sit and read to them the next chapter of my MG novels.

  46. #57 by Gloria Attar RN BSN on January 15, 2013 - 5:38 pm

    Reblogged this on Health Care and Legal Writer and commented:
    A perfect commentary on the Poem from the Scottish Himalayan Expedition:
    By W.H. Murray

    Until one is committed
    There is hesitancy, the chance to draw back,
    Always ineffectiveness.
    Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation),
    There is an elementary truth,
    The ignorance of which kills countless ideas
    And splendid plans;
    That the moment one definitely commits oneself,
    Then Providence moves too.
    All Sorts of things occur to help one
    That would never otherwise have occurred.
    A whole stream of events issues from the decision,
    Raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen
    Incidents and meetings and material assistance,
    Which no man could have dreamt
    Would have come his way.
    I have learned a deep respect
    For one of Goethe’s couplets:
    “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
    Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

  47. #58 by Kaitee on January 15, 2013 - 6:10 pm

    I’ve been giving great consideration to leaving my day job (well one day a week anyway) to concentrate on my writing.
    Other career goals I was working towards fell through in a big way so I’m trying to take it as a sign that since I still want to write, this is what I am meant to be doing. So this post came at a great time for me and has given me a little boost, thanks! :)

  48. #59 by cindyolivejohnson on January 15, 2013 - 6:17 pm

    I needed this reminder TODAY. Thank you!

  49. #60 by Diana Beebe on January 15, 2013 - 6:58 pm

    A wood chipper! I have my moments when my tech writing ship makes me want to do just that. LOL. While I haven’t burned that ship yet, I like what you said in the comments above about burning a ship mentally–I’m there already. Work stays at work during working hours. The rest of the day is for my family and for writing! :-)

  50. #61 by Lindsey Carmichael on January 15, 2013 - 7:09 pm

    I spent 11 in university, getting a PhD in population genetics. When I graduated, I applied for a job at a bookstore. Poor and happy is better than rich and miserable. Even if you can’t explain it to anyone else.

  51. #62 by Jess Witkins on January 15, 2013 - 7:28 pm

    First, kudos on writing a shorter post! I know that was a resolution of yours. Nicely done!

    And second, I love this post! You’ve made these comments before, but it’s uplifting to read these words again. We forget too often.

  52. #63 by Michael Rochelle on January 15, 2013 - 7:28 pm

    Thanks for the motivation, Kristen. I completely agree with you. I’ve spent years working to pay the bills while putting off writing for “a better time.” That better time never came and I’m still wondering whether I will make this month’s rent payment! Thank you for the encouragement. I’ve committed to posting to my humor blog weekly AND finishing my novel this year even though I work full time and am working on a master’s degree in business. It must be done!!!

  53. #64 by athenabrady.co.uk on January 15, 2013 - 10:34 pm

    Hi Kristen, I burnt my ships in summer last year and shortly after found your blog and joined Wana. I am lucky that my hubby can support us both. We are both so lucky as we are following our separate dreams, his makes some money lol. Hopefully mine will shortly but its not about money for me. I love writing and it is what I have always wanted to do. If I had to sweep floors to carry on writing, I would gladly do it.

  54. #65 by athenabrady.co.uk on January 15, 2013 - 10:37 pm

    Reblogged this on Athena Brady's Blog and commented:
    This was such a good post, I wanted to share it with you all.

  55. #66 by Elle Carter Neal on January 15, 2013 - 11:57 pm

    My “day job” (and night job) is being a parent. Writing happens in tiny gaps when neither child is about to clobber the other or climb up and jump off something high enough to result in a cracked skull.

    Oh, I had so much free time pre-kids!

    At 22, I “bought” myself more time to write by starting university by correspondence so I could live with my parents instead of working as a secretary. Much later I quit another well-paying job as a PA to be a writer, but I wasted my time trying to write magazine articles and software manuals so that I can be assured of having an acceptable income from writing to replace my “real job” income. Then I turned to Affiliate Marketing in another attempt to make money in my “spare” time. It was only when I had my children and really had my time taken from me that I realised how to focus and prioritise.

    I managed to complete the first draft of a novel with a toddler underfoot and pregnant with my second child. I’ve achieved more in the tiny moments left to me than I did in swathes of free time, and, oh, what I could have got done if I’d known then what I know now.

  56. #67 by danielocceno on January 16, 2013 - 1:20 am

    After dropping out from college and getting my insurance license to sell life and health, I wanted the two thousand a month savings income before I would quit a regular job and hide somewhere to write novels. Back on February 1996 I was driving home from work, my mother, because of winter icy road conditions. She said; Ike, “I will retire in two years. What are you planning on doing for the rest of your life?” Being mostly unemployed I was still living at home. It was then when I decided to be a serious writer and I started submitting short stories for children to NYC publishing house and plotting my novels. No money yet, but I am still writing novels and I am still living with my elderly parents in their mid to late seventies. I burned my boat when I did not study at the University of Missouri – Columbia. I drowned several times thereafter, but I never died. My parents kept saving my life.

  57. #68 by Turber on January 16, 2013 - 1:36 am

    Finally, something that appeals to me unconditionally – I’m good at burning down things!

  58. #69 by Andrew on January 16, 2013 - 7:19 am

    I’m still in the dockyard building my ship (fancy way of saying that I almost have my teaching license). While I’m doing it, I’m working on one novel and slowly but surely revising another. And working on a blog. And I’m a science writer for Examiner.com. So, there are a lot of coals in the fire, so much so that there are times I have to turn people down when they have a big idea for a collaboration, or turning myself down when I have some grand new idea for a blog or web page. Really, I just do it because I like to. I see myself as a writer, because I write.

    I guess you could say that right now would be an ideal time to do the professional author thing, because I don’t have a ton of expenses or responsibility. I understand. But right now, I have other priorities. Frankly, I’m sick of being the stereotypical loser who, now quite literally, lives in his mom’s basement. Being dependent is really caustic to a person’s self worth, I’ve found. Plus, frankly, I’m going batty down here, haha. And there are other practical reasons too, like health insurance and all that.

    It might not sound like it, but I get your point. And I do intend to publish, either self pub or trad pub, once I have something worth the effort of submitting. It’s just that right at the moment I’d rather not do the starving artist thing–I need a day job that actually pays something I can make a living off of first, that way when money is less of an issue I can focus more on the writing.

  59. #70 by Patricia Bates on January 16, 2013 - 11:04 am

    Hmm what stops me from burning my ship – beyond the fear? A very real need to have a steady income. With children its hard to live on royalties when they fluctuate with sales. Sure I’d love to have a nice fat check every three months. The other factor is myself…there are days when I don’t feel like writing, or can’t because I’ve got other things happening in my life. Still…the idea of burning all my ships and jumping on the writing full time one does sound appealing lol.

  60. #71 by Serena Dracis, Author on January 16, 2013 - 11:37 am

    My dependents may be 4-legged and furry, but at this point quitting my day job isn’t an option. However, working 40 hours a week I still managed to grind out a 140K + novel, start and maintain a blog (ok maybe not super regular, but still, it’s there) and feel like I’m living my dream. I have agents who are shopping my first novel and I am working on my second. When I meet people I say things like “I’m a writer, but I pay my bills by working as a nurse.” I’m lucky that I work only 4 days a week and I don’t have kids; if I did it’s quite likely none of the above would have happened. I will admit there are times I wish I could just quit, and write, but I honestly don’t know if I’d ‘make it’ to bestselling author any faster.

    We all walk our paths, but I do know what you mean about burning your ships. I did that when I quit my job at the San Diego Zoo and moved 1500 miles away to become a nurse. While nursing is not my dream job, if I hadn’t burned that ship and taken that giant leap, I never would have met my husband, the love of my life. Taking that leap of faith, believing in yourself and knowing you can accomplish what you set your heart to is one of the most satisfying means of boosting self-confidence.

  61. #72 by klcrumley on January 16, 2013 - 6:26 pm

    Reblogging!

    I was kind of forced to burn my ships as I lost my security job…
    But, I made the choice to burn that ship as well since I was offered a FT job in security that would have hindered my writing career, reduced my free time to write and study, et al.
    No looking back…just moving forward. :)

  62. #73 by klcrumley on January 16, 2013 - 7:34 pm

    Reblogged this on K. Crumley rambles on… and commented:
    Good advice that it’s about time I followed (But not the Kevin Spacey way! Hahahaha!) My security career ending might be exactly what my writing career needs… :-)

  63. #74 by donovanmneal on January 17, 2013 - 2:37 am

    I haven’t burned my ship, but I noticed it started to sink last year forcing me to abandon it. So writing has taken on a greater seriousness for me. I enjoyed your advice. Very well said, and thanks for sharing.

  64. #75 by Larry Wilson on January 17, 2013 - 10:52 am

    You are right in emphasizing the the ship burning is first about attitude, mindset, focus. For may years I pastored small churches that required me to have a second job. But I never mistook those side jobs for my calling. I had only one vocation. That was my identity.

    Now I’ve quite another day job–just turned in the key to my classroom. After teaching English for four years in Korea, we’re returning to the U.S. to start another chapter in our lives. What will be my identity? I am a writer. I’ve been and done many things, but now I am a writer.

    Thanks for helping me keep the focus clear and committed!

  65. #76 by thanks amen on January 17, 2013 - 11:03 am

    Making writing my priority takes discipline! I even use a timer to keep myself at it for 90 minutes at a time. Thanks for sharing!

  66. #77 by Dreampunk Geek on January 17, 2013 - 1:35 pm

    Reblogged this on dreampunk geek and commented:
    I’m in the middle of a lot of changes right now and this just seems like the perfect advice that I needed to hear.

  67. #78 by Chyina on January 18, 2013 - 11:16 am

    This really moved me. Honestly. Not many people I know would have the balls to do this, let alone tell other people to! This can apply to so many aspects of life, whether you are a writer or not. Well done and thank you!

  68. #79 by Kristie Kiessling (@KrisKiessling) on January 19, 2013 - 2:08 pm

    I am a writer. Simply *saying* that, and believing it is that mentally burned ship for me. I don’t have to blog when the world tells me to. I blog when I have something worthwhile to blog about. I don’t have to conquer social media, as helpful as I am sure that would be to a “career” in writing. I already *am* a writer. Success is measured by the smile on my face, the love of my family, the time writing allows me to spend with them and enjoy them. I don’t need to sell to be successful, though I would love to do just that. I don’t need to make money at writing, though I would love to do so. I have a working spouse who supports all of us (and then some). I will always be a writer and what I write – whether anyone ever reads it at all, honestly – will be written in my time, to my satisfaction, to my definition of “done” and no one else’s. I love indie publishing for that. If I have to set aside writing, to work a job that pays me money, to supplement my husband’s income or feed my kids, you can bet that I will. It will never, ever change the fact that I am a writer. It may be that no one will ever know my name. Honestly, I don’t write for them. I write for me, because I must, because it is in my blood and if I do not write to the glory of God who gave me the gift, I am not alive.

  69. #80 by Engelia on January 20, 2013 - 8:48 am

    Whew! Burn my ships? Does that include the clothes off my back and the shoes off of my feet? That is a good questions, Kristen. One that made my heart surge and drop at the same time. I fear not being successful. Period. I fear rejection. I was lucky enough at the end of last year to finally find myself in a dream job with a great circle of co workers, good money and the ability to work 100% remote. Once that happended I put my writing on the back burner but the itch has come back stronger than ever. Do I want to quit my job? No. Do I need to rearrange my life to better focus on writing and making it a priority? Absolutely. Let’s just say that at this point, my college creative lit professor would be very upset with me.

    • #81 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 20, 2013 - 10:31 am

      A lot of it is simply making the mental shift to be serious and stop relying on an escape route.

      • #82 by Engelia on January 20, 2013 - 10:39 am

        You said what I was thinking. Just in a much needed blunt way :)

  70. #83 by stuart sheldon on January 21, 2013 - 3:48 pm

    Wow…that really fired me up! Timing is everything and I was destined to read those words RIGHT NOW. With my first book just completed after 5 yrs, the time is now. Lighting the match as we speak!

  71. #84 by The Hook on January 24, 2013 - 2:48 pm

    My day job is the reason I started blogging in the first place and provides me with priceless blog fodder. Wonderful; post, Kristen.

  72. #85 by Doreen Pendgracs on January 28, 2013 - 4:51 pm

    Blogging is absolutely a terrific way to begin writing your book. I’m writing a book about chocolate travel, and as I’ve been writing the book, it’s great to be able to go back to my blog and copy and paste the posts and then enhance them for book format. It would have taken me months longer to complete the manuscript if I was writing completely from scratch.

  73. #86 by vision5d2012 on January 29, 2013 - 7:09 pm

    Excellent post. Thank you. Just last week I made the decision to bring a piece of creative writing I’ve been “picking at” for six months from the back to the front burner — make the time for writing this way, which is pure joy for me. I am also choosing to publish segments of it each week as a post, rather than continue to bury it in pages on my blog. I’m excited and we’ll see who salutes. I appreciate the straight talk here. Blessings, Alia

  74. #87 by Tricia Rose Burt on January 30, 2013 - 4:31 pm

    Kristen — Very interested in taking your blogging for author brand class, but I’m not sure at which level I should register. I already blog weekly, but my audience is very small and I could use strategic help. Having said that, I’m also trying to watch the dollars. Your advice please!

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