Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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May 20, 2024

Sometimes it's more important NOT to do that good thing

by Lisa Norman

What Should I Do?

Our writing profession is full of Shoulds. You should:

  • post on social media.
  • blog.
  • invest in paid advertising.
  • go traditional.
  • go indie.
  • sell on your own website.

And then there’s the tech advice! You should:

  • use Microsoft word.
  • use Grammarly.
  • use Pro Writing Aid.
  • write on a Mac.
  • write on a PC.

The shoulds are endless and contradictory!

Writing teachers can’t even agree on basic writing advice!

  • Write every day.
  • Write in the morning.
  • Write every free moment.
  • Write to market.
  • Write from the heart.
  • Write what you know.

Some advice is good, and most of it is good for someone. But the question is: Is it good for you?

A small-business owner will start a business with a business plan. They'll research customers, goals, etc. But so often as writers, we forget that we are business owners.

Let me be clear: you cannot do everything you'll be told you should do.

You cannot use every great piece of software.

You cannot do all the amazing marketing things and still get your writing done.

What do teachers mean when they recommend these things? Sometimes they're more focused on their business model than on your best interests. Sometimes they are teaching power techniques that may not work for you or your genre.

In the end, you need to be a business owner and think strategically about what is best for your career.

Start with your goals.

What do you actually want to accomplish?

What makes you happy, keeps you sane, and gives you joy?

Understand that some of what may be best for you may not be what's best for others.

Do you want a six-figure career? Are you comfortable with rapid release? Then get to know your audience and start writing! Learn marketing and make it happen! Focus your efforts, and when something comes across your path that you should do, check it against your goals.

Is this good for your goal? Or just an interesting distraction? Will it help you succeed or just add stress?

Are you a passion writer with a story to tell? It may take you 10 years to write a book, and that’s fine. Because that is meeting your goal.

Understand: there are some good things that will also stifle some people's creativity. Something that damages your mental health isn't good no matter the potential gain. There are excellent software solutions that I don’t recommend for some of my clients. Why? Because the software will interfere with their creative process. They need to write first, analyze later.

You know your situation and your creative spirit better than anyone else.

Choose your path. Choose what gets your attention.

What are some shoulds that you've realized are should nots for you?

* * * * * *

About Lisa

head shot of smiling Lisa Norman

Lisa Norman's passion has been writing since she could hold a pencil. While that is a cliché, she is unique in that her first novel was written on gum wrappers. As a young woman, she learned to program and discovered she has a talent for helping people and computers learn to work together and play nice. When she's not playing with her daughter, writing, or designing for the web, she can be found wandering the local beaches.

Lisa writes as Deleyna Marr and is the owner of Deleyna's Dynamic Designs, a web development company focused on helping writers, and Heart Ally Books, LLC, an indie publishing firm.

Interested in learning more from Lisa? Sign up for her newsletter or check out her classroom where she teaches social media, organization, technical skills, and marketing for authors!

Top image from Depositphotos.

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30 comments on “Sometimes it's more important NOT to do that good thing”

  1. Hi Lisa!
    Love this post. I have been chewing over these very concepts, trying to realign myself with the ‘why I got on the writing journey.’ I have learned that writing every day and using daily word count as a metric is not good for my psyche. I have abandoned those for working scene by scene,
    Instead. And I’ll never abandon plotting on my rolled out butcher paper for any of the available software.

  2. Spot on! It’s taken me a while to realize everything I read and hear is not for me. Once my inbox was jammed with “I have the answer for you” strategies and experts. No more! Thank you for reinforcing that it’s OK to listen to the inner voice!🥰

    1. Candace - there is so much good out there - TOO much! It is so easy to become overwhelmed and forget the joy we have in writing. We don't have to do it all!

  3. This is outstanding and sage advice. I probably need to re-read it daily to keep me centered. What's my goal? A great question - it exists but I have yet to articulate it and commit it to writing. Sounds like an important first step. Lisa, thanks for keeping me sane!

    1. Jennifer - learning about our all-important goal can be liberating. It frees us to say, "that's great advice, but NOT for where I'm going" - helps us stay on track and lets us be happy saying No!

  4. A lot of sensible advice here, Lisa.
    We are told all the time that a mailing list is an absolute essential. So I set one up.
    I did a blog tour with a group of other writers, and they all came onto my list. Great. Now I had a start.
    Then I started asking people who visited my website to join. I offered a free and exclusive story that could not be found anywhere else. And I asked people to join on my other social media platforms. I was doing everything right, according to what we're told.
    I got up to 34 subscribers in several years!
    I didn't get many, if any, sales from it, and only one person made contact. But he is a person who regularly comments on my posts now.
    So I decided to dispense with the mailing list. I feel much more at ease. I have more time for writing and blogging, not to mention my real life And my sales haven't taken a nosedive.
    I say this to show that you are correct. What suits one person doesn't suit everyone.

    1. I hear you, VM. All of that work, but the one person sounds like they are worth it. Maybe some day in the future, you'll try a much less stressful approach to a "list" - or maybe not! And whatever works for you and what you are reaching for, while helping you have joy in your writing - that is more important than any numbers.

  5. Great reminder! I got caught in the Shoulds of marketing and promoting. A year ago, I decided to concentrate on building my backlist and the genres of my passion, and doing what marketing feels right to me.

    As I say in my how-to books, do what works for *you.* So, I'm doing what works best for me. I do watch their results, though, but no one has found that magic marketing tool that makes me want to engage. The time and effort some of them are spending to make that marketing route work, for me, is better spent writing another book!

    1. Exactly, Diana! And sometimes I think it is even harder for those of us in the teaching industry, because while we have good things to teach, it is so important to remember that each person needs to choose their own path and tools.

  6. Bless you for this!!! My ‘should’ list often drives me bananas sometimes. In my life right now it often comes down to what ‘can’ I do.

    This was a very freeing article/post. Thank you!

    1. Kathleen - with your brilliance, writing books is the most important thing you can do! It is easy to get overwhelmed by possibilities these days. It takes work to stay focused!!!

  7. I tend to be able to put my head down and ignore things for a while, but the inundation of information and email can overwhelm me pretty easily. I try not to let it, but still...it does.

    The answer for me seems to be focusing on email on my phone, and using the computer only for the actual writing and creative work. Delineating between the two devices went a long way toward combatting my overwhelm. I don't know why. I just know it works.

    1. Brilliant, Jenny! I think a lot of marketing IS aimed at overwhelm, especially when we see something in one place and it "follows" us (cookies!) around, making it seem more and more important until we REALLY start to wonder if we are missing out. Compartmentalizing the data access that way is a great way to limit some of that!

      1. For some reason, I am more ruthless with my email when I'm on the fly in the world. Plus, my phone email clumps everything together...whereas the computer email has tabs. Ick.

        1. You can change those tabs - did you know that? If you are in Gmail, click on the gear in the upper right hand corner. You can play with the settings in the window that appears. It can be fun to try different ones and see which ones make you more productive. It is fascinating how changing the presentation of a thing can change the perceived importance of it.

          Have fun!

  8. Hi Lisa -- Thank you for this article! Sometimes it's hard to cut through the noise and just write. There's so much information out there. This helps put things back in perspective.

    1. Tina - it is SO hard! For me, it started with the realization that I will never be able to read all of the books that I have. Long ago, I learned about "just in time" learning, and recently I've been studying "Building a Second Brain" by Tiego Forte. I'm learning that there's a sorting process for GOOD information, because "good" may not be good for me or my process where it may be life saving for someone else. Learning to tell the difference is a powerful skill that I'm definitely still trying to learn. Enjoy the writing!!!

  9. A SHOULD that I've said NO to? Multi-tasking!

    My brain, my energy and my BODY can only handle what's directly in front of me.

    I don't get so much done anymore, but I've dropped the hyped expectations, the worry and the guilt.

    Peace of mind is priceless! Thanks for asking. Now, back to that garden. I've got weeds beckoning, LOL.

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