As a writer, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. After writing more than a thousand blog posts, and over a decade of blogging, I still mess up. And making mistakes is a good thing because it means I’m still writing
If you’re not messing up, then you’re not doing your work. You’re not pushing yourself to the utter limits and testing what you’re capable of. You’re just playing it safe.
Furthermore, most mistakes don’t matter as much as we think they do. A typo here or there doesn’t break a career. A blog post that falls flat isn’t the end. Even a book that doesn’t sell is more of a speed bump than a stop sign.
If you want to make sure your blog posts don’t fall flat, I encourage you to use Don’t Hit Publish. It’s a free tool we created to tell you when your blog posts are good enough to publish.
But there are four mistakes I see new writers making over and over again, and these mistakes actually can end a career. What’s worse, they’re completely voluntary. Writers choose to make them, often unknowingly, and then their career suffers.
So here are four don’ts every new writer does — and what to do instead
1: Don’t choose a niche
Writers are often told to choose a niche before they start. The advice is to pick a thing you’re interested in, know a lot about and can teach to others. This isn’t terrible advice. But it’s incomplete.
Because here’s the thing about choosing a niche: eventually, it’s going to bore you. You might love wedding planning or philosophy today, but your interests will change as you further chase mastery.
A worldview is the state of mind you write from. It is not topic-based at all, but perspective-based. It asks that you share how you see the world, and how you and your readers can join forces to either celebrate that world or change it.
A worldview allows you the freedom to chase what fascinates you, write about it from your unique vantage point, and connect with your readers in an enduring way. It allows you to find a connection with your audience that goes much deeper than anyone’s topic.
2: Don’t hide your talent
As writers, we must acknowledge our job description. We are not so lucky as to just write masterpieces and then wash our hands of them. In fact, that’s never been the case for creatives throughout history. We sometimes think those who came before us had it easier than we do. They didn’t.
It is part of your job to promote and share your work so that others can find it. Because more than a million books are published worldwide every year, yours will get lost if you don’t do the work of being an author. I’m not talking about writing. That’s a given. I’m talking about regularly sharing your work. Too few writers do this, and too many suffer as a result.
What to do instead: Establish your platform.
Establishing your platform is a new writer code for “build an email list.” You can do this for free starting today, and I hope you will. Email is still the most powerful way to communicate online. I get more “mileage” out of my newsletter than any other platform I have — including my blog. If I send a link, people click it. If I ask a question, people answer.
Your email list is your dedicated group of readers and followers who will be more engaged with your worldview than any other group. They are the ones you’ll turn to when you have questions, want to connect, and are ready to start offering your work for sale.
3: Don’t wait for people to come to you
Once you’ve defined your worldview and started an email list, you’re only partway there. Many writers think they’ve arrived by this stage, then wonder why their work isn’t getting the attention they think it should. They send out sporadic emails to a list of family and friends, and never bother to learn about the broader opportunities available to them.
Because it’s easier to settle for good enough.
This third step involves real, hard work, and it doesn’t always feel creative the way we think our lives as writers should. Sometimes, we’d rather settle for whatever humble success we have than the risk it all for the chance to help more people.
What to do instead: Expand your reach.
Expanding your reach starts with finding a tribe that needs a leader. Perhaps your audience of food writers needs someone to write honestly about cooking for seniors. Maybe the readers of your thriller series want to read more about your creative process.
You’ll find the first members of your tribe by following step 2 above, but the truth is that’s much too passive to be sustainable. You cannot just “build it and they will come.” You have to build it and then go find the tribe that needs it.
4: Don’t call yourself an aspiring writer
So you’ve found your worldview. You’ve established your home base and outposts to share your message and draw people in. You’ve learned how to choose and use tools to expand your reach, and you’ve served your way into guest posting opportunities and relationships with influencers. If you’re like many authors, you’re about to make the most critical mistake of all. You’re about to assume you’re done.
Honestly, it never ends, this cycle of serving, building relationships, and growing as a writer. And that’s a good thing. It means you’ve earned the right to do this work for one more day. That’s all success really is.
What to do instead: Go pro.
All writers have an endgame in mind. At least, they do if they’re smart. You want to publish a message that matters. And you can do that only if you’re committed to the work.
Decide you are more than a hobbyist. Commit to calling yourself a professional writer, then take the necessary steps to prove you are one. Seek out the resources you need to master your craft and promote your work. If you stop now, all your work will be wasted.