Stop following the "rules"

I read an article last week that has been sitting heavy on my mind. The author of this article wrote about her own experience as an author and came to the final conclusion that you have to put writing first to be successful. As in, the first thing you do every day.

And while I'm glad that this particular author found a rhythm that works for her, I was ultimately kinda ticked at her for writing this. Because the take-away of the article was This is what works, when it should have been This is what works for me.

There are a lot of commonly accepted "rules" that seem to float around in the writing world. Rules like, start your day with writing, write every day, don't edit while you write, etc. But these aren't rules. There are no rules. The author police will not show up at your house and revoke your author status if you decide to write at night or edit that scene you wrote yesterday.

This is a trap that a lot of new authors fall into, but any of us are susceptible. We see someone who has the level of success that we would like to have so we listen to what they say the rules are and try to replicate that.

But life doesn't work like that. I practiced the piano just as much as my little sister for the first year of our piano lessons. But she flourished and went on to become an excellent pianist, while I floundered and ultimately quit a year later. We did the same things, but it didn't work for me. Because the reality is, I stink at piano. I struggle with muscle memory and have poor hand eye-coordination. My ability to type without looking at the keyboard is a miracle. In short, duplicating her efforts did not duplicate her results.

It doesn't work with piano lessons and it doesn't work with writing either.

For example, I have a successful friend who writes every morning at 8am. Do you have any idea how horrendous that would be for me? I'm barely functioning at 9am, and I certainly couldn't write anything productive then. So, I could force myself to get up earlier and write at some unholy hour of the day in order to follow the "rules", or I could wait to write at night after everyone goes to bed when I do my best work. I think I'll stick with what works for me.

You can apply the same variances to marketing. What works for my marketing may not work for yours, because we have different books. And even if our books are super similar, we are still different people and our books don't come out at the exact same time and a thousand other variables.

The point is, go ahead and listen to the advice of experts and the people around, take away the nuggets of wisdom that work for you and then dismiss the rest. This isn't ignoring the rules. It's finding the rules that work for you. Do what makes sense for you, your life and your style and then someday you can be the one to write the article about what it takes to be successful.

Next week I'll talk about some of the new rules I'll be following for 2016 to make it my best year yet.