In the third musical number in Lin-Manual Miranda’s extraordinary musical, Hamilton, the lead character forcefully makes his case for his own ambition by repeatedly using these words. An immigrant to the American colonies from the British West Indies, Alexander Hamilton understood he had an uphill climb toward acceptance and realizing success. He had a talent for writing, but even more importantly, he had ambition and knew what he wanted to achieve.
Throughout the unbelievably stunning performance by the cast last night at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theater, I keep thinking about my own sense of ambition. My goals as a writer today are the same as they were when I first surrendered to that which I can’t-not-do: to write content that makes a difference in the world and in the lives of others.
Like Hamilton’s character in the musical, I am progressing my dreams daily. I see the need to do the work on a daily basis, publish most every day here and on Medium, and write in order to make an impact. I think Corbett Barr said it best when he urged his students to write epic shit.
Although this post might not be epic shit, it’s important shit. I’ll be epic tomorrow.
How Not to Throw Away… Your Shot
If you want to realize your dream of writing for a living, you’ll need to do what it takes to not throw away your shot. Let’s look at the following ways to make your shot count.
1. – Begin with the end in mind. In Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he listed this as the first habit. Beginning with the end in mind as a writer means looking at the distant end of your writing career and determining what you want it to look like as you look back over your body of work. Do you want it to be full of books like my friends James Palmer or Colin Wright? Perhaps you want to write and publish a series of courses and books like me? Maybe you’re a fiction writer or a memoirist…regardless of your chosen area of writing and creating, knowing what you want your body of work to look like is important.
2. – Start writing to attract readers. Writers need readers and readers need writers. It’s a partnership as well as a relationship to be cultivated and maintained. It’s a lot like dating in that respect – there needs to be some level of attraction at first sight. As you cultivate the relationship you’ll each get a sense of the others’ needs. A former marketing teacher taught me the concept of attversumption – attention, conversion, and consumption. Attract the reader, convert them to your way of thinking, and give them what can be reasonably consumed. I’ll write more on this concept in a few days.
3. – Do the work on a daily basis regardless of the feedback …or lack of it. When you first start writing online with a blog or on Medium, there isn’t a lot of feedback. In this century of instant digital gratification, it’s a mistake to interpret this lack of feedback as you would a rejection letter. Remember the dating metaphor above? Writing for approval alone is like behaving in a false or misleading manner in order to get something….you really, really, really want. It’s dishonest. Don’t do it. Feedback will come in time; both encouraging and discouraging. Just keep writing and doing the work.
4. – Read good writing every day. Consider reading as the fuel for your writing. If you’re not writing pieces that are very interesting, it’s probably because you’re not reading very interesting books and material. Consider upgrading your reading material. And just for the record….reading Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit doesn’t count as good writing. I’m referring to books -digital or print-, real news magazines like The New Yorker or Forbes, etc. If your genre is fiction, read good fiction. If you write non-fiction books, read quality non-fiction books. If you’re a blogger, read quality blogs. The quality of your reading will fuel the quality of your writing.
5. – Write to inspire, educate, and entertain. Do this and you’ll have more readers than you ever dreamed of. I learned this little gem of advice from Ash Ambirge of TheMiddleFingerProject.org a number of years ago…and no one does it better than Ash. She religiously does this a few times each week as she writes her epic blog. The easiest way to do this is to simply be yourself…you’re good enough without adopting a persona that you can’t back up in a casual conversation if you were to meet a reader on the street. You’re good enough, you really are. If it feels funny, then write funny. It if feels inspirational, then so be it. Writing honestly is the best advice I can give you…ever. I think Ash would agree.
What will it take for you to take your… best shot?