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Embracing Your New Identity as a Writer

Lisa Tener, start writing“I’ve made some progress with my outline until about two weeks ago and I’ve read hundreds of articles on writing in the past two months.”

“Hundreds?”

“Yes. Hundreds.”

As an attorney who fights for environmental justice against the biggest polluters (you can probably guess some of the names of these companies), Janna was winding down her casework and planning to turn full time to writing books about her dramatic battles with some of our country’s most powerful companies against the backdrop of a court system consistently manipulated by corporate interests.

While she found herself still wrapping up cases, she felt frustrated by her own tendency to read rather than write. What was going on with her?

A Novice Author and a New Identity

As Janna recounted all the court work that took her away from writing, I felt frustrated with how much time she spent talking about court.

What was wrong with this picture?

“Janna, you keep talking about court. Let’s talk about your book! It’s like you’re still caught up in your identity as a lawyer. You’re taking on a new identity as a writer and author now. That’s not easy. You’ve been an attorney at the top of her game. It’s hard to go back to square one.”

“You’re right. I climbed up the ladder of competence to the top and now I’m on a new ladder at the bottom.”

Wait. I didn’t say that! I took a step back to help her see she wasn’t quite starting at the bottom as a writer.

To me, it seemed her article reading stemmed from a lack of confidence, the discomfort of creating a new writer identity and her attorney’s training to prepare impeccably. The only problem with such extensive preparation? You never reach the stage of actually writing! This wouldn’t do for a writer. We had to get her out of preparation phase.

To address the issue of confidence and taking on a new identity, I suggested Janna create a short statement to embody her new identity, something like:

‘I am a student of writing with several amazing books in me.’

I wanted her to get more comfortable with this new writer identity and see it as a learning phase rather than starting at the bottom.

The Skills for Being a Successful Author Click To Tweet

checklist to write a bookI suggested rather than look at it as starting over, she list the skills that she needs in the preparation and writing phases of becoming a writer of books:

  • Getting clarity
  • Getting organized
  • Creating a habit
  • Committing

To that I added:

  • Conversational writer
  • Researcher
  • Writer of influence

It seemed to me that her background as an attorney gave her all the skills except perhaps writing conversationally. Wow! She wasn’t starting at the bottom at all!

How Boundaries Liberate You as a Writer Click To Tweet

Next, we addressed boundaries. Where was she giving away time ineffectively or sacrificing her book for other people or projects?

I see this all the time when people finally commit to putting their book first and becoming a writer.

Everybody suddenly wants your time for other things, from a ride to the airport to a new work responsibility to a volunteer activity. It’s good to help others but if you say yes to all the requests you will NEVER get your book written.

We decided she’d recommit to working on the book first thing in the morning and that working on the book meant outlining or writing, not reading articles or responding to emails or preparing casework. Research, such as reading court transcripts, could only be done on days designated for research. At least half of her time needs to be spent outlining or writing, not research.

I also suggested she consider the preparation phase complete and congratulate herself on all the reading she’d done. No regrets. No beating herself up. Any continued outlining could be considered part of the writing phase. This could help her leave the article reading behind and help her develop the detailed outline she needed, as well as actually write.

Once we left lawyering behind, Janna found a few other bright shiny objects to distract her: funnels, goal setting calendars, product development, other courses she’d taken in the past.

She laughed when I pointed out her tendency to jump to other topics. “My candy bars” she called them.

Now, there are times I suggest a budding author schedule some time for writing and some for platform building, to gain the momentum needed for a book deal. In Janna’s case, however, my instinct was that such a strategy would backfire. I told her to worry about platform later. And the program she envisioned creating could come out of the book, once written. Just write the book.

“Once you write chapter one you can treat yourself to an article about writing or funnels. Right now, it’s write, write, write.”

Your Turn

What writing challenges come up for you when you commit to writing a book?

Are you intimidated by the identify of budding author or writer? What are you doing to embrace it?

How are you staying on track?

Share your challenges and strategies as a comment below.

Let’s Get Your Book Off to a Powerful Start!

I’d love to help you get your book written.

Join me and Samantha Bennett for a free seminar:

BRING YOUR BOOK

TO LIFE® IN 2019
Wednesday, January 30  
8:30 pm ET, 5:30 pm PT
Register here

And if you are considering my Bring Your Book to Life® Program, which I offer just once a year, I am offering significant savings for those who register early. Feel free to schedule a time here if you wish to explore (or email me to suggest other times).

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Deborah Louth says

    Excellent assessment of Janna’s behavior!
    I benefited from Lisa’s advice.
    There is a slight discomfort in taking on a new identity as a writer,
    which I had not recognized until you brought it out in the open.
    Thanks for discussing your coach/client challenges and solutions.

    • Lisa Tener says

      Thanks, Deborah. I had not thought about it this way either until the call with Janna (who has given me permission to share).

  2. Jill Sylvester says

    Good read Lisa. Scheduling time to write each day helps and then setting boundaries when things are taking you away from putting words on the page, which I need to go and do now. TY!

  3. Adacelis Perez says

    Always providing a fresh perspective, Lisa. Thank you. I can’t wait to get started on my next book – I’m not ready yet-, in the meantime, much success to you in the new year!

  4. Martha Rhodes says

    Great article, Lisa! When I was finding my way as a new writer and “candy bars” would steal my writing time from me, I got clarity for my purpose by asking this question: “Is this request for [fill in the blanks] MORE important than getting my book done?” The answer was almost always “No!” Thanks to your Bring Your Book To Life course and the amazing support i received from you and the other writers, the book was completed and now has sold more than 11,000 copies!

    • Lisa Tener says

      Thank, you, Martha. I love that question! It always brings clarity and makes clear the impact of the choices we make.

  5. Stephanie says

    Janna’s story really resonates with me too! The suggestion to envision stepping into a new identity as a writer is SO helpful, rather than ruminating about all the ways I’m not yet good enough.

    For me, finding a way to regularly connect with my creative energy has proven beneficial in bolstering my confidence as an aspiring author. Lisa’s “Meet Your Muse,” exercise has enabled me to turn on a light in an otherwise neglected attic of creative potential. The vigor I feel learning to embrace my new identity as a writer compels me, even as I’m learning how to channel that enthusiasm to deal with the practical matters of tackling one task at a time.

  6. Rhea Atwood says

    Hi Lisa,
    Struggling to commit to writing 2nd draft of memoir The Risk-takers. Reviewing some of my personal history and coming up with pattern of low self esteem starting in family of origin.
    Feeling some emotions for first time yet living in present as much as possible.

    Love your advice to Janna to just write and write first thing in the morning.

  7. Rhea Atwood says

    HI Llsa,
    Your suggestions to Janna perfect. My struggles to commit to writing 2nd draft of my memoir The Risk Takers coming from personal work with family of origin issues involving low self esteem.

    Your suggestions of writing first thing of writing first thing in the morning combined with clarity and commitment are helpful plus a writing action partner to help keep me on tract.

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