What would your life be like if you said “yes” more often?
That’s what powerhouse TV producer Shonda Rhimes wondered after her sister told her, “You never say ‘yes’ to anything.”
These words shook Rhimes to her core and inspired her to accept her sister’s challenge: Say yes to every opportunity that came her way for one full year. She documented the experience in her best-selling book, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person.
While those of us who love writing aren’t necessarily making appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live or producing Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, pursuing your dream of being a writer can be equally scary to the activities Rhimes said “yes” to during the year-long experiment.
When it comes to being a writer, the easy thing to do is to stay tucked away in a writing nook, typing away at a keyboard, keeping your drafts hidden away, never to be seen (until they’re perfect, that is).
The harder, scarier and much more rewarding thing to do is to step outside your comfort zone and say “yes” to writing opportunities that will help you grow, thrive and share your words with the world.
Take a note from Shonda Rhimes and say YES to these potentially anxiety-inducing writing activities.
1. Pitch a guest post to your favorite writing blog
One of the best ways to gain exposure as a writer and build your personal brand online is through guest posting. When you publish a guest post on a big or popular blog in your industry, your work is shared far wider than your personal network and you begin to establish credibility.
Pitching a guest post can be scary, but I often encourage writers to consider the worst-case scenario. The very worst thing that can happen is the blog editor declines your post and you pitch it to a different site or publish it on your own blog.
As writers, we need to learn to deal with rejection, so take any “no” you receive as a chance to practice patience and keep moving forward.
Ready to pitch your first guest post? Be sure to check out this guide to knock your next guest post out of the park.
2. Join a writing critique group
No doubt, sharing your work with others can be a terrifying experience. After all, these words, characters and worlds live inside our hearts, brains and souls.
However, joining a writer’s critique group either online or in-person can both give you a network to lean on (accountability, people!) and also help strengthen your writing. What makes sense to you because you are so close to your work may not make sense to someone seeing it for the very first time.
Developing a relationship with a critique partner or group gives you a much-needed outside perspective on your story.
Still not sure how to find a critique partner or group? We’ve rounded up 40 places to find your perfect match.
3. Attend a writing conference, retreat or residency
Physically step out of your comfort zone to take your writing offline and into the real world.
Consider applying to a writing residency for a set amount of uninterrupted writing time in an often-beautiful and inspiring setting. Similar to a residency, but often shorter and without the need to apply, writer’s retreats are a wonderful way to change up your surroundings to find new inspiration.
Looking for a more educational experience? Professional development opportunities like attending a writing conference are a great way to hone your skills, meet other writers and walk away with new ideas, tips and tricks.
4. Find an agent to represent your work
Dream of being traditionally published? You’ll need to find a literary agent to represent your work and pitch your book to publishing houses.
To find the agent that’s right for you and your work, check out the acknowledgement pages of the books you love in your genre. This is a great way to see who handles the type of book you’d like to publish. Similarly, research agents online and via social media to determine fit.
Once you’ve identified a list of agents you’d like to work with, you need to write a query letter to pitch your book and explain why you want to work with that particular individual.
5. Self-publish your book
As traditional publishing becomes much harder, more and more writers are turning to self-publishing.
While self-publishing isn’t the simplest route, it often gives writers more control, freedom and flexibility.
As author Linda Formichelli explains in this post, “There are no gatekeepers telling you what you can and can’t publish. No one telling you what to charge, and no one taking most of the money and giving you a paltry 15-percent royalty. No ten-month lag time between starting your book and seeing it published.”
Self-publishing your book is a big step. Consider your decision carefully.
6. Start a blog
Get comfortable sharing your writing online by starting your own blog.
When you blog, you begin to develop your unique voice and style, write more consistently and learn how to market yourself and your writing online. These are all important skills for being a successful writer or author in today’s digitally-charged world.
Oh, and if you’ve been dreaming of starting a blog, but are still feeling hesitant… don’t let excuses hold you back.
Staying within your comfort zone is just that; it’s comfortable. However, we all know that the most rewarding things in life are just out of reach — just a few steps outside your comfort zone.
Be brave. Take a chance on yourself. Say “yes.”
What writing challenges have you faced recently?