Beyond the writing: 5 top authors share their tips for a successful career

By Allison Tait

It seems like a strange thing to say, but writing is just one part of a successful writer’s life. Beyond the writing, there are many factors that allow an author to thrive.

Some you will have heard a million times before. Things like ‘find a community’, ‘keep reading’, and ‘protect your writing time’.

Here are a few gems you may not have considered. These authors originally shared these strategies on the So you want to be a writer podcast. Click the episode number to hear the full interview.

Treat it like a job

“Take time off. Treat it like a job, and don't write seven days a week. If you think about your normal job, you probably don't go in on the weekends and nor do you feel guilty about not going in on the weekends. Give yourself some time, some defined hours where you are writing and let that be your job.

“That means you’ve got to sit down and actually do your job when it's those hours, whether you feel like it or not, because otherwise, it's not going to get written. You can't always wait for the Muse to come.

“But that also means that if you give yourself Tuesday and Thursday when you're not allowed to write, you'll discover that on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you're going to have those thoughts percolating. Rather than feel like you're forced to write them, they're going to be growing in the back of your head.

“More importantly for your mental health, though, it will give you the authority or the approval to enjoy the rest of life, to watch TV every now and then, to watch a movie.

“Give yourself those moments where you are literally not allowed to write and you'll be able to enjoy your downtime so much more and not feel like you just infinitely have homework. Because that's what writing is – you have infinite homework from now until you die. And that's not fun.”

Nathan Makaryk, author of historical epics Nottingham and Lionhearts, episode 371

Realise you’re not writing for everyone

“I think being in a book club has allowed me to understand what others enjoy and don't enjoy in different books. It also keeps me quite grounded in realising that what I'm writing isn't for everyone. Not everyone is going to love it and that's okay.

“Within my book club, we all have very different opinions and tastes. And I think putting your book out into the world is quite difficult, because you're putting it out there for opinions and judgement.

“I think my book club has really helped me try and step back and look at it all a bit objectively.”

Kaneana May, screenwriter and author of The One and All We Have Is Now, episode 292

Lower the stakes

“Don't have too much at stake. And this is from somebody who did give up work to write. I think your writing is a lot better if your financial security isn't dependent on it. You have a lot less to lose. And I always think when you don't have a lot to lose, your writing takes off.

“I think Peter Carey says the same thing to his writing class as well. So it's not just me saying that. I'm sure there's many other writers who would say, “no, no, follow your dreams – back yourself.” But I always feel that your best writing comes when you're not threatened.”

B. M. Carroll, author of Once Lost, Who We Were, Worlds Apart, and more, episode 260

Bring people up behind you

“Break down the barriers for yourself and others. Even if you're not aware of those barriers, there's others out there that are experiencing them. So learn what they are and bring people up behind you.”

Karen Wyld, author of family saga Where the Fruit Falls and Heroes, Rebels and Innovators: Inspiring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from history, episode 430

Get out of your own way

“Get out of your own way, we can all put a lot of obstacles in our paths, including saying that we're not good enough to do whatever it is we want to do – and we can trip ourselves up with those obstacles. And we can keep tripping ourselves up for the rest of our lives if we want. But ultimately, if you do want to write something, and complete it and show it to people, you need to get out of your own way.”

Sophie Green, editor and bestselling author of The Bellbird River Country Choir, The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle, The Inaugural Meeting Of The Fairvale Ladies Book Club, and more, episode 418



 Author bio

Author Allison Tait smiling

Allison Tait is the author of three epic middle-grade adventure series for kids: The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. A presenter at AWC and former co-host of the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, Al procrastinates by making reels. Find them at @allisontaitwriter on Instagram.

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