I am a big fan of Joanna Penn. I listen to her podcast The Creative Penn almost religiously, and admire the wild generosity with which she shares her knowledge about the world of indie publishing like nothing else. Naturally, when I heard her talk about her new book The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey, in which she was going to share even more than she already did, I knew I had to get myself a copy.
Open and honest
Joanna Penn is about as honest and open about what it’s like to be a writer as it gets, and the same goes for The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey. I have to admit I was a little disappointed when it arrived because it only had 142 pages (yes, I bought an actual copy), but I soon realised the book is that small because it cuts right to the chase. There’s no beating around the bush, no unnecessary fluff, just Penn being as straightforward as she could possibly be, without being mean about it.
A universal struggle
The book is divided in three parts—Mindset Aspects of Creativity and Writing; Mindset Aspects after Publishing; and Tips for Success on the Author Journey—and in each part, Penn tackles the issues most associated with each of these. Think fear of failure, fear of being judged, comparisonitis, creative dissatisfaction, the developing of professional habits, and how to take control over your own career, whatever that career looks like. Each issue comes with an ‘antidote’, important questions to ask yourself, relevant quotes by authors (Stephen King, Elizabeth Gilbert, Neil Gaiman, Cheryl Strayed, and many others make an appearance), and/or an excerpt from Penn’s own private diary to illustrate just how universal the struggle is that writers go through on their journey.
What is your definition of success?
While the book is full of little gems of wisdom, what struck me most was Penn’s chapter ‘What is your definition of success?’, in which she stresses the importance of knowing why you want to write. I’m not new to the sentiment (I recently wrote a series of blogs on the same topic), but I am new to books covering it in the way Penn does. She doesn’t only explain why it is important to define what success means to you—it will help you later on in your career, when you’re overwhelmed by all the things you think you need to do to become successful—she also stresses, like I’ve done in my blog series, that it’s OK if your definition of success doesn’t even come close to ‘becoming the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling’. As long as you know what your definition is, you’re good.
Call to action
Not everything Penn shares is new information—I can’t help but admit I heard most of it already. But, and don’t ask me how she does it, The Successful Author Mindset somehow made all of it resonate. For example, I already knew journaling can be a great tool—to help recognise your inner critic, track your progress, or set goals—but no book or article I ever read made me buy a notebook the next day and draft a plan to set intentions for the next 1, 2, 3, 5, and 10 years, and to reflect on these every few weeks, months, and years (look at this beauty!).
Another thing that The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey managed to do was confront me with my own wishes and desires. I’m a hard worker, always was and always will be, and I’m not a stranger to prioritising work over everything else, including my writing. I mean, I read the book on a holiday trip to Dublin… But, while I bought the book to see whether it was something I’d recommend to my writer clients (yes, absolutely!), it brutally reminded me that I should practise what I preach to these clients and carve out time to write for myself. After all, it is one of the things I love doing most. In the meantime, I’ve updated my schedule accordingly.
So yes, Joanna, I did find it useful! In fact, it’s one of the most useful books I’ve read in ages, and I can’t recommend it enough. (And if you’re a realist like I am, do read chapter 2.1 even if you haven’t published yet. Trust me, you’ll be fine.)
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(The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you buy through these links.)