On being scrappy

persistence What sets a successful writer apart from those who struggle or who just can’t seem to get a break? Talent and ability are two factors. As are marketing and connections.

But those aren’t the main factors in the success of many writers. More often than not, their success comes down to being scrappy.

What do I mean by that? Being scrappy is about persistence. It’s about fighting and struggling and clawing to get what you want. It’s about facing disappointments and mistakes, learning from them, and continuing. It’s about learning and improving.

Being scrappy is about not giving up on your goals and dreams, no matter how far away or unrealistic they seem to be.

You might never reach your goals as a writer. But in trying to reach them, you have a great opportunity to grow and improve as a writer. And you never know what avenues and opportunities might present themselves.

Being scrappy is a big part of the puzzle of becoming a successful writer. But without an ability to write, without the ability to market yourself and your work and your services, being scrappy alone won’t bring you success.

Thoughts? As always, your comments are welcome.

Photo credit: smswigart

A few links for the end of the week

Using pecha kucha to focus your writing

focus For many writers, it’s often not a matter of being able to write something. It’s having too much to write in a blog post or an article.

Why is that a problem? You might be constrained by a word count. Or, if you decide to throw everything into what you’re writing, you can wind up with a long, rambling piece that will turn off editors and which bores or confuses your readers. Neither is something that you want to do.

Focusing your writing can be difficult, especially if you have a lot of good material to use. One way that I’ve found can help you to focus your writing is to adapt the principles of pecha kucha to your work.


Announcing the new edition of my ebook Two Views of Japan

Two Views of Japan - cover I’m pleased to share with you the new edition of my book of travel essays titled Two Views of Japan: The Chronicle of a Personal Journey.

The essays in this book chronicle a time of personal change. The lesson of this book is simple: no matter where you are and what you think you know, you can always learn more. Not just about a place or a space in time but about yourself.

In addition to a new cover, the book also includes an expanded introduction and a third short essay that looks at how a bus journey that I took which gave me a new perspective on nature and on how I perceived not just Japan, but the wider world around me.

You can find more information about Two Views of Japan here. If you’re ready to buy the book, you can do so from any of the following outlets:

On being honest

Young man with his typewriter on the train tracks. While I think that I’m a good writer, I have to admit that I’m not a great one. Sure, I can tell a pretty good story. I can impart information to readers in an interesting and enjoyable way. But there’s no way that I’m going to break into the top 5% or even 10% of writers.

Guess what? I’m OK with that.

There comes a time in your life as a writer when you need to be honest. Honest about your ambitions. Honest about your abilities. Honest about where you stand in that invisible hierarchy that writers inhabit.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t strive to do better. That you shouldn’t try to push your boundaries as a writer. That you shouldn’t go for those higher-paying markets and assignments. You should.

But don’t be disappointed if you don’t always meet those lofty goals. You can still forge a career if you work hard and write well.

When I was in journalism school back in the late 1980s, I knew I’d never be one of those writers who’d be consistently going for the front page or the cover. I just wasn’t that driven or ambitious. Instead, I saw myself as one of the people who fill the pages of a publication around the main features.

There’s nothing wrong with that. You might not get top billing, but front page stories aren’t the only ones that are worth reading.

Imagine, if you will, a triangle. There’s only a small amount of space at the top. A lot of writers are scrambling for a place at the top. But there’s a lot more space under the apex. Space for interesting, gripping, funny, informative, and enlightening stories. Why not make that space your own?

During my career, I’ve had more than a couple of front-page articles published. Admittedly, they weren’t the lead pieces, but they featured fairly prominently on the front page or the cover of a publication.

Mostly, though, I’ve been content with filling the pages between the front and back covers. Focusing on that may not be as prestigious or as high paying as tackling the big story, but I’ve been able to derive a tidy income from that. I’d even go so far as to say I’ve probably made a better living by aiming slightly lower than if I had aimed for the cover or front page with every article or essay.

Thoughts? As always, your comments are welcome.

Photo credit: Trevor Goodwin