What it Takes to be a Creative Success

I started the year with a bang, boldly announcing my intent to be a creative success in January and writing:

‘I’m making 2012 the year of the book.

Well, actually it was more of a whimper. The intention was there but I buried the line in the middle of Who else wants to write a book?  just in case I failed to deliver.

Like most of us I want to write a book, and not just an educational book like Successful Blogging in 12 Simple Steps which I’ve already done. I have a burning, long held desire to write a creative travel memoir about my journey and my travels.

I got started on the project too. I’ve called the book Naked Travel Stories, I’ve shared a few stories on my travel blog Get In the Hot Spot and I’ve even pitched the book live in front of fifty people to a couple of publishers and an agent.

That was scary because according to Seth Godin in Linchpin: Are you indispensible? How to drive your career and create a remarkable future:

“Public speaking is one of the worst things the lizard brain can imagine.”

But I did it. You can see the video here.

There’s only one small problem. I haven’t written the book.

On Shipping and the Fear of Failure

I’m having trouble shipping my book. I wanted to finish it by the end of they year but come September I hadn’t even started the book because I allowed myself to become a victim of my own success and got side-tracked.

Throughout 2012 I’ve been bombarded with invites on international and local press trips and I said yes. Visiting places like Japan, Canada and Australia’s outback is fabulous but those travel opportunities gave me the perfect excuse to procrastinate and not write my book.as then

Check out the photo above. That’s me on a press trip, beavering away to promote someone else’s brand while carefully avoiding bringing my own creative dreams to life.

Why? Because I am terrified of shipping this book. Not of writing it. I am terrified of finishing the book and showing it to people. Never mind actually asking them to buy it. But most of all I’m terrified that no one will buy it because then I will have failed. I will have wasted my time. And yours too.

After my knee jerk reaction about how I don’t want to be a linchpin I started reading Seth Godin’s book Linchpin in the traditional way (from front to back) and it spoke to me. Here are some quotes on shipping from the book:

“shipping becomes part of the art and shipping makes it work.”

“The only purpose of starting is to finish.”

I’ve learnt the hard way how not to deal with rejection and I know from bitter experience that as you get close to finishing your project you should be careful who you share it with.

But ultimately you do need to finish it, ship it and then refine it. Above all we need to slay our inner perfectionist and avoid refining, refining, and re-refining our writing behind closed doors because then we run the risk that no one else will ever see our creation, out work of art.

In Linchpin Godin talks about the lizard brain. It just wants us to be safe. It resists us shipping because there is a real danger that our book or product will fail. It resists for the same reason my parents counselled me not be be a writer – because it was competitive, risky and there was a high chance I would fail.

Linchpin speaks of a chasm between the part of us that wants to be safe and the part that wants to share our ideas. I can feel this conflict in me and it’s eating me up. I’m a quiet, shy person. I like to hide. But The Naked Travel Stories will put me on show.

I’m already uncomfortable with how much I am on show here and on my travel blog. I’m vulnerable and over-sensitive. I want to dodge bullets, get out of sight again and hide.


But I’m fighting that instinct and I’m determined to overcome it. The show must go on.

I’ve written before about the importance of failing. I have failed many times and chronicled those failures to help you learn to fail and bounce back from rejection too, so that ultimately we can succeed. But still each time the possibility of failure looms in my writing, this thing I hold dearest, I try to shirk it. Godin writes:

“Going out of your way to find uncomfortable situations isn’t natural, but it’s essential.”

I try to do something that scares me every day and urge people to give fear the finger. I’d bungee jumped, traveled and hitch-hiked alone and shared my home with scorpions but this book is a big one. It’s scarier than anything else.

Distractions and Procrastination Tools are Everywhere

Being self-employed and working in Internet marketing is hard. The temptation to tweet and surf the net is there all the time and it often wins.

“The Internet is crack cocaine for the resistance.”

“This freedom is a pox, because it’s an opening for the resistance. Freedom like this makes it easy to hide, easy to find excuses, easy to do very little.”

So here I am mustering all my courage and energy, determined not to let my behaviour be driven by fear because:

“As every successful person will tell you, the ideas aren’t the hard part. It’s shipping that’s difficult.”

“The closer you get to surfacing and then defeating the resistance, the harder it will fight you off.”

So here I am rereading all these quotes I wrote down many moons ago and sharing them with you in case you too are putting off doing something important:

“Don’t let the lizard brain win.”

“The first step is to write down the due date. Post it on the wall. It’s real. You will ship on this date, done or not.”

“The performer seeks the people who choose to stop and watch and interact and ultimately donate. Great work is not created for everyone, if it were it would be average work.”

The Rocky Road to Creative Success

Success is getting the book finished. I don’t need to ship it to you or anyone else but I do need to ship it to myself.

So I’ve pulled my finger out and got started. I have 8,806 words in my manuscript so far after five days work. It’s growing slowly because I can’t work on it every day but it is growing. I still have time to complete that all important first draft before the year is out and I’m going full speed ahead.

It’s much easier to be passive but we need to give free reign to our passion if we want to feel fulfilled.

It takes guts of steel, single-minded determination and blinding passion to be a creative success. But most of all being a creative success means acknowledging the possibility of failure and completing our creations anyway.

Don’t give up on your dreams. There are still eight weeks left in the year – let’s finish strong and thenand end 2012 with a bang.

Do you have any unfinished business for 2012?

What are you going to do with the last eight weeks of the year that will make a difference to you either creatively, personally or professionally? Leave a comment below to show your commitment to being a creative success and completing your project.

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33 thoughts on “What it Takes to be a Creative Success”

  1. What an honest and very needed post, Annabel! You are very courageous in my book. Not that I have a "book" book because I haven't written one either. I've been teeter-tottering on that shipping edge for a long time. But, I'm with you, let's hold hands and leap – slowly and intentionally – forward. No bungee jumping though….

    • Hi Sandra,

      Lol, no time for bungees! This is the big one:) So glad to have you on board. Are you going to go for it too then?!

  2. Annabel,

    Thank you for sharing. This is real and honest and of course, truly helpful! The real and honest stuff usually is!

    This year, I've had the best ideas I've had. And then, I've seen someone who does something similar, and thought "oh well. Too slow". I've also allowed myself to be buried in the mundane, instead of standing tall and taking the risk.

    Wow – This lizard brain thing can be a powerful beast.

    Someone better than me, braver than me, would say, that's it. In 8 weeks I could do it. I could get these ideas underway.

    I hope that I can pretend to be that person! At least for 8 weeks, and see what I have to show for it then 🙂

    K x

    • Hi Kathryn,

      Thanks for taking time to share with us. We are so clever to come up with all these excuses and diversionary tactics.

      Don't hope. Do it. Pretending is actually helpful though. I often channel my favourite writer and pretend to be them. Of course they are facing their own fears do and doing the hard work of keeping their bum in the chair and fingers on the keyboard.

      I look forward to seeing what you have to show us:)

  3. Whether it's book writing or anything else that we want to do, that fear of being rejected can often be paralyzing. oh wait, that should be an s and not a z. Even something as simple as a mistake like that can keep me from starting my book.

    GREAT post.

  4. Annabelle, I'm rooting for you! I did it and it was the best experience of the last couple years. I'm blogging most of my book, however, and I don't think in terms of blog posts, but chapters. You could certainly do that with Get In The Hotspot. Good luck!

    • Hi Debra,

      I have written quite a few stories on Get In the Hot Spot that can go in the book. Probably about 10-20% of it so that's a start. But it all needs to be strung together with a beginning, middle and end plus an over-arching theme.

      I love that you're writing and sharing your book on your blog. I think that's a big message Godin shares that we shouldn't squirrel away our art but get it out there, get feedback and keep improving it.

      It's great to have your support.

  5. Hi Linda,

    I need longer – until the end of the year but I'm getting there and it feels soooo good to have got started:)

  6. Hi Annabel, very interesting post, never seen the word 'shipping' being used in this way, new to me but I understand, kind of. Maybe I need to read more 🙂

    Anyway yes there are way to many distractions online, way to many reasons to procrastinate and not get done what we really want to and it is so easy to give in to the resistance.

    But it is inspiring that you are still at it and determined to get your book done and I believe you will. Especially now as you have openly published this post leaving yourself and your actions accountable.

    We have all seen that you want it done by the new year so you will now better expect a lot of people asking you how it is getting on, and also expect the odd ' get off Twitter you have a book to write' I shall be watching your every move. 🙂

    Take care


  7. Thanks for your article Annabelle, I can relate. I also started writing a book at the start of 2012 and I haven't finished it… I have already written 20388 words (my goodness, I had forgotten how far through I was…) and I also read an article this week about completing an ebook in 30 days on Copyblogger! A good tip in the article is to write through to the end and not go back and edit as you go… (which I was definitely doing when I lost momentum)

    So twice in one week is the kick I need to re-energise my book project! I think I have about 1/3 left to go.

    • Hi Anne,

      I'm just doing what I can manage. I couldn't do it in 30 days – unless I left home! Which is tempting. Definitely agree, no editing at all. I know what I'm writing isn't even sequential in parts. I just need to write it then I can piece it all together and edit next year.

      I need deadlines. You are almost half way there:) Let's go, go go!

  8. Hi Annabel, am also buzzing after the weekend! Yep this post resonated and while my 'shipping' aim is very small – contribute a blog post to the weekend's content – am working to get this completed. Baby steps, achievable goals. Particularly recognised in myself your reference to promoting somepne else's creative endeavour/activity/brand to avoid/at the expense of pursuing my own creative dreams. Very true, needs some unlearning that pattern. So very lovely to have met u and yours, love the clarity and honesty of your blogging 'voice' – forged through experience. Following u on twitter. Imogen

  9. Annabel,

    So I finally published my travel memoir after 7-years of writing, re-writing, getting 4 editors to help me, taking classes, getting a professional cover design company to make a "killer cover" and formatting the interior.

    I can say, "I'm proud of my work." I was scared like you, but I know that when you are proud of hat you've written, the timing is right. You'll feel it within your gut.

    I can also say I love speaking and inspiring people to take risks and be "Gutsy" in life, as this is what we did with our kids in 2004, moving to Belize.

    I know you're passionate about so many things, and if I can give you some advice, be patient. You can't rush a "great" book. You'll know when you're ready and then you won't feel nervous because you know your book is professional, commercial, and more.

    Hope that helps. I know you'll succeed, but just be kind to yourself and take your time. I had to learn that myself.

  10. I have just put up my Due Date on my wall for my website deadline! I've been procrastinating for months. Your post has been very timely and I look forward to reading more.

  11. Your honesty helps more people than you can imagine Annabel. I often wonder if my fear is of not being successful or the opposite. Sometimes fear of success is frightening for people who kind of like their anonymity. Or in my case fear that some of my crazy family will surface and stalk me. 😉

    Your book will be a huge success and it will be born when you are ready.


    • Hi Barbara,

      Lol, I know exactly what you mean! That's a brilliant insight, thank you for sharing it and for being here with us on the journey.

  12. It's good to know I'm not alone – and you're farther ahead than I am! I have all kinds of book ideas in my head but didn't even get to 'outline' yet- my father has been working on his 'Great American Novel' since I was 5 – he's 81. It's still in the process. . . I stayed on the sidelines all these years thinking I didn't want to compete. He wants to be famous – I don't but I do want to share what I have learned being a counselor for the last 18 years! I'm like you – I don't enjoy the public scrutiny – but it does offer positive feedback and fans too. . . I'm really benefiting from your blog and site.

    The Internet definitely becomes my procrastination tool! I rationalize it with "I need to do research" . . .

    Keep writing!


    • Hi Karen,

      I think your dad needs to read this post – and we need to read his book – and yours! When in doubt just get started on the most important one and think of it as a practice run. Ask yourself if I only had time to write one book which would it be? Then get going:)

      You're so right about the positive feedback – I started this blog many years ago to put myself in the hot spot and get writing. It worked and I am eternally grateful for that:)

  13. Great post, Annabel! I hear you although I haven't written a book yet and not sure yet when this would happen. I admire and have tons of respect for writers who can hypnotize their audiences with compelling books. I've been fearful myself and experienced rejection and biased criticism as well. But then I realized that putting myself out there won't please everybody. And that just doing that takes a lot of guts already.

    From what I read on your travel blog, you have some amazing stories to tell. I'm really looking forward to reading your 'Naked Travel Stories.' As a travel junkie myself and since I travel a lot on my own, a few months ago I started curating a little newspaper on paper.li, called Solo Travel Weekly.

    As to the remaining 8 weeks of 2012, I plan to revive my guest-blogging efforts which I had to put on hold for a while. But I'm getting there slowly and surely.

    Meanwhile, keep on keeping on! I'm sure your book will be a success! 🙂

  14. Hey Annabel… I too have an unfinished book (as you know!) – but I do have 70,000 words – so my solution is to get an editor and get them to carve the #$!* out of it so I can see what is left to do… sometimes you just get way to close to the action!! My last 8 weeks of the year are jam-packed, and I'm still looking to write at the edges of the day. I know all too well the temptation it is to do all of the writing I do for others first, without ever putting my project first… what would it take? A whole lot of moment by moment choice is my sense of how to move forward!

  15. Excellent article, Annabel, one that many writers can relate to. It's tough even painful to write a book. And then to rewrite and/or edit, and try to get it published. It's scary to share with other people and face critique and rejection. Maybe that's why so many budding book writers either procrastinate or get waylaid doing other things. Writing a book is like a demanding lover; it takes time and sacrifice and sometimes more dedication than you're willing or able to give it. However, in your case, just get your first draft written and go from there.

    A month ago, I revived a historical novel – 120,000 words – that I wrote twenty years ago. I kept working on it for five years until I put it away in the closet. I've tried to revive it several times but never got beyond the first 100 pages as something always came up. This time, I set a goal to finish this draft by March. Don't know how I'll do it as I'm working on two other books – one to be published in March, but giving myself a deadline is both a challenge and motivation.

    BTW, what do you mean by shipped? Here it has another meaning.

  16. Yes, shipped is not a usual term for me… but as a wandering sailor at heart, I can see why it's a handy phrase. Well, I have been learning the hard way recently that writing a self-published book is much harder than doing one for a publisher. Ah, but failure is great success when you're aiming to be a penniless author as I am! Back to the garret.

    There's nothing like a deadline and working with other people. I have been fortunate in that way with the books. For the first time ever recently, have had the urge to write more creatively. I must have a cup of tea and a lie down.

    I really have enjoyed the Naked Travel Stories you've put on Get In The Hot Spot. Could you post more there and then collect them and polish them??

  17. Great post, Annabel! For most of my life I was too afraid to share my writing with other people because I thought it wasn't going to be creative "enough" or that my ideas weren't going to be as good as everyone else's. Basically, I was afraid of failure. But once I got a little older I finally realized that you've just got to go for it and not worry about whether you'll succeed or fail! Congrats on your book!

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