Eight Things to Consider When Working In a New Creative Medium
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In February of 2019, I began drafting my very first book on writing.
Called Build Your Best Writing Life, this book presents a roadmap to becoming the writer you long to be, breaking down how you can forge a healthy creative mindset and writing practice, harness tools for intentional growth, and map your way to the writing life you long to lead. As of writing this, I’m well into the drafting process and cannot wait to share the book with you later this year.
Being as I’ve been writing non-fiction here at Well-Storied for several years, I didn’t imagine that diving into my first full-length non-fiction project would be that big of a leap. Turns out, I was wrong. Oh, so terribly wrong… And that’s exactly why I want to share the hard lessons I’ve already learned about working in a new creative medium here with you today.
How I approached my first non-fiction book…
I’ve been interested in writing a book on writing for several years, though it wasn’t until the end of 2018 that I really felt I’d developed the writing chops to do the project justice. Knowing that the only thing holding me back was the fear of the unknown, I made it a goal to write and publish my first non-fiction book in 2019.
In January, I wrapped up a few creative loose ends and began contemplating which of my many non-fiction book ideas would be best to explore as my debut. I’m by no means a writing expert and didn’t want to present myself as one. Some of my ideas were better saved for when I had more experience under my belt, but working to build my best writing life? That’s all I’ve been doing for the past seven years!
By the beginning of February, I’d put together an outline for the book, announced this undertaking to my newsletter subscribers, and began drafting in the confidence that if I could write blog posts that resonated with readers, I could certainly write chapters that did the same. As it happens, blog posts and book chapters aren’t nearly so synonymous as I’d imagined, at least for this project.
Over the coming weeks, I struggled hard to find my creative footing. Each day felt like a lifetime as I spent hours writing and deleting words in an effort to hit my drafting stride. The more I struggled, the more inadequate I felt, the more defeated. Still, I kept pushing forward, and in time, I realized that I had taken several early missteps that had resulted in all the frustration I was currently battling.
After course-correcting for these missteps, I’m happy to report that I’ve now hit my stride in the drafting process and should have a finished first draft in the next three to five weeks. Today, I’d like to help you avoid as many of the growing pains involved in working in a new creative medium as possible…
Eight Lessons From Working in a New Creative Medium
Whether you’re preparing to write your first novel or short story, screenplay or video game script, or something else entirely, working in a new creative medium can prove an intimidating process. To better prepare, here are eight lessons I learned from what I did right and what I wish I knew before diving into my first non-fiction book on writing:
Lesson #1: Define your motivation for pursuing this project.
If you chase every exciting idea that comes your way, you’ll never finish a project. Instead of diving straight into this new creative medium, take the time to define why you want to pursue this project. What purpose will it serve in your creative journey or career?
I wanted to write a non-fiction book because it’s long been my goal to transition my creative business model from primarily digital resources (such as our workbooks and Scrivener tutorial course) to indie publishing. The why behind this goal is simple: I’ve long dreamed of writing books for a living!
Lesson #2: Choose an idea that matches your skill level and experience.
You’re interested in working in a new creative medium, but which idea will you pursue? If you have several in mind, take care to choose the one that best aligns with your skills and experience. Working in a new medium will already be a challenge; don’t overwhelm yourself by choosing an idea that’s too far out of your comfort zone.
I chose to write a book on building your best writing life because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing these past seven years. In working to become the writer I long to be, I’ve revolutionized my mindset, established a consistent creative practice, leveled up my skills, and created a plan for achieving my personal definition of writing success.
Lesson #3: Find comparable published projects and study them before getting started.
There are most likely creative projects similar to your own already on the market. Take the time to seek out these books, plays, or video games, etc., and to study them. In doing so, you’ll learn how other creatives approached the project, gain insights on how you can complete your own, and learn more about your target audience. These comparable titles will also prove handy when you get around to marketing your work.
It didn’t occur to me to read comparable titles prior to drafting Build Your Best Writing Life, and I wish it had. I’m now juggling drafting and research, which is fun but tricky. Comparable titles for my book include The Successful Author Mindset by Joanna Penn, Fearless Writing by William Kenower, and The Writer’s Process by Anne Janzer.
Lesson #4: Compile a list of research topics and study up.
No matter the creative medium you’re pursuing, chances are that you’ll need to do a bit of research to flesh out your project. I highly recommend seeking out appropriate research resources and diving in before you begin drafting. The more you know about your project, the less intimidating the drafting process will be.
In Build Your Best Writing Life, I’m exploring topics such time management, habit formation, creative mindset, goal-setting, and more, which has led me to bring home impressive stacks of research books from the library over the past few weeks. Titles on my shelf now include: Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, Off The Clock by Laura Vanderkam, and Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday, among others.
Lesson #5: Get to know your medium before getting started.
If you’re planning to do more than simply dabble in this new creative medium, you’d be wise to avoid my mistake and study up on the craft before getting started. Every medium has its structures and guidelines, and it’s better to know and break these with intention than to not have a clue what you’re doing.
I personally devoured How to Write Non-Fiction by Joanna Penn in the early weeks of drafting, which led me to revise and restructure my outline to much better effect. I’m now working through similar resources and can’t begin to explain how much confidence I’ve gained in my ability to create this project.
Lesson #6: Develop at least a rough outline for your project.
Some writers simply aren’t outliners, so I won’t tell you that outlining is essential to success. When working in a new creative medium, however, I would recommend sketching at least a rough outline before getting started. New mediums can be intimidating. The more you know before diving in, the less you’ll stumble along the way. Even a few simple bullet points can make a world of difference, giving you a creative destination to aim for.
I created an outline before I began drafting Build Your Best Writing Life, mapping out the three major sections of the book and writing down a few bullet points for each chapter. I’ve since revised this outline after learning more about writing how-to non-fiction, and I refer to it every single time I sit down to write.
Lesson #7: Consider your writing voice (and stay true to it).
If you’re writing in a very different creative medium or style than your usual, then your writing voice may very well change for the project at hand. But if you’ve completed a similar project before (such as writing blog posts on the same topic as your new non-fiction book), I’d encourage you to stay true to your voice.
I personally love reading snarky self-help books and attempted to adopt that tone when I first began drafting. I even originally announced the title of the book as This Book Won’t Make You a Better Writer, emulating the snarky tone of books such as You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero and Damn Fine Story by Chuck Wendig.
It was only after weeks of enduring a drafting process that felt like pulling teeth that I realized I wasn’t playing to my strengths, writing with the empathy and vulnerability I’d developed here at Well-Storied. As soon as I began writing in my own voice, I stopped struggling to pen every last word. I found my stride.
Lesson #8: Adopt an attitude of humility.
No matter how well you prepare to work in a new creative medium, there’s going to be a learning curve. It’s not wrong to approach your new project with confidence, but let that confidence stem from the knowledge that you are capable of weathering the obstacles and frustrations you’ll find in bringing your new project to life.
Approach the blank page with humility and accept that you are bound to experience setbacks, take missteps, and feels a bit as though you’re floundering. It’s okay. You are as a good a writer as you work to be. You only need to put in the work to see your project through.
I’m no more than two months into my journey in writing Build Your Best Writing Life, and already I’ve learned so much. Still, I know there are many more lessons to learn on the horizon as I work to create a professionally self-published book and begin pursuing indie publishing as a full-time career. As always, I plan to share all of this with you.
Already, I have a few new articles in mind. But if you’d like to follow along with the everyday process of bringing this book to life, I’m inviting you up close and personal over on Patreon, a platform for supporting your favorite creators for as little as one dollar a month.
On Patreon, I’m sharing weekly book progress reports and snippets, as well as voicemails and (soon!) indie publishing insights. You can access all of this and more for less than the price of a fancy coffee each month, though I’ll also be sharing a few public posts and updates in our Well-Storied newsletter if you’re interested but aren’t able to contribute at this time.
All Patreon support will go directly toward helping me produce the very best version of Build Your Best Writing Life. In thanks, patrons will receive a free copy of the book (and other goodies!) when published later this year. If you’d like to learn more and come join the party, you can click here to access my Patreon page today. Thank you so much for your support, friends.