The Kobo Writing Life team is excited to announce our latest Live Q&A on June 25th 2020. From 12:00 PM-1:00 PM EST, our takeover host, Becca Syme, will be answering all your questions on the Kobo Writing Life Facebook and YouTube pages. If you can’t make the takeover, feel free to comment on this post with your questions and we can ask them for you! Keep reading to learn more about Becca and her work at Better-Faster Academy as a writing coach.

There’s a special kind of pain authors feel when we want something we can’t have. We watch a friend hit the New York Times list; we watch a famous author write 5-10K a day; we watch a new author write a book in a month, and we ask… why can’t I do this? We are exceptional at beating ourselves up, at taking the blame, and at assuming we are the problem. 

Of course, we’re not the problem. But there is a problem.

In my career as a success coach, I’ve been hyper-focused on understanding the things that keep us from being successful. The road blocks. It started off with a degree in Transformational Leadership (which is basically the process of overcoming roadblocks to become the person / organization / entity you want to be), which formed the foundation of how I understand the length of time it takes and the true process needed to truly move through roadblocks.

It’s being capped off with a doctoral program in the psychology of success, where I’m studying the statistical impact of strength development on our success metrics. I’ve been working with Strengths (via Gallup, Inc.) for almost fourteen years now, and I’ve found two things to be true.

First, the most important thing you can do for your success is to understand your strengths.

Second, the thing that’s likely getting in your way is your expectation of how success works. Not your lack of motivation. Not your lack of organization. Not your lack of ability. 

What do we hear when we ask someone, “why doesn’t this work for me?” We hear, “You don’t want it bad enough.” We hear, “You’re not working hard enough.” We hear, “Stop whining and just do the work.” Or we hear nothing, because the person we’re asking doesn’t actually know the answer.

But I’ve been coaching authors for years now (more than 3000 individual authors coached) and I can tell you, it’s very rare, the person who genuinely doesn’t want it bad enough, or isn’t working hard enough, or doesn’t want to do the work. That’s rare.

What’s more common is that there’s a strong pattern of behavior that’s driving us to be one way, but we think we have to be another way. (That’s Strength theory, right there.) And then there’s the understanding of success part. 

Success, we think, is related to how hard a person works. Or how smart they are. Or their advantages in life. It’s not that none of these play a role, but they are not the most important factor for success.

The most important factor is: alignment.

Am I taking the most advantage of the way I am wired to be strong? Am I doing the best with the tools I have, and not sitting around wishing to have the tools of others? Am I letting go of the unrealistic expectations I have about how success works and trying instead to align with what success really looks like for me? Am I shutting down the external voices that tell me untruths about how the world works because it is an advantage to them to have me believe what they say? Am I re-aligning my abilities and my strengths and my goals all into one unstoppable system that will have me taking off like a rocket ship toward my success?

It’s hard to do this intuitively. 

This is why I write the books I write. They’re called the Quitbooks for Writers, and they deal with the things we need to quit doing in order to have success in our writing career. I also talk about Burnout, about Writer’s Block, and about how to re-set those expectations. It’s my goal, in the work I do with authors, to help us better understand the psychology of success, and how it’s different for each one of us. I want us to be able to have as much success as we’re each capable of having, and I’m so grateful to be here today, talking to Kobo fans (of which I am also one!) about what we need to quit, what we need to keep, and what we need to question.

Here’s a hint.

Question every premise. We call it QTP (Question the Premise). One of the first steps to having true success in our author career is learning how to question the premise of the advice and success expectations of other people.

You should write a book a month. But… should you?

You should write every day. But… should you?

You should be able to do what X author can do if you work hard enough. But… should you?

The purpose isn’t to relieve expectations of success, but to realign them. Here’s a quick story about an author I recently coached.

He’s wired for success to be an intuitive, deep writer. But he’d bought into the writer mythology that you have to write fast in order to sell, and you have to plot in order to write fast. So he started outlining and writing every day.

Because he tracks his word counts on a spreadsheet, he showed me the word counts (per month), and they had gone down pretty sharply, on average, when he started trying to write every day. As we talked about why that happened, I could tell he was frustrated.

“It’s supposed to work!” he finally said when I asked him what he was thinking about the word counts being lower.

“What’s supposed to work?” I asked.

“The outlining. It’s supposed to work, and I’m supposed to be getting faster. Why am I not getting faster, Becca?”

I looked at the success metrics we’d recorded, and sure enough, one of his patterns relates to deep thinking and taking his time. Another of his patterns related to quick processing and guessing ahead of where he was (which was why he could successfully write great stories that weren’t outlined). We talked about why his previous success had been not-outlining and binge-writing, and when I asked what he thought at the end of that discussion, he was clearly relieved.

His proven success pattern had been to binge-write, to not-outline, and to procrastinate. He’d written great books doing it, and he was trying a path that didn’t work for him.

But it shouldn’t have worked for him. He wasn’t wired to have success with a process like that. He was wired to have success with the process he had. All it took was acceptance.

And then, of course, he got faster. Because he wasn’t spending time researching how to outline or how to write every day. He wasn’t beating himself up for not being able to accomplish those things. He wasn’t expecting something of himself that he wasn’t going to be able to give.

He questioned the premise that success looks the same for everyone.

The most interesting part was, after we had a conversation about his goals, he didn’t even care about writing fast. He was doing it because someone told him he had to, not because he valued that lifestyle or wanted that kind of platform. He didn’t realize that there were other ways to make money in this industry, and all it took was a little premise questioning to discover that he was listening to the wrong people.

So while I’m always interested in talking about how to be better or faster (because, of course, success is my nerd-out-jam), I’m the most interested in asking why. Why is the “problem” happening? Why hasn’t an author been having success with the system they’ve been trying to use? Why hasn’t an author been able to assimilate a skill or an idea or a philosophy? Why aren’t the alignments lining up? Why is my specialty. All of those questions are more interesting to me than tips and tricks. Because success is in the difference. The uniqueness. Success is personal and individual, and knowing why makes every problem solve-able and every road-block dissolve-able. And that’s the best news I’ve heard in a long time.

A headshot of Becca Syme.

Becca Syme (MATL) is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Performance Coach and has been working in success coaching for almost fourteen years. As a fiction author, she realized that her ” job” could be helpful to authors as well, and has coached thousands of authors in individual success systems. She lives in the mountains of Montana with her wine-drinking cat and her sense of endless adventure.

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