16 Tips on How to Survive and Thrive as a Writer

Today’s guest post is by Brian Feinblum, who blogs at Book Marketing Buzz Blog, a blog dedicated to covering the worlds of book publishing and the news media, and revealing creative ideas, practical strategies, interesting stories, and provocative opinions. He brings two decades of experience in the publishing industry to this post.

Today, people believe they can social network their way to the top, that they are one witty tweet or one viral video away from making millions. They want to be on a reality show, they want to blog their way to fame, they want to create the next Facebook—but they fail to put in the hard work that is needed.

Those involved in book publishing seek to cash in their lottery ticket. Everyone who writes a book has the hope—even the expectation—that they will have a best-seller on their hands. Who is there to give them a tissue box when their Book Scan numbers don’t register beyond a blip of sales? But, reality aside, here’s the pep talk all writers will need at some point in their careers. Put aside the need for hard work, luck, connections, great writing, hiring professional help, etc.

 The 16 Tips for Thriving

  • Always believe in yourself. You have something to offer others, something worth sharing, something unique and special.
  • Know the experts are not always right. There is rarely one singular way to do anything. Find your own style and way to do what you need to do to succeed.
  • Never accept defeat. Change course, yes. Give up, no. Admit you made an error or mistake but don’t throw in the towel.
  • Learn from others. Copy the habits of successful people when it suits you but don’t be just like them. The world needs you—not a replica of someone else.
  • Realize you can improve every aspect of your writing, editing, publicity, marketing, sales, distribution, etc. Push the bar higher and keep reaching beyond your comfort zone.
  • Stop making excuses or looking for reasons you fall short.
  • Find ways to overcome challenges or setbacks. If you just want to sulk about the unfairness of life go see a therapist, but take your passion, vision, energy, and talent and pour it into your efforts to be a successful writer.
  • Understand that those around you don’t always believe in you the way you do. In fact, some friends, family members, or colleagues would be jealous or feel threatened by your success. Don’t look for them to inspire you—it happens from within you.
  • Exploit your strength, sacrifice your weakness. Don’t worry if you suck at something—play up where you can excel. But, do realize, you are the sum of your weakness and strengths, so where ever you can improve or grow, you should.
  • Remember your successes, forget your failures. Repeat the good, dismiss the bad. We’re all too quick to focus on one’s criticism while forgetting all the praise. Filter out the negative and just build on what worked for you in the past.
  • Wipe the slate clean–and often. Sometimes you just need a fresh start. Each day can bring new opportunity. You are not living one long day for life—we experience life in increments and your goal is to keep coming out on top, one day at a time.
  • Change something. Sometimes you need to reshuffle the cards in order to draw the one you want. If you feel stuck or living below your potential, make a change. It may involve adding or deleting something or someone. It may involve taking the opposite approach to something. It may involve taking a risk or experimenting. Have the mindset that you have nothing to lose and you may just win big.
  • Keep a positive, confident, sharing attitude present in all of your interactions. You will rub off on others and they in turn will mirror your smile, energy, and infectious good will. It costs nothing to project a winning approach and the payoff can be immense.
  • Go back to the basics when you’re struggling. Remind yourself of what you’re looking to accomplish and reflect on prior successes.
  • Treat yourself like a winner. Reward yourself now and make yourself feel worthy of the fruits of your labor.
  • Act as if—as if you succeeded, as if you are great, as if you are who you strive to be.

Keep It Simple and Accept Help

My last bit of advice is this—and it’s something I struggle with. Don’t overthink and don’t ignore the help of others that’s available to you, in whatever form it may come. Sometimes you need to take a simple, easy path to what you want; other times you have to fight hard just to march in place. Alter your tactics to meet the circumstances at hand.

But above all, remain positive. You are already the great writer, the great editor, the great marketer, the great salesperson. Soon others will come to know this too.


Brian Feinblum is the chief marketing officer for Media Connect, the nation’s leading book promotions firm. He blogs daily at Book Marketing Buzz Blog. Connect with him on Twitter!


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  1. This is some of the best writing advice I’ve heard in a long, long time. Sometimes we have to go back to our first love. I think it can all be summed up in one little word. Courage. In the end, a writer can do without a lot of things. Remembering our journey is not one of them. Courage is the other.

  2. Great advice to start any day of life and writing with! Keep on keeping on! Never let go of our dreams; make them come alive with hard work. When we’re doing something we love, the journey never seems to stop……..

  3. Thanks so much for this post:-) Need to be reminded to keep going…even when the writing seems ‘stuck’ or I’m struggling. I’m bookmarking this post…was inspired!

  4. Thanks for this. Writing is, by nature, a solitary activity. It’s important to be able to believe in yourself and what you do without the aid of those around you. A list like this reminds you of the things you already know but can easily forget when the going gets tough. I’ll be sharing this one too.

  5. Great steps! We all know them, and forget to do them. Maybe we should all frame your list and tape it next to our computers!
    Good post!


    1. Someone read this comment, then read my old essay, sometime this morning, January 28, 2014.

      I re-read this blog post and my old essay and all I can say is….boy have I come a long way since.

      I moved to Houston in Sept 2012, but didn’t get a job until a year later and it barely pays the bills.

      In fact I seriously doubt I will have enough to pay just my rent next week.

      But set my serious financial woes aside, for a moment, and what can I say for myself?

      For Christmas 2012 I had surgery on my left eye, for a burst blood vessel, and a cancer diagnosis for the right eye.

      I had surgery on the right eye in the Spring of 2013.

      As a creative person I have accomplished more than I could have imagined, though it ain’t much.

      A couple of guest blog posts, someone doing a serious 4 part blog profile on me, a few poetry submission rejections…

      Attending the Blog Paws Pet Blogger Convention and being sponsored to become a professional member of the Cat Writers’ Association.

      A pair of month long, daily, Gratitude writing projects.

      A month long, daily, 100 Word Cat Story that is one of the best things I’ve ever done and could be the makings of something more and special if I only knew how to take the needed steps.

      A 3 month series of stories on a new cat food for which I was paid for my writing for the first time by the company who makes the food.

      A story rejection, to a planned cat-themed anthology, that was still a success because the piece was kept on a back-up list.

      Reading a poem on a famous and popular online poetry podcast and receiving praise from a listener who suggested the poem could be made into a small book or e-book for adults and/or children.

      My original feline muse was laid to rest in october, leaving just his 3 yr old protege, yet within weeks i rescued a kitten off the streets who will become a new creative inspiration.

      And to begin the new year…

      The possibility of an interview on another blog using the voices of my creative muses.

      The possibility of another guest post.

      There are still 11 months to go…….

  6. Great advice! It’s so easy to get off-track and become self-critical. We all need to keep on keeping on. Onward and upwards. Thank you both for sharing.

    Cat 🙂

  7. Great advice. So many of us are bogged down by the false wisdom of cynicism. This is not only positive but practical advice. If you don’t believe in yourself, it’s nearly impossible to get up and get moving in the morning.

  8. When I get writer’s block I (a) take laptop into yard of different room of house (b) turn off any distracting apps (mail/Fbook, etc.) and (c) [this *really* works] type stream-of-consciousness via typewriter, with no effort to fix typos or make anything readable. Just use ALL CAPS and red ribbon for occasional emphasis. The typewriter always jogs me into a different mindset and diff writing style … even for blogs.

  9. I love the “Keep a positive and confident” attitude. I have been christened ‘Sunshine’ at a correctional facility (no less). I can even get the most grumpiest of my offenders to smile. I spend the day encouraging them to find a positve way to go about the day. Even when I have a bad day, I try to find a positive. Some days are harder than others.
    I’m going to take your advise and go back to the basics on my present story. Thanks for the encouragement and I’ve copied the list to my computer.

  10. I honestly know that during the process of writing and reinventing and creating, our characters remain patient and interested in how we capture their essence. This, and your reminder words of wisdom to survive and thrive are not lost on my current effort: “Those Who Came Before.” THANK YOU!

  11. Great thoughts to ponder. I’ll definitely be blogging and linking to it. Thanks!

    I do understand your point about not counting on others, believing in yourself, but, it does help to have a support group of writers, especially since they understand, to offer help and encouragement when you feel you are out of it. It’s nice to have, even if you can’t allow it to become a crutch to depend on.

    But thanks for the list.

    1. I agree–community is everything for a writer. We hide alone in a room and our only company is our imagination and the crazy characters we invent. We need outside support!I wrote a few posts in the earlier part of the year in this section of my blog all about community, so you might want to check out those posts as they have some great suggestions.

      1. I’ll have to check those out.

        Luckily I live in / around Richmond, VA which has a great community of writers, James River Writers, so I am blessed with access to some really great people.

        But I will certainly be checking out your blog some more.

        Thanks again for posting the list!

  12. Thank you, Brian, for this cheery re-cap. If you’re the guy jumping the shrubs, you look young for so much wisdom, and that makes it all the more attractive. 😉

  13. Great advice, Brian. I especially love “Give up, No!” (which not only has its own entry on your list, but also lies just underneath all these words). We all have our own voice and our own stories to tell. Too often people listen to the wrong voices and decide the wall they hit means they can’t be a writer. Imperfection, the story not being the one you had in your head, the total block—these are all parts of the writing (and creative) process. They happen to everyone, even well-published authors. It’s not about talent. It’s about being tenacious! So, if we could get everyone to really believe that, and to follow your list, the world would be over-populated with authors!

  14. Excellent post, Brian! Whatever we focus on will grow. Thanks for giving us positive principles to focus on for a successful writing career.

    MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA
    Harbourlight Books-December 2012

  15. Great ‘feel good’ article, thanks! I think under ‘Filter out the negative’, it’s also about learning from your mistakes before you file them away. Some of my best learning have come from the mistakes that I have made in the past 😉

  16. I think most people — if not all — have only admiration for the post and it is a good ‘postful’ of advice. What i wanted to put front and center is perhaps two things in the post that, I hope, did not get ignored by the readers.

    First the writer says “…at some point …” in the 3rd line from bottom before he writes the first tip. This is important to recognize. That is it’s not a recurring point in one’s endeavor.

    Second, the first tip is probably half the weight of all other tips, though I admit for many it may not be necessarily so. But, yes, one has to have it, that really is something worth-offering — and not just in your biased and Uncritical mind. And it’s “worth sharing” again one needs to be critical and sure as to why one thinks so. And lastly “unique and special.” We may all like to think, rightly, that this is the case but I suppose we need a little higher standard for the work to be judged by the author as of value.

  17. Its such as you learn my mind! You appear to understand a lot approximately this, such as you
    wrote the ebook in it or something. I believe that you simply could
    do with a few % to power the message home a little bit, but other than that, that is excellent blog. An excellent read. I’ll definitely be back.

  18. Amen! I could not agree more with your statements. A positive attitude will help you go far in this industry. I think the most important idea you stated was that your writing can always improve. ;o) I strive for that with each book, to always write better than the last. ;o)

    Thank you for sharing this.

    Suzan Tisdale

  19. Thanks for this great post – it really helped to lift me out of my current “I’m got getting anywhere quickly!” mode. Coming to the end of my first book, editing like mad and doing all the right things (I think) to try to get an agent interested whilst remaining true to ‘my voice.’
    Must remember to accept help from others and yes, the naysayers can go to hell!

  20. Nice and positive post, but how does this “Really” tell a writer how to survive? Positivity is somthing one must maintain within themselves but without money, food or shelter an artist will surly die. And if an artist works another job then the quality of his/her work is effected.

    Survival means:

    1.Continue to live or exist, esp. in spite of danger or hardship.
    2.Continue to live or exist in spite of (an accident or ordeal).

    Lets take a closer look at this. The question a writer or artist would ask is:

    Q1: How do I earn income to support myself as a writer? What if being a writer is the only thing one wants to do?

    A1: Get a part time job. work three days per week, work as a writer/artist on the remaining two days and always have weekends off! never work weekend jobs those jobs will drain your energy for the next five days.

    Q2: Where can an artist/writer live? is there a community in most major cities where writers and artists colaborate and live cheaply in order to sustain themselves.

    A2: Boarding houses, old warehouses, squat, make an agreement with the owner of an abandoned building.

    Q3: Why doesnt society TRULY support the arts? Including writing? If we are taught in school to choose what we want as a career then why don’t teachers show students how to survive as an artist?

    A3: Because becoming a true artist/writer means becoming a martyr. A person who suffers persecution and even death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause

    These are just some of the many many questions an artist would like to know.

  21. Hello C.S. and Brian –

    I thoroughly appreciate this post and thinking this list needs to be posted near my computer…shouting for me to “get with it!” I like all 16 tips, but the 2nd offering resonates strongly with me: “Know the experts are not always right.” Wow, so true! Happy Friday to you, and all. 🙂

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